Professional Selling Skills: Using Body Language

Body languge is a key part of anyone’s selling skills.  A reader recently asked the following question:

“How can I handle negative body language when engaging to sell products?  I need an even flow of interest.”

My response:  I’m going to answer this question by breaking it down into a couple of parts and I’ll share a few comments about each.  (All of my comments pertain to North America and most of the western world.  It’s important to remember that every culture has their own set of rules that pertain to body language.)

First:  Nothing will give you more signals as to a person’s intent than their body language.  In many of my sales motivation talks and sales training programs, I share how anyone can lie.  All it takes is altering the words you say.  However, it’s nearly impossible to mask your body language when you are wandering from the truth.  For the sales person, this means you have to make sure the body language the customer is showing matches what they’re saying.  This requires you to see the same action at least 3x before you can begin to determine what the action means.  As easy as it is to pass judgement regarding a person’s body language based on what you’ve seen other people do, don’t judge them, as it can get you into trouble very quickly.  You have to see them do it and know the context in which they’re doing it before you can take it to the bank.

Second:  You need to monitor your body language.  Your customer will rarely be more engaged than you.  This means that you need to positively engage them with your body language.  Three of the easiest things you can do include giving eye contact, tilting your head when they’re talking, and actively listening.  Eye contact is essential!  If you can’t give the person eye contact, you’re in trouble, especially when it comes time to close the sale.  Eye contact should consist of 4 – 6 seconds of eye contact followed by a break.  A good place to move your eyes is to your notes, a product sample, etc.  Giving someone eye contact shows you care and are interested in what they’re saying.   I personally believe the best technique to show you’re listening is to tilt your head slightly when the customer is talking.  It’s amazing how this simple action conveys to people that you’re paying attention and are interested in what they’re saying.  By tilting your head you’re letting the other person have control of the conversation.  Finally, shut-up and listen!  When the customer gets done talking, don’t rush in with a response.  Wait 2 seconds.  You’ll be amazed at how many times the customer will begin sharing something else because of watching your body language.

Third:  Ask questions!  Get the person involved by asking them a question at the same time you hand them something.  This forces them to engage both mind and body.  The more of their mind and body you can engage, the more they’ll be focused on the conversation.  As you do this, stop talking right after you ask the question.  There might be silence and that’s fine.  Let the customer think through what you’ve asked them and showed them.  95% of the time, they’ll break the silence, especially if you’re giving them positive body language.

 A final note:  Use silence as a way to magnify your own body language.  Ask a question with your hands open.  As you end the question, raise your hand to your chin as if you too are contemplating what you just asked.  This is a simple action that will convey to the customer that you’re looking for their wisdom and their comments.

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