Looking for how nonverbal communication impacts sales? Your body language sends wordless cues long before you try to close a sale.
Have you ever been judged by a stranger?
You probably felt it first and then noticed their body language:
Not meeting your eyes...
Even the tone in their voice... said you were not worthy.
Once you got to know them, they might have apologized.
But in a retail store, people who feel they are being judged - whether a prospective new hire or a prospective new customer - move on to where they are welcomed.
Our bodies give us away like red shirts at a black-tie event
As people who work with the public, the more we understand what our bodies are saying…oftentimes without our knowledge…the more we can see how often they get in our way. And then work to minimize those clues.
That is especially true when it is your body and your job selling to a retail store customer.
That is because oftentimes, our bodies communicate fear. And fear makes people look away.
Fear makes us lose our temper or silences our voices when they most need to be heard. Most of all, fear keeps strangers at arm's length.
55% of our language to communicate with another person is non-verbal
Our bodies can sense bad vibrations long before someone’s words arrive.
So now think about a time you felt devalued by someone. Picture what their body position was. Now, picture your own body’s reaction.
- You averted your eyes
- You slumped your shoulders
- You might even have curled your toes inside your shoes
Now think what it would feel like to be served by someone whose shoulders were slumped, who didn’t meet your eyes, whose arms were crossed.
Would you feel engaged by them? Of course not!
Their closed body language was telling you they weren’t being authentic. Their nonverbal cues made it hard for you to have confidence in them.
Notice your body position
Most of us don’t even realize when our bodies are communicating, so the first thing to do is to notice your body position.
- Do you cross your arms unconsciously?
- Do you leave your arms down like a corpse when you talk to someone?
- Do your shoulders slouch most of the time?
Those unconscious habits won’t bring customers to you. They are communicating your unease to your shoppers.
And when you have a whole crew of people doing that, the energy in your entire store turns toxic... it makes shoppers walk out saying to themselves, "something just didn’t feel right about that store."
And that is a big deal with post-pandemic shoppers returning to brick-and-mortar stores and shopping online less...that's right - less.
So let's learn how to communicate the energy you want to your shoppers.
9 Effective Ways to Improve your Body Language
Improving your body language will fortify the message you're trying to send to your customer.
1. Lift the sternum (that’s the flat bone at the front center of your chest)
This allows more oxygen into the lungs. A good image to maintain is a string pulling your posture up from your sternum. This allows your shoulders to take on a relaxed position when engaging strangers.
2. Lean forward (but just a bit)
Yes, it’s subtle, but it keeps you from leaning backward, which is negative body language.
A smile is your best tool to get someone to like you, and when you don’t smile, it’s the quickest way to turn someone off. A genuine smile shows in your eyes, so don't worry if you're sporting a mask. Throughout the pandemic, this type of smile earned its name, "smize." A fake smile, on the other hand, may not make it to the eyes.
4. Use your hands
Don’t overdo this, but when you naturally gesture with your hands, you create energy.
5. Meet their eyes
We like people who look at us. Too much eye contact can feel threatening, but too little and you come off as insincere. Yes, this is a balancing act to practice.
Point directly at a feature and look at it together. Shoppers will follow your hand movement, and so will their eyes as you describe the benefit. Using an open hand or two fingers together it's perceived as more open and friendly.
Nodding is another sign of being engaged. It shows active listening and agreeing with someone.
8. Arms open
Hold your arms open and loose to show a welcoming attitude. Arms folded over your chest indicate you are unsympathetic, and authoritative, and at some level, you are closing yourself off from the other person.
9. Stand side-by-side, not face-to-face
When you present merchandise standing by your shopper’s side, it is non-threatening. This allows you to do a friendly sideways lean, which shows a good rapport.
An old-school tip says to mirror your customer’s body posture.
For example, if they use their hands often, you mirror that. If their arms are open, so are yours.
I’ve found some truth in this, but if the shopper suddenly has crossed arms and legs, you don’t want to mirror that. Their body is telling you they are closed off. You don’t want yours to say the same thing!
You must maintain an open stance and see what you said or did to close them off. You don't even need to see their facial expression.
I’ve found addressing it directly with something like, “Did I just say something to put you off?” is a good way to bring them back.
Yes, it takes practice, but once you’re aware of your body language, you can improve it.
Don't forget to pay attention to your customer’s body communication too, and take that into consideration when you're working with them.
How to improve your nonverbal behavior and take control of your body language
We rarely talk about body posture in selling because we assume that if an employee is standing upright, that’s all they need to do. But there’s much more to it.
Begin by noticing your own behavior.
- In what situations do you lose your voice? At that moment, what does your body look like?
- When you’re about to close the sale, how does your body look?
- When do you notice your breath becoming shallow?
- When do you take a step back from a customer?
The more you can choose your own body language, the more you’ll find you can also choose your attitude.
Our bodies are just like the cars we have to drive. If we aren’t choosing the direction and checking the instruments, we’ll often be taken to a place we didn’t want to be.
And while you might still be afraid at some level when engaging a stranger, use these tips to get a hold of yourself and place the fog of fear in the background.
The more you master your body communication, the easier it will be to master your verbal communication.
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