Body Language for Business: Reading the Room

Understanding body language is crucial in the business world, and anywhere else for that matter.

Want to know how your client feels about a particular contract clause? Curious whether this salesperson’s offer has a “catch”? Need to know which part of your pitch the prospect is really interested in?

It’s all within reach; once you can identify body language cues, you’ll feel like a mind-reader in the boardroom. Body language is controlled by the limbic or mammalian brain, which is distinct from the cognitive or “human” brain that we use to lie. That means body language is expressed with instinct, not intent; it’s an honest, unguarded reaction to external stimuli. You’ll always have an accurate read of your client’s “temperature,” no matter what their conniving cognitive brain tries to tell you.

With this in mind, let’s discuss 2 ways you can use body language reads to boost your bottom line.

  1. When do I push a sale?

It’s really important to get the timing right when you’re pitching an offer during a meeting. The sale’s lost if you offer a product or service too soon. You need to know when the prospect is interested.

Before you commit with your offer, scan the room and look for these bodily signs of interest:

  1. When do I wrap up the sales interaction?

Failing to secure a sale during a meeting isn’t always a sure sign that the client is a dead-end:  just because you lost the battle doesn’t mean you lost the war. A client may simply not have the budget available to work with, or may be conducting preliminary research with no intention to buy on that day. It doesn’t mean they won’t buy from you eventually. In these instances, remember that you’ll plant the sales seeds for later if you respect the client’s time and attention.

Unfortunately, many business owners end up burning bridges by trying to wear down their prospects. They try to force a sale with a marathon meeting, flooding the client with information and selling points. It’s a bad move that most people make unintentionally – it’s hard to know when someone is interested or just humoring you. Understanding of body language can prevent this – especially if you study the feet!

The feet are perhaps the most honest part of the body, in part because we don’t pay much attention to them when we’re trying to sell a lie. So much effort goes into the face and eyes that the feet are forgotten.

You can know exactly when to end a meeting if you look carefully (and discreetly!) at your prospect’s feet. Watch for these signs that they don’t like what they hear, or their attention is waning:

More Body Language for Business Tips

I hope these body language tips for business come in handy. It’s an interesting subject, and one that I’ll cover in greater detail in an online course later this year. Check Rapid Business Lessons for updates on that project, along with outsourcing tips and training courses.

Works Cited

Hargrave, Jan. (2008). Do you speak body language? Forensic Examiner, 17(3): 17-22.


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