Sales are crucial for business growth. Improving sales is not just about creating more compelling presentations and pitches. It is also about listening and observing. One thing that salespeople should observe more is the body language of their prospects and clients. 

In this guide, we examine the intricacies and best practices of body language. If you’re struggling to understand people’s nonverbal cues, read on. 

Can You Read Other People’s Body Language?

Yes, you can indeed read other people's body signals. In fact, learning how to do so is a fundamental aspect of human communication. But keep in mind that body language isn’t everything in a conversation and can also lead to misunderstandings (more on important considerations later on). 

Body language consists of several nonverbal cues. Some of the most common include facial expressions, gestures, posture, and movements. Accordingly, sales professionals, most especially more analytical sales leaders, have started studying the art and science of body language interpretation.

Studies show that 55% of a person’s communication is non-verbal in nature. Human beings naturally perceive and interpret these signals, often on a subconscious level. It helps us understand others' emotions, intentions, and reactions to what we communicate. Mastering body language interpretations can help you significantly in social interactions, negotiations, and business relationships.

Limitations of Body Language Reading

It’s important to note, however, that there are outliers to watch out for. Body language interpretation isn’t 100% accurate. Hence, results can vary significantly based on several factors, including the following -

  • Cultural Differences — Body language and nonverbal cues can have different meanings in different cultures. This includes ethnic backgrounds, familial upbringing, and even social constructs.
  • Individual Differences — Personal experiences, emotions, and personalities can influence how someone displays their body language. What might be a sign of nervousness in one person could be a habit or a comfort gesture in another.
  • Context — The situation or context in which a body signal occurs can drastically change its interpretation. For example, crossed arms might indicate defensiveness in a heated argument but simply be a comfortable stance for someone in a casual setting.

Yes, these variations exist. However, learning to read body language effectively can enhance communication skills. They’re also great for improving relationships, both personal and professional. So, training and practicing your body language interpretation skills can improve your ability to understand people better and respond accordingly.

Common Body Language Signals for SalesPeople

For sales professionals, there are several basic body language signals that you should watch out for. Learning these should help you gauge a sales prospect, lead, or client’s interest and readiness to make a decision. 

Here are some common signals you can observe broken down by body parts.

1) Eyes

Positive Signals

  • Direct Eye Contact - Indicates interest and attentiveness. When a client maintains eye contact, it often means they are engaged and paying attention to what you're saying.
  • Dilated Pupils - Can signal interest and excitement. This subconscious response could mean the client is intrigued by the offer.
  • Blinking at a Normal Rate - Signifies comfort and ease. Too fast can indicate stress, while too slow might suggest disinterest.

Negative Signals

  • Avoiding Eye Contact - Suggests discomfort, disinterest, or lack of confidence in what is being discussed.
  • Eye Rolling - Indicates skepticism or disagreement with what is being presented.
  • Excessive Blinking - Can be a sign of stress or feeling pressured, possibly indicating discomfort with the discussion or decision-making process.

2) Hands and Arms

Positive Signals

  • Open Palms - Suggest openness and honesty. It can signal that the client is receptive to what you are saying.
  • Mirroring Your Gestures - Indicates rapport and a subconscious liking for you or your proposal.
  • Relaxed Arm Position - Arms hanging relaxed by the side or open gestures indicate comfort and openness to the conversation.

Negative Signals

  • Crossed Arms - Often seen as a defensive posture, suggesting resistance or a closed attitude towards the conversation.
  • Fidgeting - Signifies nervousness or impatience, possibly indicating discomfort with the situation or eagerness to leave.
  • Hidden Hands - Can imply distrust or withholding, suggesting the client is not fully open to what is being discussed.

3) Head

Positive Signals

  • Nodding - Implies agreement or interest. It's a universal sign that the listener is on board with the idea or likes what they hear.
  • Tilting the Head Forward - Can indicate curiosity and interest, showing that the client is engaged and paying attention.
  • Leaning In - Shows engagement and interest in the conversation, indicating the client is fully involved in the discussion.

Negative Signals

  • Shaking the Head - Indicates disagreement or disbelief, suggesting the client is not convinced by what you're saying.
  • Tilting the Head Back - Can be a sign of skepticism or assessing you and your words critically.
  • Leaning Back - Often means disinterest or a desire to distance oneself from the conversation, possibly signaling a lack of engagement.

4) Feet

Positive Signals

  • Feet Pointing Towards You - Indicates interest and engagement. It's a subconscious sign that the person is involved in the conversation.
  • Stillness - Shows comfort and contentment in the situation, suggesting that the client is focused and paying attention.
  • Mirroring Your Stance - Signifies rapport and a positive reaction to the conversation, indicating a subliminal alignment with your position or offer.

Negative Signals

  • Feet Pointing Away - Can suggest a desire to leave or disengage from the conversation, indicating the person is not fully interested.
  • Constant Shifting - Implies nervousness or discomfort, which might suggest the client is unsure or anxious about the discussion.
  • Tapping or Bouncing Feet - Often a sign of impatience or anxiety, potentially signaling discomfort with the situation or eagerness to conclude the interaction.

Observing these signals can provide valuable insights into your client's mindset, helping you adjust your pitch and approach accordingly to maximize your chances of success.

Tips to Read Body Language Better

Source: Unsplash

If you're looking to improve your skills in reading body language, focusing on a few key areas can be beneficial:

1) Practice Observation

It’s best to start by observing people in various settings. Note their body language and the context in which certain gestures or expressions occur. You should probably start by taking notes in the beginning to help you keep track. 

You should also pay attention to clusters of body language signals rather than isolated gestures. We find that this practice will get a more accurate read on someone's feelings or intentions.

2) Learn the Basics

If you’re asking “what can you do with Psychology degree?,” sales and body language is one great application. But the best place to start is the basics, even if you’ve studied psychology extensively. Start with the basic signals above, but know that there are so many other signals to watch out for. 

Understanding body signals and their variations can give you insight into people’s true feelings. They speak volumes about their comfort levels, attitudes, and responses to situations or conversations.

3) Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Enhancing your emotional intelligence should be a priority among sales professionals in the 21st century. This skill can help you become more sensitive to others' feelings and better interpret body language cues. Some emotional quotients you should develop and increase include empathy, active listening, and mindfulness of your own body signals.

4) Feedback and Reflection

One of the common presentation mistakes salespeople make is failing to practice their body language reading. Create avenues to practice this with colleagues before getting on more sales meetings. Ask for feedback on your interpretations or share your observations with others to compare perceptions. Reflecting on past interactions can provide insights into how accurately you're reading others' body language.

A Place for Face-to-Face

We live in a time of great digital connection. But there’s no denying that face-to-face conversations still hold massive weight. One of the main reasons is because of the power of body language. Studies show that 65 to 93% of non-verbal communication is more influential than text.

So, find means and ways to get into face-to-face interactions with your leads if possible. At the bare minimum, get on Zoom calls where you can read the person’s upper body signals. These conversations can improve your conversion rates and sales performance.

Get a free trial today and find out how Showcase Workshop can give you the tools you need to become a better presenter.