Non-Verbal Communication

Non-Verbal Communication

A little more than two weeks ago, my wife Jacqie and I became parents for the first time when we welcomed our daughter Laila into the world. It has been a life-changing experience to say the least, as we’ve begun to learn just how little control we have over our schedule. With a newborn, every moment is unpredictable. As parents, the best we can do is be prepared for anything, and try to remain flexible in order to accommodate any needs that Laila may have. She is the driving force behind the time to eat, the time to sleep, and anything that happens in between those two activities.

The most difficult part for me personally is trying to determine what Laila’s needs are. As her father, I want to do everything I can to help her, comfort her, and protect her. Unfortunately, I’m stuck trying to assess her needs without having the ability to ask questions, overcome objections, and propose a solution. As professional salespeople, the crux of our success is dependent upon the ability to do these things – crucial steps of the sales cycle. But imagine how difficult it would be to conduct a needs analysis with one of your customers if they are unable to respond to basic questions that provide relevant information about their business!

Because I’m unable to engage my daughter in a two-way conversation, I must rely upon my ability to recognize and respond to non-verbal gestures. Not at all by coincidence, the identical actions that I’m looking for from Laila to communicate her needs are things that you can look for when you meet with your customers. Here are a few examples of things that I’m constantly paying attention to…and you should be too!

Smile – A smile is testimony to inner satisfaction. When a customer smiles, they are happy about what is being said or what is being done. Or they are simply content and nothing needs to change. It melts my heart when Laila smiles, because it reassures me that I’m doing something correct and she is enjoying it! Or it may also mean that she is passing gas after a feeding, which is an entirely different matter altogether.

Posture – A change in posture often indicates when a decision has been made or when a change is needed. When Laila arches her back or starts to squirm when I’m holding her, I know that she is uncomfortable and I need to make an adjustment. When your customer is sitting back in their chair and suddenly leans forward, maybe they’ve come to a decision and are about to make an announcement. Or if a customer suddenly turns their shoulders away from you, maybe they are disengaged from the conversation.

Eye Contact – An absolute must when meeting with customers! Eye contact imparts a sense of intimacy to your exchanges, improves the quality of the interaction, instills confidence and trust, and leaves people feeling more connected to you. When Laila and I are locked in a gaze, I know she is listening to me, trying to comprehend what I’m saying to her even though she cannot understand it. Conversely, when I notice her eyes getting droopy and she’s struggling to keep them open, I know she is getting sleepy and will soon drift off in a state of contentment.

At the same time, some of the interaction I have with Laila – and that we have with customers – is verbal to some extent, so I’m trying to decipher her vocal signals. I’m sure most of us have heard from our significant other at one point in time the phrase “It’s not what you said, it’s HOW you said it.” I now truly understand exactly what this means and am confident that you’ll find it applicable to many of the conversations you have with your customers.

Change in Voice – Pay attention to the customer’s voice. Changes in pitch, tone, volume, inflection, rhythm or rate may indicate changes in mood or mindset. I’m starting to learn that high pitched sounds or squeals coming from my daughter might indicate that Mount Laila is about to erupt and I should prepare accordingly. Most of the time, it’s a  signal that a diaper needs to be changed or feeding must commence. If you can predict the mood of your customers based on the tone of their voice, you may be able to prepare for what’s about to happen and in some cases avoid potential issues that could arise.

Silence – Silence makes people uncomfortable. From a sales perspective, I’ve always preached that you should never be tempted to rush in and fill the void. As long as your customer says nothing, the answer is still “yes.” There’s no need to take action until the customer says “no.” And as professional salespeople we must all abide by the golden rule of closing a sale: the first person to speak loses! As a new father, I embrace silence. In fact, I LOVE silence. Silence equates to one of two things at this point in my life: either my daughter is content with the status quo and I do not need to do anything at the moment –or- Laila is sleeping peacefully. My wife and I have quickly learned that having a few moments to ourselves is a precious commodity these days. But we would not change a thing.

Have a terrific week,

If there are specific topics you’d like to see discussed in a future issue of The Sales Cycle, please contact me at 612-278-0223 or


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