Back on the ancestral Serengeti (okay, really, before the early 2000s) salespeople had to hunt and gather for their sales.
That is, they had to do it in-person. They’d knock on doors, interrupt strangers’ meals, trade business cards, and make instant, likable impressions or go hungry for the day. This savage jungle forced them to perfect winning smiles, confident body posture, and assertive stares. They knew how to sell through body language.
The exact percentage of communication that body posture accounts for is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that it’s incredibly important for displaying trust. Sales are won or lost at a glance and when an entire generation of inside sellers who have never known what it’s like to sell eye-to-eye are now using video, they are terrified.
Or at least, they look terrified, based on their body language. Or are they bored? Or nervous? Actually, we can’t really tell.
If you could use some help closing deals, it’s time to start controlling what you say with your body.
Sellers, here are the 3 big nonverbal cues to correct when selling with video:
1. Open your defensive, closed body posture
When we feel threatened or uncomfortable, we clench up. According to Joe Navarro, a 25 year veteran of the FBI writing in Psychology Today, “Arm crossing helps us to deal with anxiousness or psychological distress.”
Throughout his career, Navarro has picked up on a pattern: people under duress cover their vital areas—such as their chest or their neck—as if they’re going to be physically attacked. This is bad for salespeople because the vast majority of people, including their prospects, can read these signs, if only subconsciously. And, they’re contagious.
Prospects will automatically mirror a salesperson’s discomfort. Closed body posture gives them the signal that there’s something to worry about and they’ll fell ill at ease and much more resistant to persuasion. The fix, luckily, is quite simple.
To correct your defensive body posture:
- Sit up straight. Align your spine and roll your shoulders back.
- Lift your chin.
- Breathe deeply.
- Uncross your arms. Lay them on your legs with your hands face-up like you’re meditating. (This is the ultimate confident act: You’re exposing your vulnerable underarms.)
Opening your posture will also alter your mental state. According to Fast Company, changing your posture, say, from a hunch to a power pose, can decrease your cortisol (stress) levels. When you act calm, you look calm, and you prompt your prospects to relax as well.
2. Stop the evasive eye actions
Eye contact is directly correlated to confidence and a host of other positive qualities. According to Carol Kinsey Goman, author of The Nonverbal Advantage, people will judge “the closeness of your relationships by the amount of eye contact you display: the greater the eye contact, the closer the relationship.” And according to AJ Harbinger, author of The Art of Charm, eye contact can make your words more memorable, can increase attraction, and is often interpreted as a sign of trustworthiness. And yet in video after video, salespeople look away.
“To build rapport, maintain eye contact for 70 to 80 percent of the time.” – Yesware
To stop what appears to be “evasive” eye actions, train yourself to look at the screen. Nevermind that you aren’t actually looking into someone’s eyes. To viewers, the effect is as real as if you were sitting there in person.
To make better eye contact:
- Memorize your script so you aren’t looking at a prompt.
- Put a sticky note under your camera that says, “look here!”
3. Stop it with the fake smiles
Almost everyone can spot fake smiles. That’s because, according to Paul Ekman, Ph.D., and author of Telling Lies, of the 26 or so muscles involved in the smile, only some can be controlled voluntarily. When we smile genuinely, the whole flight of muscles is activated, resulting in a full-face smile. When we’re faking a smile, it’s only those muscles directly under our control that are activated as pictured below.
Can you spot the difference? For most people, you can see it in the eyes and in the cheeks. For those who fake smile to prospects via video, you’re sending the message that you aren’t being honest. And if that’s the case, what else aren’t you being honest about?
Luckily, the answer to the fake smile is also simple: start smiling for real.
How to give a genuine smile on-command:
- Look at something that makes you laugh right before your video.
- Watch yourself trying on different smiles in the mirror.
- Visualize things that really make you smile.
Practice smiling with other salespeople. Often, just the knowledge that you’re giving off a phony smile leads to dramatic improvements.
The next time you record a sales video, ask yourself: what am I communicating with my body language? If you can open your posture, keep eye contact, and give off a more radiant, genuine smile, then you’re well on your way to building trust with your prospects. Trust matters—as Ekman put it in Telling Lies, “No important relationship survives if trust is totally lost.” And neither do deals.