Confidence Before Body Language
Sales trainers make a big deal about body language, which is important but using proactive, deliberate body language is very hard to master. You have enough to think about when you are with a potential customer so until you have a good process that you can trust, I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s a skill that comes naturally once you are comfortable.
Building confidence will naturally create better body language without you having to be conscious of it. For now it’s more important that you’re not unconsciously exhibiting body language that may affect your chance of a sale.
Reactions to body language are subconscious and instinctive. Customers may report that there wasn’t anything wrong with the salesperson exactly; ‘it just didn’t feel right’. If they didn’t feel like they could trust the salesperson but have no real reason, they may have subconsciously noticed that there was not enough eye contact, or the salesperson fidgeted, scratched their head or invaded the customers personal space, making the customer feel uncomfortable.
Your Body Language
Confident salespeople naturally exhibit positive body language. They are open and relaxed and look at the customer while speaking or listening. The sales meeting is as comfortable as having coffee with a friend.
The most important thing is to be relaxed and comfortable. We put ourselves in a strange situation when we visit someone’s home. We’re not quite a guest, but for our customers to feel comfortable in their homes, we need to be comfortable and behave like a guest – a very respectable one obviously.
If you are on edge and fidgety, the customer will be, which is not conducive to the ‘smooth climb’ process. You want your customers to feel comfortable with you.
Part of getting the body language right is where you sit or stand in relation to the customer. Taking control includes choosing with your customer where to conduct your meeting. To be able to see them, observe their body language, and use eye contact means choosing a place to sit that allows you to see them.
Using a laptop has made this more difficult as your customer or customers sit beside you facing the same way. At my first job in conservatory sales, we were told to do what they called ‘cosying up’. This meant sitting on the sofa with both customers on either side of you. I only tried it once because the trainer was with me, and it is too uncomfortable for me. It is against all rules of personal space, doesn’t allow you to get to any of your paperwork or samples and stops you from seeing the customer.
My preference is always to sit comfortably in the lounge and connect the laptop to their TV screen. If I sit at a table, I carry a second screen so they can be opposite me.
It is always important to look at your customers when you or they are talking. I know you have to look down to design or work out prices but remember to look up at them regularly.
It is essential that you look at them when you want them to believe something you’ve said because we all instinctively judge truth by looking at the eyes. When someone wants to confirm a truth, they say, ‘look me in the eyes and say that’.
The most important time to look at them is when you are discussing price and discounts.
If you look away, they will not trust you.
Natural Body Language from Confidence
These behaviours should occur naturally when you are confident and taking the time to understand your customer’s needs.
- Relaxed and comfortable.
- Soft eye contact when talking but does not fix with a stare when waiting for a decision.
- Still; not fidgeting or scratching.
- Wait for others to finish what they are saying.
- Sit or incline forward to listen to what the customer is explaining.
We‘re mostly rushing around unconsciously and unaware of the impression that we give other people or the importance of it. So take stock and become aware. The first step is to become aware of having a good open posture and speaking clearly.
Nervousness is Difficult to Hide
Nervousness makes people fidget and move constantly. If nothing else, learn the art of stillness. If you suffer from anxiety or nervousness, being aware all the time of your feet in contact with the ground is calming.
We will be talking a lot about listening throughout these lessons. Nervous salespeople race to get out what they want to say. If you cut your customer off, they will stop talking to you and let you finish so they can quickly get you out of the door.
It’s not always possible to lean forward to listen to the customer if you’re juggling paperwork and a laptop on your lap. Any forward movement of the head is enough to signal interest while looking at them.
Common Reasons for Poor Body Language
Lack of confidence
There are common reasons salespeople show poor body language without realising it. Lack of confidence is one of them, especially among newer salespeople but also affects experienced professionals, especially if they suffer from anxiety and worry about sweating, shaking or stammering.
A lack of confidence shows in poor posture: keeping your body tight and closed, looking down and not speaking clearly. One of the signs I see often is salespeople standing in the hall holding their bag in front of them with two hands. They stay locked in while they barely release an arm to shake hands.
Impatience to finish the appointment
The next one is impatience to finish the appointment. If you prejudge the appointment to be a waste of time, don’t feel it’s going well, worry about getting home before traffic or getting back to running your business, or don’t like the dog, cat, kids or house, then you’re not comfortable and you want to get out as soon as possible. The same applies if you want a smoke, or you’re hungry.
All of these things lead to a feeling of discomfort in some form and stop you from completing a good sales call. Making a good first impression is vital, so you must be open, which means keeping your chest clear and facing them with your head up.
If you lack confidence or take a while to warm up, practice. There is no harm in standing in front of a mirror and adopting the postures to see what your customer is seeing. Know what it feels and looks like to stand tall with an open chest. Notice it on TV with newscasters.
At any time your brain senses that you are uncomfortable, its job is to get you to comfort as soon as possible. It doesn’t know that you are being lazy, impatient or just want to get somewhere else. Our brains are wired for survival, so it thinks you’re under threat, and instinctively you will start showing signs of impatience, which has a long list of signs.
Folding your arms
Looking at your watch, worse, looking at your phone
Blinking too much
Nodding too quickly when the customer is speaking to hurry them up.
All of these send unconscious signals to the customer that lead to them not feeling right about you.
Fortunately, most of our customers are nice, but we are human, just as our customers are, and we make snap decisions about whether we like someone or not. I’ve only left 2 houses where I was so uncomfortable that I had to leave, and both had visible animal mess. It is hard to show good body language when repulsed by the smell or if you actively dislike someone.
Sometimes the homeowners are unpleasant as a defensive mechanism. They don’t want to be sold to, so they are cold and even rude to keep you at a distance. Unless it’s an extreme situation, it’s not for us to judge whether people are nice or not. We’re there to give good service.
This is one of the reasons why a process works.
Creating a process
Whatever situation you come across, having a process means you don’t need to overthink it and wonder what you should do or whether you should continue or not. You just stick to your process.
Part of the process is to lead your customer. Customers react to the way we behave. Faced with someone who is open and enthusiastic, it’s hard for them to keep up the bad cop act. Nobody can win if you let them lead and mirror their mood and behaviour.
Giving your customer your full attention
Take a few minutes before your appointment to mentally scan your body to make sure you are relaxed and positive for the appointment. If you’re not, you may waste the opportunity to make a good first impression.
Become mindful of your mood and whether you are preoccupied. Learn to change your mental state, and do not allow yourself to be an emotional puppet.
Make up your mind to give your customer full and undivided attention. That is part of your process.