Everything we do is based on communication and we do it all day long. It’s how we form relationships and develop trust, and an overlooked aspect of the way we communicate, is body language. According to UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian, 55% of communication is done through body language. This research supports the theory that actions speak louder than words and demonstrates the importance of body language and nonverbal communication.
When you work with clients, the subtle roll of an eye can diffuse a tense situation or someone sidestepping out of our way to give us space can generate a feeling of warmth. With no words spoken, we can feel our moods and emotions shift, and our feelings about the other person are almost always positive ones. They display empathy towards us, and we then feel like we understand them.
When you work with your clients, use these body language methods to create incredible customer experiences and enhance your approachability, trustworthiness, and attentiveness. They’ll help you build a rapport that will enable you to close deals and make your customers happy:
Effective body language to build client trust
First impressions count – that’s a given in our field. And for buyers and sellers who are possibly a little stressed out about the prospect of one of the biggest life decisions they’ll make, they are craving a first impression that puts their mind at ease. They want confirmation that “This person ‘gets’ me and has my back.”
The best way to initiate that relationship is with eye contact and a firm handshake. These things may seem old-fashioned, but they’re not out of date. In fact, the actual feel of body contact through a handshake releases oxytocin in the brain, which is a natural bonding chemical that can promote a kindred feeling. You can enhance that feeling of confidence you give clients by opening doors for them, shielding their head from a low overhang, or anything else shows them you care about their well-being.
There is a scientific principle based on our tendency to appreciate the people we like, and that we especially are inclined to like people who are similar to us. One of the ways to benefit from this aspect of human nature is to mirror the physical behaviors of our clients; it’s a powerful, instinctive way to bond with people when they see us. Holding a similar pose, moving at the same pace, or crossing your legs like your client does create a shared experience.
As Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal explains, “Mirroring a conversation partner’s gestures, expressions, posture, vocal pitch or tone can reflect rapport or a desire to please, research shows. It is seen most often between romantic partners, but it happens at work, too, in networking sessions, meetings, and conversations with colleagues.”
Avoid body language that can kill a deal
Be aware that body language can also have adverse effects if not done properly. One of the principal ways you can hurt a relationship is by being generally overbearing or pushy. In the context of body language, this can mean using your presence in an intimidating way through lack of awareness about personal space, and being overly demonstrative. Backslapping, getting too close to someone’s face when talking, or charging ahead and leaving your clients in the dust while you’re walking are major turn-offs. Being too touchy can also come across as creepy or inappropriate.
Avoid overtalking as well. There’s something off-putting about someone who never stops with their running dialog, and while it’s verbal communication, it gives off a nonverbal cue of abrasiveness. The decisions your clients have to make take time and reflection. If your client is with a spouse or advisor, they also need space to have sidebar conversations, and you should know when to step away and give them quiet time.
This is a great comment from sales legend Roy Bartell: “Most people think ‘selling’ is the same as ‘talking’. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.”
Reading the client and closing the deal
At some point in the process, your client will want to move forward – it’s buy or sell time. It’s important that you clue in to what the client is thinking and feeling along the way so you can anticipate and be prepared to finish the deal when the customer is ready to make a decision. The key is to read those subtle signals in the client’s body language.
People generally get a rush of emotions once they’ve made a big decision like buying or selling a house. They will exude a sense of positivity in their language and mannerisms. You’ll see a more demonstrative client and one who lets their guard down more. This is a natural phase of the end of any stressful process, and you will probably also recognize a greater sense of urgency in the way they walk, talk, and engage with you. Be prepared for once-reserved clients to make more eye contact with you and be more touchy.