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
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.
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 a professional salesperson,
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
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.
Building 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
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 fifteen minutes of the
appointment. For example, if you notice that your prospect is
crossing their arms, subtly cross your arms to match them.
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
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.
1. What emotion is associated with the "palm to chest" gesture?
B. Critical judgment
2. What is the meaning of the "thumb under the chin" gesture?
D. Critical judgment
3. What nonverbal message is conveyed with the "chin rub"
D. None of the above
4. What does it mean when a person rubs his or her nose?
5. What message is conveyed when a person touches his or
her eyeglasses to their lips?
6.When a person looks over the top of his or her eyeglasses,
what message are they sending?
7. What is the impact of nonverbal communication in a
8. Which of the following gestures is/are associated with lying?
A. Talking through fingers
B. Eye rub
C. Ear rub
D. Lack of direct eye contact
E. All of the above
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.
3. (A) The chin rub gesture indicates decision. When you see
this gesture, avoid the temptation to interrupt. If the gestures
that follow chin stoking are positive, ask for the order.
4. (C) When someone rubs his or her nose it's an indication
that they don't like the subject. When you see this gesture you
would be wise to probe with open-ended questions to draw out
your customer's concern.
5. (B) When someone touches his or her eyeglasses to their
lips it signals that they're stalling or delaying a decision. If they
put their glasses back on, it's a buy signal. If they put them away,
you have more work to do.
6. (C) When a person looks over his or her eyeglasses it indicates
judgment and scrutiny.
7. (C) Research indicates over 70 percent of our communication
is achieved nonverbally. In addition, studies show that nonverbal
communication has a much greater reliability than the spoken
word. Therefore, you would be wise to rely on body language as a
more accurate reflection of a person's true feelings.
8. (E) All of the above. The statue of the Three Wise Monkeys
accurately depicts the three primary hand-to-face gestures
associated with deceit. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
While you may not be called upon to participate in a presidential
debate or manage a baseball team, you need to be able to
recognize your prospect's "buy signals."
By gaining a working
understanding of nonverbal communication, you will be able to
reduce sales pressure, build rapport quickly and dramatically
increase your sales effectiveness!