Body Language

I am not a body language expert, however I can tell you what I have learnt from the experts and out into practice over 6 years as Physiotherapist and several years in sales. Highly recommended reading is the brilliant book, “The Definitive Book of Body Language” written by two of the world’s foremost body language experts, Alan and Barbara Pease. This is one of most important business related books you will ever read.

Introduction to Body Language:

The scientific research has shown that 60-80% of our all of our communication is through non-verbal body language and that body language is a far more accurate & truthful predictor of thoughts than spoken words, as body language is carried out on a subconscious level. So, if body language has been shown to be a far more accurate predictor of what someone is actually thinking and feeling, then why are so many of us so oblivious to our own body language and the body language of those around us?!

After practicing as a private practice Physio 6 years and now being in sales for several years, I have come to the conclusion that in addition to having the ability to develop rapport with a person, that body language is possibly the most important skill a person can have when it comes to dealing with people. This is simply because what someone verbally conveys to you is not always congruent with their body language is telling you and I have learnt that when there is incongruency between the persons spoken word and their body language, I will always make my judgements based on what the body language is telling me as body language does not lie!

Once you are able to read someone’s body language, interactions with your customers become more enjoyable for both parties, you will able to tell if your customer feels comfortable or nervous / anxious around you, you will be able to tell if they agree with what you are saying or not, you will be able to tell if the person has some form of hidden objection or apprehension and if they are happy with what you are doing and saying. You will be then able adjust accordingly and ask further probing questions, provide them with more options and further reassurance as needed until you solve their hidden objection or apprehension.

The basics of body language:

You should never read body language gestures in isolation. Reading body language is similar to reading sentences, it’s only when you read a sequence of words in sentence that you can fully understand the meaning. When reading body language, you should look for patterns or clusters of the same type of body language gestures before you try to interpret the gestures meaning, e.g, Pattern of crossed arms & legs not just one isolated quick arm cross. Body language also needs to be read in context, there will be times when the person is just cold or itchy or cross legged because they are wearing a short dress.

‘What about if I just feel comfortable in this position?’ There are of course times when a person will feel more comfortable in a particular position & there will always be exceptions to the rules, however, it’s important to remember that when someone feels nervous, anxious, insecure or defensive, crossed arms + legs will feel more comfortable as it reflects their dominant mood at the time. Your body language will mimic what your subconscious mind is thinking and your minds feeling will also follow your body language, they both affect each other. So, stay open & positive!

You need to be aware of your own body language:

Unless impractical to do so, when interacting with a customer, you should aim to never cross your arms and legs and you always exhibit open body language. When selling Archies Thongs at events, crossing of the arms and legs is banned! When I first started practicing as a physio, I was always very nervous about asking the patient to come back to see me as I was worried that they would just think I was trying to make money off them. My body language reflected this and I would speak to my patients with my arms tightly crossed and my hands gripping my arms. Do you know how bad this looks to a patient who subconsciously reads this body language? When you exhibit closed body language the research has shown that people will subconsciously interpret you as being negative, they will develop a less favourable impression of you, they will be less open and receptive to what you are saying, you will sell less.  I cringe watching ‘professional’ sales people sell with the same negative body language! 

Principles to follow:

The research has shown that if you follow the below principles, your customers feel more comfortable around you, you will leave them with the best possible impression, they will be more open and receptive to what you are saying and the end result is that you will sell more:

  • You should always try and do your best to sell with open body language, with your arms by your side and palms facing forward to the customer and the feet apart. You should NEVER try and communicate with a customer with cross arms and legs!
  • You should never stand directly opposite, as this is subconsciously perceived by the brain as being confrontational and will make the potential customer feel uncomfortable.
  • When talking to a customer, you should always talk to your customers with your body on a slight angle and with your foot pointed towards them. If you don’t believe me, try having a conversation with someone standing directly opposite them, it just feels awkward!
  • You should always keep at least one meter between you and the customer to avoid invading their personal space.
    Always sell like this
    NEVER sell like this
     ALWAYS sell like this
     NEVER sell like this
    • While it can be very difficult and uncomfortable to sell with open body language if you are not used to it, over time, with practice, it will become much easier and more natural!

