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How to decode body language to increase sales

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Prospects lie. In fact, it is socially acceptable to lie to a salesperson. So, how can you tell if a prospect is lying to you? During every field sales call, customers offer non-verbal cues.

Most sales training programs focus on active listening as an integral part of any client-related interaction. This is all well and good, but when we become too focused on listening, we often overlook the most important part of the interaction: the prospect’s body language. Looking beyond words will help you increase sales while gaining a better understanding of what your prospect wants and needs.

Purchasing insurance is an emotional decision. Generally speaking, customers buy emotionally and justify their decisions intellectually. Whether you’re selling life insurance or health insurance, customers are making a decision on how to protect what matters most. It can be a difficult sale, and it’s important to be able to read your prospect’s response well.

Most experts estimate that approximately fifty to eighty percent of all communication is nonverbal in nature. The ability to decode nonverbal communication is a skill that takes time, practice and patience to learn. It is an invaluable part of the selling process that is often overlooked during sales training sessions.

What should I look for?

The first step is to learn how to differentiate positive body language from negative body language. Positive body language includes smiling, eye contact, leaning forward and open arms. A few examples of negative body language are leaning away, hands on the face and closed arms. The key is to determine whether or not the prospect’s body language is in line with what they are telling you.

Do not be discouraged by negative body language combined with positive verbiage. In other words, do not be discouraged by a prospect that lies to your face. What your prospect is really doing is giving you an opportunity to change your questioning strategy on the spot. While your competition is overlooking important nonverbal cues in favor of the spoken word, you can adjust on the fly.

As you adjust, be sure to make a smooth transition, so as not to disrupt the sales call. Instead of saying, “Ms. Customer, I get the feeling that you are annoyed,” try a softening statement, such as, “Ms. Customer, there are a few things that I think we should discuss in greater detail. Many customers have the following concerns. Is it okay if I ask you a few straightforward questions to ensure that we are on the same page?” Your prospect will appreciate such dialogue. Maybe there is a concern that you overlooked or an issue that she was initially afraid to bring up. Instead of losing her, you will get her talking.

Below is a list of non-verbal cues to be cognizant of:

Observe the posture of your prospect throughout the sales call. Are they leaning forward? Do they look relaxed?

Be sure to observe the prospect’s hands throughout the sales call. The hands play a vital role in decoding nonverbal cues. For example, folded arms indicate that someone is closed off or defensive. If a prospect is slouched or using their hands and arms as support, they are likely bored. Facial touching while engaged in conversation is an indication of deceit on their part. When a prospect touches their face upon making a commitment, you might want to revisit earlier areas of the call to try and save it. The alternative is to walk away with an empty offer while losing the deal.

Some facial expressions are overt and easily decoded, while others are more subtle. Analyzing lips and eyebrows is a good starting point. Several emotions are exhibited by expressions of the lips and eyebrows — fear, anger, frustration and happiness among them.

Tapping, banging, or thumping with the hands or feet is a sign of impatience. As sales professionals, most of us have talked too much during a sales call at one point or another, even though we know that the prospect should do most of the talking. If you notice a fidgety prospect, take a few steps back and ask yourself if you are talking too much. This will give you an opportunity to regroup and resume the selling process by asking questions.

Take action
If a customer is leading you verbally but offering contradictory body language, take action. Do not hesitate to take a few steps back during the sales call to clarify concerns. For example, if a customer tells you that cost is not an issue but exhibits defensive or negative body language, it’s a good idea to initiate a more in-depth conversation about budgeting and value.

While monitoring body language is not foolproof, the ability to do so will increase your closing ratio. A harsh reality of sales is that almost all prospects lie at one point or another. By examining your prospect’s body language, you can determine the source of his defensiveness through a deeper and more meaningful interaction.

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