Consumers prefer to buy things from people they like.
It’s a common-sense concept: If a pushy door-to-door salesman comes calling and attempts to barge his way into the house with a product you don’t want, chances are you aren’t spending any money.
On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for a new car and the salesperson is knowledgeable, kind, and considerate there’s a much better chance that you’ll give her your business.
Put simply, being liked boosts your chances of making a sale, since it naturally confers a sense of trust and comfort.
The challenge? Cultivating this friendly framework when with customer prospects over a short time or when you don’t know a great deal about their preferences or purchasing habits.
The solution? It starts with sales mirroring -- the process of subtly imitating the behaviors and communication styles of prospective buyers. Here’s what you need to know about effective sales mirroring, why it matters, and which techniques are the most effective.
What is Sales Mirroring?
Mirroring in sales is the process of mimicking specific behavioral characteristics of potential customers to foster a feeling of trust.
For example, if customers cross their legs or arms when sitting down, salespeople can mirror the same position. If prospective clients are animated with talking and use emphatic hand gestures, salespeople can do the same.
The goal is to create a behavioral reflection that puts potential consumers at ease by fostering an innate sense of understanding — even if sales leads and sales staff have never met.
Why Mirroring in Sales is Important?
Human beings are predisposed to mirror behaviors. Friends and spouses often mirror patterns of speech or particular gestures, while children are prone to mirror new and interesting behaviors as they occur.
As noted by Scientific American, scientists have discovered so-called "mirror neurons" in the brain that activate in response to actions by other people. Studies with monkeys showed mirror neuron activation when performing a task, watching someone else perform a task, or even hearing that task performed in another room. It makes sense: We -- and our evolutionary cousins -- are social species, predisposed to live in groups and predisposed to limit conflict from this cohabitation. Mirroring helps make this possible.
In sales, mirroring is effectively a shortcut to familiarity. Rather than a long history of shared experiences giving rise to similar phrasing or gestures, salespeople can mimic these traits to create a sense of familiarity in a very short time.
Done right, mirroring increases overall trust between salesperson and prospect because it helps blur the line between business and personal interactions. Small mistakes that might have led deals astray may be overlooked, and potential customers are often more willing to compromise with someone they feel they can trust.
So what does sales mirroring look like in practice? Here are a few common techniques.
Sales Mirroring Techniques
1. Mimicking body language or positioning.
If your customer sits down and crosses their legs or arms, do the same. If they lean back while talking, mirror the movement. If they sit up straight in their chair, don’t slouch. Body position mirroring sends a signal that you’re on the same page as the customer, whether relaxed, focused, serious, or otherwise.
2. Using a similar tone of voice.
Many salespeople are gregarious, friendly, and excitable. They may speak loudly and quickly to convey their passion for a particular product or service -- but this won’t work if prospective clients are quiet and introspective.
Taking a cue from customers and matching their tone of voice or energy levels sends a message of respect and helps foster a fundamental connection.
3. Use their communication style.
Does your customer want all the details about their purchase, contract, and payments up-front, or are they more concerned with the bigger picture? Do they seem more interested in small talk than sales numbers, or are they pressing for specifics? No matter their communication style, take a cue from your prospects, and avoid leaning into familiar sales pitch frameworks.
4. Gesture recognition
Many people have a specific gesture they use repeatedly for emphases, such as a head nod, hand wave, or shoulder shrug. By recognizing this gesture, performing it occasionally, and mirroring the motion naturally to potential customers, sales pros can boost overall confidence and trust from that person.
The Shattering Pitfalls of Mirroring
Mirroring might sound like the perfect strategy, but it should still be used with care. Particularly, three potential pitfalls are worth mentioning.
1. Mirroring is least effective in isolation.
Just mirroring your client won't instantly earn you a sale by itself. On top of mimicking body position and tone of voice, salespeople are also well-served by finding common experiences and employing active listening techniques.
Common experiences are often built from basic conversation about the weather or local sports teams, but if you have the time it’s worth a quick social media search to see if prospective customers have personal interests that salespeople share. A word of warning: If no common experiences are forthcoming, don’t pretend. The loss of trust if deception is discovered will almost certainly derail sales efforts.
Active listening involves focusing on what customers say, asking questions to gain a greater understanding, and summarizing what you’ve heard to show you're paying attention. While this means putting aside your sales pitch temporarily in favor of greater personal understanding, active listening can have substantial sales benefits.
2. Obvious mirroring is just plain awkward.
The second slip-up is all about subtlety. Obvious, over-the-top mirroring won’t result in greater rapport; instead, it will give customers the impression you’re mocking them or making fun of a specific behavior. The best mirroring is small, subtle, and specific. Last but not least? Mirroring works far better in one-on-one sales situations than in a group since you have the client’s undivided attention rather than being split across multiple team members.
Sales mirroring can help increase your likeability, improve rapport, and boost overall sales. Done well, mirroring is a subtle reflection of the movements, speech, communication style, and gestures of prospective clients -- combined with common experience building and active listening, it’s possible to build long-term relationships that start with initial sales and drive loyalty over time.
The caveat? Subtlety is key. The best mirroring approaches are small, simple, and specifically tailored to current customers.