    Reading your customers body language:

    In addition to being very aware of your own body language, you should always be carefully observing your patients or customers body language. If you are doing so, you can easily work out whether or not the person is open and receptive or if they are negative / defensive to what you are doing and saying. It is important to remember, that body language is a far more accurate predictor of the person’s actual thoughts and feelings than what they verbally convey, so pay close attention to their body language if you want to make the customer feel comfortable, happy and more open and receptive to what you are saying. While it can take some time to get used to, overtime, with practice it will become easier and easier and eventually you will be able to read a person’s true thoughts like a book!

    • You should never try to proceed to the next step of the sales process or try and close a sale, when someone is exhibiting closed body language.
    • Any time that a person has their arms and legs crossed, either with both arms and legs crossed, or even just holding one arm with the hand, is an ALARM sign that the person has some form of hidden apprehension or objection to what you are saying and what you are selling. If you see this body language being displayed, they are in a negative or closed mode and they are not liking, they are not open and receptive to what you are saying!
    • In this instance, you need to ask further questions and provide further options to try and work out what their hidden apprehension or objection is and provide reassurance as needed.
    • In the case of the thongs, it may be that they do not like the colour of the thongs, they may think the size may not be right, the strap may be too tight, the Arch support may be uncomfortable for them or maybe they are generally not convinced by the information you are providing them with.
    • Whatever the reason, closed body language is an alarm sign that they have some hidden apprehension or objection is and you need to work out what is the cause and try to solve it for them.


      • It is important to note, that closed body language will often be seen at the start of the interaction / sales process as the person may be just nervous / anxious about talking to others (even if they are not concisely aware of this) and they will commonly shift to more open body positions as they relax and get more comfortable around you. This negative body language is also very common in the sales process in a retail environment if there is two or more people in the ‘sales arena’ and certain members of the group have little to no interest in the product.
      • If you see this negative / closed body language, you should ALWAYS hand them a thong to hold and say: “Here, have a feel of how soft they are.”.
      • If you are in a retail store and you are super switched on, you will have already assessed their likely size, likely preferred colour, strap tightness, so if they decide to try the thongs the reaction is instantly positive with no mucking around.
      • When the person’s body language is closed, the scientific research shows that the mind basically closes as well and they will be less open and responsive to what you are saying. As crazy as it sounds, the simple act of getting them something to hold such as a thong puts them in a more open and receptive position to take on board what you are saying and selling! Whenever we sell the thongs at expos and events, we always give the customer with closed body language a thong to hold to get them in a more open and receptive position!
      • If the negative body language continues, such as cross armed posture, then you must try and find what is the reason behind the objection or apprehension is and try to solve it for them!
      • Try and work out what they do not like by carefully observing their body language, listening to their responses and questioning and then providing appropriate re-assurance when necessary.
      • While you should carefully listen to the persons responses, the non-verbal / body language cues will be a far more accurate predictor of if the person is happy with what you are saying and what you are selling. Body language most often does not lie because most of the time it is under sub-conscious control.
      • If the customer tries the thong on but stands there with their arms crossed, then it is likely that they do not like something, they have some form of hidden apprehension or objection, even if they tell you it feels good! It is your job to work out what it is and solve it for them.
      • The most common apprehensions or objections you will get once a customer tries the thongs indicated by closed body language (or what they verbally convey) are; arch support too much or not enough, strap too tight or not tight enough, the persons foot overhangs over the thong and they think the thong is not wide enough, the customer thinks the thongs are too small and they think that they need a bigger size, they are unhappy or undecided about the colour.

      Please click here for more information with examples in relation what to do and say in these situations in our ‘Apprehension and Objections’ sales module.

      Some of the signals that the customer may be ready to buy:

      • They may lean forward. They may have their arms in an open or non-crossed position. They may have a big smile on their face! They may be nodding their head in agreeance. They may pick up the thongs and play with them. They may pick up the product and try it on themselves!

      If you are seeing positive buying signals from the customer, do not go on talking, simply ask the customer:

      “Would you like to see what they feel like?” always use this wording over “Would you like to try them on?”

      Once you train yourself to look for these signals, reading body language becomes super easy and you can read your patient or customer like a book and change your “plan of attack /sales pitch” accordingly.

      GOLD TIP

      Did you know that the research has shown that the ‘cheeky elbow touch’ as I like to call it which is gently touching the potential customer on the elbow with your hand for 1-3 seconds during the sales process and NO longer helps create a favourable bond between you and the customer, people like you more and result in greater sales. If you don’t believe me just read this article written in Forbes magazine.

      If you don’t believe me just read this article written in Forbes magazine.