As human beings, we are sending non-verbal messages all of the time through our facial expressions, demeanor and body language. The people we sell to pick up on those messages…sometimes subconsciously.

The power of subconscious messages is very serious business. All of us in selling should be concerned about perceptions on both sides of the selling equation. We must pay attention to how others perceive us from the very first contact whether it’s in person, via voice or the written word.

Your facial expressions and body language can even be "read" over the phone. Believe me, people can tell whether you're smiling or not. They can tell if you're sitting upright with energy or slumped in your chair. The message you send can very easily differ from the one you want to transmit.

UCLA did a study on the initial impressions clients had of salespeople they later said "yes" to. Ten thousand product purchasers were asked: "Thinking back to when you said 'yes' to the representative, what were the reasons that you did? What comes to mind?" The answers might surprise you.

Seven percent of those 10,000 people said "yes" because of the representative's product knowledge. Thirty-eight percent said "yes" because of voice quality and the words they used (in other words, they "sounded" competent).

However, 55 percent said "yes" because of their first impression - the way the salespeople walked in and carried themselves. They had an air of confidence about them that inspired the client to trust this person as an expert in their field. And trust is the bottom line in a successful selling career.

It's so important that you realize that the moment clients first see you they start emotionally evaluating you. Most of this is done on a subconscious level. They're not sitting there thinking, "He's slouching. He must be having an off day" or, "Her clothes are wrinkled. How prepared can she be to help me?"

It's much more subtle than that. It's their reaction to your body language, your voice or how you use the written word if you're communicating via e-mail or an online meeting. We all do it. Think about your reaction to the next new person you meet. What are you picking up on? They're probably doing the same with you.

Here are some simple nuances you can incorporate into your selling style to increase the chances that your future potential clients will say "yes" to you:

First, imply in both word and movement that you're 'on their side.' If you're meeting in person, stand slightly beside them rather than face to face. If you’ll be seated at a desk or table with potential clients, don’t let the desk become a physical barrier. Try to sit next to or perpendicular to clients.

If on the phone or using written word, get across the following: "I understand how you feel" or, "I've been in that situation myself," as long as it's true. This adds a feeling that you're a confidante or friend, rather than the enemy salesperson. You're not there to sell them something and walk away. You've approached them as more of a humble servant. Your goal is to serve their needs.

If there is a major height difference between you and the parties involved, it's better not to discuss salient points of the transaction until you are all seated because looking up or down at a person is uncomfortable.

In long-distance communications, pay attention to the vocabulary of the other parties. Try to match their level rather than talking down to them or using words that are too casual for the situation. This requires a bit of adjusting and thinking on your feet so total preparation as far as product knowledge is critical.

It's also critical to understand that you're going to do business with people who have certain personalities. Not everyone will be like you, your friends or relatives. So you need to learn how to recognize the various personality types and how to work with them most effectively.

I’m going to define some personalities here as men and women but the description isn’t necessarily gender specific.

The first person we are going to discuss is Believing Bart. Believing Bart has had a very positive past experience with your company. He believes your company can get the job done for him, but you will still need to prove your personal competence. After all, you're the one Bart will be working with long term.

The second type is Evasive Ed. Ed has such a powerful fear of making a bad decision that he will put it off as long as possible. He will cancel appointments and avoid returning your calls, but has a definite need for your services. So we must be persistent with Ed. The two key words for working with an Evasive Ed are follow up – follow up until he buys or dies. The best news about Ed is that he is just as difficult for your competition to get to. Once you earn his business through persistence, he’ll likely stay with you long term.

Next is Griping Greg. Greg always has a problem or a complaint. It might be about your product, his company or even something in his personal life. He just wants someone listen to him. He may drag out the sales process just to have you continue to be his shoulder to cry on. Be pleasant, but try to keep the conversation about business. A good tactic with the Greg’s of the world is to contact them just prior to lunch or at the end of their working day. Greg will be eager to move on to something else and not drag out the conversation with his woes. Beware of how Greg’s negativity impacts your attitude. His business may not be worth the risk you take in carrying his negativity around with you.

Our next personality, Anna List, knows exactly what she wants, has a budget and plans to stick to it. She'll ask for a lot of information and analyze every detail. She will hold you accountable for every syllable you utter. With her, you must under-promise and over-deliver. When you do, she'll think twice about changing to another company.

Our next personality is Domineering Donna. Domineering Donna may not give you all the information you need, but will expect since you are the so-called expert, that you will know what she needs. With Domineering Donna we question, question, question and then write down her answers. You must be a real note taker with Domineering Donna. Working with the facts and not letting her bully you will be the name of her game. By remaining professional and delivering what she expects, you'll keep her business for years to come.

Selling is a fun game…when you let it be one. Challenge yourself to send exactly the messages you desire in both word and action. Watch diligently for the messages being sent to you by your clients. Then, work on seeing how quickly you can classify each client you meet and work to serve their needs in the manner they will best respond to.

About the author

Tom Hopkins


Tom Hopkins is world renowned for teaching practical, how-to selling strategies. His training increases competence and builds confidence when it comes to qualifying, presenting and closing sales. Or, Click Here to download a free e-book titled, “6 Practical Tips for Making More Automotive Sales.”

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