When you go out on sales calls, you bring with you a firm handshake, a warm smile, and the confidence that you can do a better job for the prospect than their current agent. But are you thinking about what else your body language is conveying? Is it aligned with your intentions? And how well can you read the physical signals you’re getting from others?
46 years ago, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of psychology at UCLA, published a landmark study on nonverbal communication. His findings have since become a standard in the field, especially the 7%-38%-55% rule.
Also known as “the three Vs”-verbal, vocal, and visual-this principle shows that, in the course of an interaction with another person, only seven percent of the message you’re sending is conveyed in the meaning of your words. 38% of the impact comes from your tone of voice, which you should know if you’ve ever insulted your dog in a singsong tone (and he came running anyway, right?). And a whopping 55% of people’s impressions depend entirely on nonverbal cues.
Because PMA’s consultative telemarketing team relies exclusively on the 7%-38% part—we can’t, alas, take advantage of our shining, happy faces—the focus is on communicating the value each client offers by being curious, engaged, attentive and projecting our genuine sense of interest when we speak with target companies.
Today, though, let’s tackle the 55%–headfirst, if you’ll forgive the pun. Facial muscles, interestingly enough, are not only the most noticeable but also the most intricate group of muscles in the body. Let’s look at a few noteworthy angles of visual communication that scientists have observed:
If you’re nodding occasionally to convey accord – that’s good. But if you do it too often you could be coming across as impatient (“I’ve got the point, already, just move on”) or too eager to please (“Yes! I agree with everything you’ve said and everything you’re about to say. I would never, ever contradict you”).
If you occasionally cock your head to the side to show interest and curiosity – that’s good. If you do it too often and hold the pose too long you might look like a bemused puppy.
Not making enough eye contact can make you appear untrustworthy or disengaged; too much eye contact and you could come across as overly intense.
If you don’t already, try maintaining a gaze when you’re listening, to show attentiveness and engagement. A forward-pointing face with a slightly relaxed jaw indicates interest and comfort. Wherever you aim your head, the rest of your body will follow.
Pinching the bridge of your nose can signal that you’re suppressing the urge to say something negative.
When people are tense (sometimes that’s because they’re being less than forthright) – massaging the neck, or touching the face are two common “tells.” In sales situations when prospects might be playing their cards close to the vest, these kinds of signals can be a helpful warning that we’re not getting the complete or accurate story from the other person.
Here’s a blog link from an enthusiastic body-language observer showing just how transparent these signals can be.
In this world of tweets, chats, words and more words – we can learn a lot by paying closer attention to the body’s non-verbal messages and what they reveal about ourselves and the people with whom we’re communicating. Tune in to our next issue of MarketPulse, for more insights about what our bodies are saying – from shoulders to toes.