Sales professionals wants to communicate confidence in order to assure their superiors that they have a handle on things as well as subtly communicating to their potential competitors (both inside and outside the company) not to mess with their territory. This display of body language is helpful in those situations, but can be detrimental in the actual sales conversation. Most sales professionals make the mistake of allowing their territorial behavior to cross over into their conversations with their prospects. The confidence then becomes cockiness. The sales conversation then turns into a battle over who is more dominant. The prospect becomes increasingly uncomfortable as the sales person continues to exhibit his/her territorial nature. All of which can squash a potential sale. So, what are the behaviors that sales professionals need to watch out for? Here are two main areas:
Extremities: The way in which a person positions their arms and legs can communicate a territorial battle. A rule of thumb: the more space, the more territorial. If a person stands with their legs apart, creating a triangle shape, they are taking up more space and claiming his spot. The more space needed for gestures, the more territorial. Think of it this way: When you go to the movie theatre with someone or are sitting on a plane next to someone, isn’t there always a brief battle over who gets the arm rest? Does each person get half? Or does one person take up the whole arm rest? It’s an exercise in territory. If you end up monopolizing the sales conversation with your prospect, you are demonstrating territorial behavior and communicate you are dominant in the situation. This can make your prospect feel uncomfortable, threatened, and even insulted. Watch out on how much space you take up.
Personal bubble: Another territorial behavior is to invade the space of another person. This can instantly cause a negative reaction, as the other person pulls back further and further away from you and your sales pitch. The most common mistake I see is when a sales person crosses the invisible line on the desk in the office or the booth in the restaurant. It is amazing to watch an aggressive sales person practically crawl across the table to get to the other side just to make a point. Granted, no one is actually mounting the table, but the message is the same: “I’m invading your space to show my dominance.” Another way a sales person can make someone feel uncomfortable is if he or she breaks the person’s personal bubble. Everyone’s personal bubble is a different size. Some people don’t mind someone standing within a foot of themselves while others prefer a three-foot radius or more. If you are a touchy feely person who instantly puts your arm around someone, you need to be careful and observe if you are too close by watching them subtly back away from you. Be careful not to breach the bubble.
Remember, your body language is a big factor during the discussion with the prospect. It doesn’t matter if you say the right words if your body language and demeanor make them uncomfortable and withdrawn.
Shari Alexander is founder and president of Presenting Matters LLC, which offers executivers speech coaching and communication training. Her blog covers verbal communication and non-verbal communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.