QUESTION: When making a sales presentation, I have heard there are ways to know what someone is thinking by reading his or her body language. Is this true?
ANSWER: Body language is a form of nonverbal communication that deals with the way facial expressions and body movements are used to express people’s true feelings.
The ability to understand people’s body language and also be aware of your own nonverbal signals is an extremely valuable asset to have in your arsenal of communication skills.
Numerous articles have been written about body language. Although it is not an exact science, being aware of signals that may indicate what a customer is thinking is extremely helpful.
People react to different stimuli. Some might be visual while others are auditory.
Visual learners need to see information in order to learn. They may struggle to pay attention to a conventional lecture or presentation, but they process visual information like charts and graphs with ease.
An auditory learner retains information by hearing it spoken, so having them answer a question will help them process the information better.
People who are strong in this area listen to audiobooks and lectures and often prefer to read material aloud.
Eye movements can sometimes indicate how best to communicate with the person.
Looking upward or to the side might indicate someone is visual, as they are processing what you say with mental images.
This is a good sign. They are carefully considering what you are saying.
Visual people might react well to a PowerPoint presentation.
Looking straight at you is a good sign the person is interested. But looking downward can signal the person is not comfortable with your message.
Failure to make eye contact with you also might indicate a lack of interest. Body posture is another indicator of how your message is being received.
John Boe, who owns Boe International, a California-based consulting firm that helps companies recruit, train and motivate people, said, “There are two basic categories of body posture: open/closed and forward/back.”
Leaning forward with unfolded arms and legs uncrossed usually indicates interest and agreement. Leaning back with folded arms and crossed legs often indicates a lack of interest.
“Chin stroking is a good sign the customer is strongly considering a proposal,” Boe said.
Good salespeople are like chameleons: They can adapt to their environment. When talking to a customer, try to personalize the relationship.
If you see a picture of the customer’s son in a football uniform, talk sports before launching into your sales pitch. Pace your delivery to match your prospect. Listen more intently, and dress to fit the occasion.
The bottom line is that even if you can’t read a person’s exact thoughts, you can learn a lot from their body language, and that’s especially true when words and body language don’t match.
Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. To ask a question or request free and confidential business counseling, go to Richmond.score.org/mentors. Learn more about SCORE’s workshops on the website or by calling (804) 350-3569.