The Silent Sell

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You have gone over your sales material, you've researched your prospect, and you're excited about what you are going to say about your company, product or service. You are now ready for your sales presentation.

Well, at least 15 percent of it. Because the newest research says that most face-to-face buying decisions are made within the first three to five minutes of the pitch. So that means that 85 percent of the buying decision is based not on what you say, but what you do nonverbally. What are the silent signals that can increase your chance for sales success?


Practice your handshake. The average American handshake consists of three to five pumps. The more formal or urban the corporate culture, the more pumps.

Be sure to use palmto-palm contact in the grip as well. My fifteen years of research on handshakes shows it's not the grip but the lack of palm-to-palm contact that makes people cringe when receiving a wimpy handshake, and it's no surprise that more than 80 percent of the men I have surveyed will not do business with someone who has a wimpy handshake. When people keep their palms open and in contact with ours we feel subconsciously that they are not hiding anything, such as a weapon or a secret, from us.


When you are nervous in a sales situation and you sit down, you close down your body. You cross your legs and arms, you take up very little space, and you tense up, making yourself the smallest target possible. Like a closed palm, this makes you look like you have something to hide, or that you are not confident. Instead, relax and open up. There is another reason to relax even when you don't initially feel comfortable: When you hold any body-language posture, the posture signals your brain to create the chemicals that match that state, and within as little as a fortieth of a second those chemicals are shunted into your blood stream to make you feel the way you are holding your body. Tense posture equals tense chemicals. This affects your image and the quality of your sales interaction. So fake it till you make it.

It's OK to cross your legs, but if you are asked a complex question, uncross them. Brain research indicates is easier for us to process information with legs apart and both feet firmly planted on the ground.


Match the energy, friendliness or the formality of the greeting you get. You may have heard of matching before, but you might not know that the most important time to match is at the beginning of the interaction, especially the first three to five minutes. People trust people like themselves. They are often afraid of "strangers" and your prospects will keep their guard up if you seem very different to them. So match their energy level. Pay attention to their body language, enthusiasm, pace and amount of movement — and then mirror it.


Generally, it is helpful for men and women to smile, especially in those critical first three to five minutes. It's the most important body language cue in initial interactions to show you are friendly. It is more important for women to smile because when we don't, men tend to think we are mad. But once you have offered the price or proposed the deal, all research says both male and female sales people should not smile. It makes it too easy for the prospect to turn down the price or renegotiate.


Don't put your hand to your mouth. If you are unsure of your response or if you are not very confident about it, you will want to do this with your hand. Don't do it! It is perceived as being deceptive.

Try to gesture with your palms open. Again this indicates you are open and willing to self-disclose. Make sure to avoid pointing. Pointing is read subconsciously as a symbolic weapon.


When you feel emphatic about something and you want to indicate that you are charged about it, lean forward in your chair. When you want to show that you're knowledgeable and confident, lean back, and that will symbolically indicate your confidence and expertise.

We all tend to tilt our heads as we listen to people. Women do this more than men and in excess it can be a problem, because a straight head is powerful, but when the head is held tilted to the side, you are seen as weak or subservient. When you tilt your head while speaking, the message can be perceived as being off center or crooked. By this time you may be thinking, oh come on. A crooked head makes you look crooked? Comprehensive research from the last 40 years on everything from political speeches, television broadcasters and even couples indicates that it does.


Do not be afraid of silence. It is a powerful nonverbal communicator. Some prospects deliberately create silence to see what you will do with it. Use silence to your advantage as well. First, it allows the prospect to talk. Second, it shows you are strong. When we are afraid the sales call is not going well, we want to fill up the silence with chatter. Claim the power in the silence. Always stay silent after you state your price or deal. By making the moment uncomfortable, you make acceptance of your deal a way to release the tension and be comfortable again.

These techniques can help you on your next appointment, sales call or interview. By paying attention to your nonverbal message, you can land more deals and close more sales by harnessing the power of the silent sell.

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