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Sales Body Language


Disciplines > Sales > Sales Articles > Sales Body Language

Open assertion | Match and moveLean in | Subtle moves | Care with power | Think aligned | See also


Getting body language right when selling is a tricky business. Here are some tips to help manage your non-verbals.

Open assertion

Stand openly, welcoming them, inquiring of their needs and showing readiness to listen.

In talking with them, generally be clear and assertive, neither dominating nor submitting, although some movement in either direction can work if done with care and in the right circumstances, for example being as servile as your context demands.

Clear body language is relaxed and precise, without being held in or under control. It supports speech, for example in emphasizing key points, and never contradicts it. It does not include unnecessary movement which may cause confusion or betray nervousness.

Match and move

Start off largely reflecting them back, for example by matching body language and using similar verbal style, in order to create an emotional bond with them. Keep your body at the same level as them, for example standing up to greet them and sitting at the same time (not slumping below them).

Then move or speak differently. If they have bonded with you, then they will now be following you, rather than you following them. If they do not do so, then keep matching and moving until they do. Do not move to closure until they are following you.

Lean in

When you lean in towards the customer, you are getting closer to them, creating a bond. There is a danger here in that the person may consider it an invasion of their personal body space, so still treat distance with care until you have their confidence. Leaning in, rather than moving in, is a tentative action and hence is more acceptable.

Leaning in can be conspiratorial when the sales person lowers their voice, as if making this exclusive offer in a way that cannot be heard by their boss or other customers (who would of course snap it up immediately).

Leaning also lowers the body and is a subtle bow, showing respect and deference, hence taking the sting out of any perception of dominance.

Subtle moves

When using body language to influence proceedings, do so with care. Some actions you can use include:

  • Raising eyebrows or tilting head slightly to show questioning or surprise.
  • Pausing with held breath after question to wait for an answer.
  • Pressing lips slightly together with light frown to show disagreement.
  • Gently smiling to show liking of the customer and comfort with the situation.
  • Slow and deep breathing with relaxed face to show confidence.
  • Slight wince when they mention things that are outside your intent.
  • Gesturing with open palms to show openness (not with lecturing finger or aggressive fist).
  • Regular soft eye contact that shows caring (not looking away nor staring at them).

Generally send negative messages with muted subtlety whilst being larger and open with positive signals, as this will move them in the positive direction. It can help to be slightly apologetic when sending negative signals.

Care with power

Beware of dominant body language or other displays of power. Whilst many sales people still try to take this position of control, it is a high risk strategy.

Assuming superiority can work when customers are uncertain or are submissive and is more common in retail situations. However it can easily cause an antagonistic and counterproductive reaction and so should be used only with care. In particular it is hazardous when the sales person mentally translates product knowledge into social superiority.

Think aligned

Overall, it is important always to ensure your body language matches what you say, otherwise you will appear deceitful. The best way to do this is to manage your thoughts, which will then naturally shape your body.

This may seem to contradict previous advice, but both can be used.

Alignment should be easy but can be difficult. You should respect and like all customers and believe deeply in what you are selling. You should also respect yourself and consider yourself equal to others (not superior and not inferior).

Couple this with observing your own body language as feedback on your thoughts and you will not go far wrong. Review and practice can help this.

See also

Using Body Language, Public Speaking and Presentation


Sales Books



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