Coming in second place on IMDB’s 2016 “Top 250 Movies of All Time list,” Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather is an unrivaled (well, seldom rivaled—it was second on the list, after all) masterpiece of cinematic art.
And man, is it ever quotable.
But amid the “I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse,” and the “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” lines, there is one quote in particular that has found immortality within the corporate world: “This is business; Not personal.” And boy is it a load of crap.
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Look, I’m not saying that modern economic leaders shouldn’t base their business philosophies on half-century-old works of fiction; I’m merely suggesting that anyone who thinks that it’s possible to separate interpersonal interaction from cold, hard business doesn’t totally understand either concept. The fact of the matter is that business is all about human interaction.
Think about it: every business—no matter the size, no matter the industry—depends on customers in order to achieve success. This means that when all is said and done, your customers are doing more than just purchasing your product; they’re purchasing your brand, your image, your philosophy. They’re purchasing you. Or, as Mark McCormack (International Management Group founder) is known to have observed, “All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.”
This truth extends well beyond the realm of theory. A recent survey by Huthwaite International found that the five top sales skills, as identified by customers, are strong product knowledge, listening skills, confidence, enthusiasm, and persuasiveness.
This, however, presents a problem for many would-be salespersons. After all, it relies heavily on self confidence, in addition to product confidence. And given that even in the digital age, 87 percent of professionals believe that face-to-face customer meetings are an essential part of closing deals, it’s apparent that simple nonverbal cues take a significant role in determining sales success. What more, the nonverbal gestures and tics that we carry with us into the sales meeting often have an unintended effect on our own frames of mind. The good news is that when we recognize this relationship, we can actually begin to exploit it in a way that has the potential to improve our sales numbers significantly.
In fact, these ‘power moves’ may be the key to unlocking the kind of sales numbers that would have you appointmented consigliere of your own legitimate business empire, or at least earn you a spot on the ‘Salesperson of the Month’ plaque that’s hanging in the breakroom. Here are eight power moves to help you close any sale:
1. Keep Your Chin Up
The first impression your body language leaves with a potential client occurs before your direct interaction ever starts. The way you carry yourself as you approach your meeting will give your prospect a sense of your confidence (or lack thereof), and will provide his or her subconscious mind with plenty of circumstantial evidence to use when forming judgements about the quality of the product or service you will be offering.
So, when you walk, do what most of us are hard-wired to do when passing by a reflective surface: suck in your gut, square your shoulders, take long, purposeful strides, and hold your chin up high. That’s right, the same posture that helps us convince ourselves that we haven’t gained that much weight since high school can help convince ourselves and our customers that we really do know what you’re talking about.
2. Lend a Hand
For a gesture that probably began as a friendly way to reassure someone that you aren’t holding anything that could be used to murder them, the handshake has certainly found an honored spot in the modern greeting ritual. As such, murderous intent or not, most sales meetings formally begin only once all participants have had the opportunity to briefly clasp each other's fingers.
Of course, there’s more to a good handshake than just slowly squeezing palms together. A firm, quick handshake, when accompanied by direct eye contact, lets your prospect know that you have confidence in yourself, and in your offering, and also helps to reaffirm that confidence in your own mind.
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3. Sit Pretty
Don’t get too comfortable in your chair as your progress through your meeting. Overly relaxed sitting positions suggest that the topic you are discussing is unimportant, or even boring. On the other hand, keeping your feet planted on the ground, facing your client, and leaning slightly towards him or her will let them know that you consider your sales pitch valuable, and will help you focus your thoughts on the points you are trying to make.
4. Take Up Space
Take a cue from the humble pufferfish. Making yourself look imposing (but still friendly, we hope) will help inspire respect, and cause your prospect to take what you have to say seriously.
But even more than that, by taking up a large amount of space, you actually increase your body’s production of testosterone, which in turn boosts your confidence. So, even before you enter the meeting, spend a few minutes striking a Superman pose—the red cape, however, is optional.
5. Pull Them In
Humans are social animals, and that means we’re hardwired to want to fit in with the crowd. Even in one-on-one settings, people are known to mimic the body language of others. Additionally, our minds tend to interpret the direction a person leans as being indicative of that person’s feelings for us.
When a person leans towards us, we subconsciously feel as though they like us, and that makes us want to reciprocate those feelings, which causes us to lean forward as well. This not only helps to build a positive relationship between salesperson and customer, but it also puts clients into a better position to become interested in what you have to show them.
But before you go pushing your face into your client’s airspace, make sure that you’ve already built the foundation of a positive relationship. Much like going in for a kiss, if you lean in too early, your prospect may see it as an unwanted advance, and become uncomfortable.
6. Put on a Happy Face
Given that unhappy employees are twice as common as happy ones, you might find that flashing an authentic grin while on the clock is more difficult than it sounds. So how do you go about doing it? Well, there are a number of basic lifestyle changes that can go a long way towards improving your attitude, such as being positive, helping others, and making better use of your time.
Likewise, presenting yourself physically in the best possible way will help you feel confident and engaging, so be sure to wash behind your ears. When all else fails, go ahead and force the smile. Just try to force it often enough, and in non-sales situations, so that it can begin to actually make you happier.
7. Get on Their Good Side
When entering a meeting and being faced with two chairs separated by a table, consider another possibility: grab your chair, and move it around to the same side of the table as your client’s. This will allow you to more-easily share your materials, and to do so in a way that promotes cooperativeness, rather than competitiveness. After all, when you’re on the same side of the table, you start to subconsciously think of yourself as being on the same side of the argument.
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8. Palm It Off
Despite what your parents may have told you when you were a child, there’s nothing wrong with fidgeting. In fact, studies have shown that fidgeting may actually have benefits to focus and to health. That having been said, fidgeting during a meeting with a potential customer can give the impression of nervousness, boredom, or a lack of preparation.
If you feel the need to move while you sit, rather than fidgeting, consider using open palm relationship gestures. As you make points in your argument, simply take your hand, palm upward, fingers open, fingertips facing your customer. Not only does this invite sharing, and help your client feel more at ease, but it also promotes feelings of companionship in the person performing the gesture (i.e. you).
When in doubt, listen to the advice of venerable Pierce Hawthorne of Hawthorne Wipes, and “Hand them a sandwich.”