Understanding Body Language

body language during a sales negotiationAll sales people must be trained to understand the body language signals that can be given off by their clients. These signals can reveal useful information that may not be fully verbalised by the client - either intentionally or unintentionally.

Body language is the conscious and unconscious movements and postures through which a person's attitudes and feelings are communicated. It is especially important to keep an eye on your client’s body language during your sales negotiations. If you can interpret the other person’s body language correctly, then you are more likely to find out what they really think compared to what they are saying. You can then use these observations to your benefit.

How good are you at reading other peoples body language? Here are some facial expressions and body gestures that you might see during a sales negotiation and their likely meaning:

Whole Body Gestures:

When someone leans forward then this shows the person is interested and may want to interrupt you to say something. The opposite, leaning back, may indicate resistance to something you have just said.

Arm and Leg Gestures:

If a customer crosses his or her arms then this can indicate a defensive or fearful response. Folding your arms is a protective mechanism and may mean that an imminent objection will be raised by the customer to something you have told them.

Customers who wrap their legs around their chair might be expressing insecurity.

The larger or more rapid a person's arm movements become can indicate that the person is starting to feel more secure.

Hand Gestures:

Tapping on the table with an index finger can mean that the other person wants to insist on something, or wants to emphasise something, or that they are convinced about something.

Lifting an index finger is often associated with wanting to provide an explanation or a criticism to the person you are talking to.

Drumming with the fingers indicates either nervousness or impatience and rubbing the hands together is associated with complacency or anticipation of something good.

Face Gestures:
Our faces can express many emotions and feelings. Opening the mouth shows surprise, and indicates that the person wants to interrupt you to say something.

Biting the lower lip means the person is pensive and wants to gain more time to think.

Not giving the other person any eye contact is either a sign of insecurity or of arrogance or of deep concentration.

A knitted forehead can signal indignation.

Face Touching:

Touching the nose can signal embarrassment, the person feels caught out.

If a customer wears glasses, then pushing their glasses up can indicate that they want to gain some time to think about what you have said.

When someone puts their finger to their mouth this can signal either embarrassment, or someone who is pensive or concentrating (particularly if this gesture lasts a long time).

Of course, you should not read too much into a single gesture that someone makes, you need to look for clusters of gestures. You should also be aware that some highly skilled negotiators have been trained to hide their more obvious body language signals from sales people.

You may also be interested in our article body language helps you sell.