The Importance of Body Language in Sales

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Way of the Wolf" by Jordan Belfort. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is good body language in sales important for gaining a prospect’s trust? How should your body language change depending on who you’re pitching to?

If you have off-putting body language in sales, then no matter how good your pitch or tone, the prospect will be uninterested in working with you. In sales, communication through body language is key.

Continue reading to learn how to adapt your body language in sales settings.

Communication Through Body Language in Sales

Body language in sales is just as important as tone when a sale is done in person. 

When a person first meets you, they see what you look like and how you move and make a snap judgment about whether they like and trust you. 

If you have off-putting body language, then no matter how good your pitch or tone, the prospect will be physically repulsed and uninterested in working with them. In sales, communication through body language is key.

Choose Your Stance Strategically

Men and women respond very differently to different kinds of body language in sales settings. 

  • If you’re a man selling to a man, corner off: Stand at an angle rather than right in front of him. This projects a more friendly and natural atmosphere. 
  • If you’re a man selling to a woman, though, do the opposite. Stand right in front of her and keep your hands where she can see them. Cornering off can be threatening or come off as overly friendly.
  • In the same way, if you’re a woman selling to a woman, corner off, but if you’re selling to a man stand right in front of them. 

Don’t Invade People’s Space

One of the worst offenses is being a space invader (or as Jerry Seinfeld would call it a close talker). In the West, the space bubble that you shouldn’t invade is somewhere around 2.5-3 feet. In Asia, it’s closer to a half-foot bubble. 

Every culture contains differences when thinking about body language: in Asia, the formal greeting of the bow is also taken very seriously. In the U.S., the handshake is particularly important. If your handshake is too limp or too hard and long, whomever you’re speaking to will get a poor impression. The handshake is a crucial part of communication through body language.

Additional Considerations for Body Language in Sales

On the point of eye contact, studies say that you should be making eye contact at least 72 percent of the time. Don’t go too much higher than that, because then it just seems like you’re staring. 

Finally, watch your arm positioning. If your arms are constantly crossed, it seems as if you have something to hide or you’re generally uncomfortable in the situation. 

All of this is important while you’re not speaking too. Practice active listening by nodding your head, smiling (but not too big), looking in your prospect’s eyes, and occasionally adding in something like “got it” or “I see.” This will make your prospect feel as if you are listening to them, and it will also help you from spacing out. 

Pacing and Matching

Pacing and matching are also important factors of body language in sales environments. No matter where in the world you are, it’s possible to practice matching. Take in your prospect’s manners and return them—if their handshake is hard, return with a hard handshake (up to a reasonable point). 

This is different from mirroring, which suggests that you copy the prospect’s body language exactly. If a prospect crosses her arms, don’t immediately cross your arms as well. Matching their level of comfortability but not their exact actions is a key part of communication through body language. 

Tone and body language in sales make up about 90 percent of our communication. Words and their meaning are only 10 percent. Words are essential to a successful sales pitch, but they’re important, obviously, only when we’re talking. When the prospect is talking, body language remains important if you’re selling in person. 

The Importance of Body Language in Sales

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  • How to sell like Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street
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  • The 3 types of certainty you have to create to make a successful sale

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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