You are judgmental, and so are your prospects. Whether you want to believe it or not, you make decisions about new people you meet within minutes and sometimes seconds of the introduction. We judge people favorably or negatively based upon a whole litany of criteria, and words are rarely what we base our whole judgment upon. Your body language can tell people far more about what you are thinking than your words.
Even for those people who are untrained in body language meanings, contradictions in body and words have a negative affect. When a person is saying one thing with their mouth and another with their body, the conversation feels awkward and insincere. Awkward conversations will crush any perceived trust, and will doom any chance of a sale or follow up. For those trained in body language meanings, words are secondary to the message being sent by the body. When you study body language, you will be able to see clear contradictions between what a prospect is saying with their mouth and their body.
In many sales and prospecting meetings, the inexperienced salesperson or networker leaves a meeting with a prospect completely pumped about getting the sale because the prospect was saying all the right things. In reality, the only positive thing the prospective was saying was coming from his or her mouth. The prospect just wanted to get rid of the annoyance in front of her by feigning interest. The insincere words spoken by the prospect deceived the inexperienced salesperson, but with training, the salesperson could see that the prospect’s legs and arms were crossed, one hand was covering a portion of her mouth and the prospect was never able to look the perceived annoyance in the eye. An experienced salesperson and student of body language would have seen these warning signs and stopped the sales pitch to get to the bottom of the real problem or doubt. An experienced body language reader would have known that if the person did not begin to open up, this sale was doomed and a follow up would never have resulted in a sale, no matter how many times the salesperson followed up.
In The Definitive Book of Body Language we learn, “Body language is an outward reflection of a person’s emotional condition. Each gesture or movement can be a valuable key to an emotion a person may be feeling at the time.” If you begin to watch, your prospects will be telling you far more with their gestures and body then with words.
I pride myself in being able to connect with people and create enjoyable environments for productivity, but I have made some big mistakes addressing body language. I have had experiences with a person who could not stand me and it was evident whenever we met. My meetings with this person were never very comfortable no matter what I tried. In two of my meetings I made the big mistake of pointing out that the person’s arms and legs were folded and one of his hands was covering a portion of his mouth; all signals that this person did not trust me and or disliked me very much. The meetings were very uncomfortable and discomfort is a unproductive setting when you are trying to get things done. In our business dealings, this person definitely felt himself my superior, and he hated me trying to get to the bottom of his feelings during our meetings no matter how big of an impediment I felt it was toward a resolution. In fact my reads infuriated him and he was quick to remind me. I learned quickly that when a person feels he or she is your superior, be very careful pointing out that they do not look physically comfortable with how the conversation is going. Read the body language and do your best to address the problem with a different direction in the conversation. Not until you feel very comfortable with the person sitting across from you, do you point out that avoidance of eye contact and other body signals are causing a problem in the conversation.
Successful follow up meetings can be critical to your business. You owe it to yourself to avoid leaving a meeting thinking that you are further ahead than you really are. If you understand basic body signals, you will have a good idea of how the follow up will go before you even leave your first meeting. When you understand the basics, you can save yourself weeks of fruitless follow up.