The 1960 presidential debates between Vice President Nixon and Senator Kennedy were the first nationally televised debates in presidential campaign history. With the advent of television, the debates took on a visual dimension and for the first time, 70 million voters were given the opportunity to not only hear the candidates, but to visually compare them as well. Surprisingly, opinion polls revealed a sharp contrast between the voters who had actually watched the debates on TV versus those who had merely listened to them on the radio. While radio listeners clearly thought that Nixon had won the first debate, television viewers were captivated by Kennedy’s smile, charm and athletic appearance. The majority of viewers interviewed reported that Nixon’s five-o’clock shadow and darting eyes made him appear sinister and far less presidential than Senator Kennedy. The television cameras underscored the significance of nonverbal communication and forever changed the political landscape.
Are you missing your prospect’s “buy signals?”
Think about the tremendous advantage you would have as a baseball manager if you knew the opposing team’s signals and were able to anticipate their game plan. For example, suppose you knew in advance that the other team was planning to steal second base. Obviously, your team would have a competitive edge because you would be able to adjust your strategy as necessary. Likewise, as an insurance advisor, you would be wise to monitor your prospect’s body language and adjust your presentation accordingly. By reading your prospect’s gestures, you will minimize perceived sales pressure and know when it’s appropriate to close the sale.
In 1872, Charles Darwin published the book The Expressions in Man and Animals and launched the modern study of nonverbal communication. Essentially, body language is a mixture of movement, posture and tone of voice. The good news about this subject is that your subconscious mind already understands the meaning of every gesture, posture and voice inflection. The bad news is, without the proper training you are unable to consciously apply this information during your client appointments. Top salespeople and the most successful managers recognize the importance of nonverbal communication in the selling process and have learned to “listen with their eyes.” They understand that one of the easiest and most effective ways to close sales is to be aware of their prospect’s “buy signals.” In addition to monitoring your prospect’s body language, it’s important to be mindful of your own gestures and keep them positive. Remember to unfold your arms, uncross your legs, nod your head in agreement and smile frequently.
The study of nonverbal communication is similar to learning a foreign language in that it requires time and effort to achieve fluency. Acquiring this important skill will allow you to communicate more effectively, read your prospect like a book and close more sales in less time.
Build trust and rapport
Matching and mirroring your prospect’s body language gestures is unconscious mimicry. It is a way of subconsciously telling another that you like them and agree with them. The next time you are at a social event, notice how many people are subconsciously matching one another. Likewise, when people disagree they subconsciously mismatch their body language gestures. The psychological principle behind matching and mirroring is that people want to do business with salespeople that they believe are similar to them.
You can build trust and rapport by deliberately, but subtly, matching your prospect’s body language in the first 15 minutes of the appointment. For example, if you notice that your prospect is crossing their arms, subtly cross your arms to match them. After you believe you have developed trust and rapport, verify it by seeing if your prospect will match you. Uncross your arms and see if your prospect will match and mirror you as you move into a more open posture. If you notice your prospect subconsciously matching your body language gestures, congratulations, this indicates that you have developed trust and rapport. Conversely, if you notice your prospect mismatching your body language gestures, you know trust and rapport has not been established and you need to continue matching and mirroring them.
Body language quiz
If you’re a manager, consider using this quiz at your next training meeting to assess your sales team’s current level of expertise. When sitting in on a sales appointment with your sales rep, be sure to incorporate nonverbal communications feedback in your critique. Do you have a working knowledge of body language? See how many of the eight questions you can answer:
- What emotion is associated with the “palm to chest” gesture?
- Critical judgment
- Critical judgment
- What is the meaning of the “thumb under the chin” gesture?
- None of the above
- What nonverbal message is conveyed with the “chin rub” gesture?
- What does it mean when a person rubs his or her nose?
- What message is conveyed when a person touches his or her eyeglasses to their lips?
- When a person looks over the top of his or her eyeglasses, what message are they sending?
- What is the impact of nonverbal communication in a face-to-face conversation?
- Talking through fingers
- Eye rub
- Ear rub
- Lack of direct eye contact
- All of the above
- Which of the following gestures is/are associated with lying?
Quiz Answer Key
1. (C) The palm to chest gesture indicates sincerity.
2. (D) The thumb under the chin gesture indicates critical judgment and a negative attitude. A good way to get your prospect to drop this gesture is to hand them something.