The Silent Sell






You have gone over your sales material, you've researched your prospect, and you're excited about what you are going to say about your company, product or service. You are now ready for your sales call. Well, at least 15 percent of it. Because the newest research says that most face-to-face buying decisions are made within the first three to five minutes of the call. So that means that 85% of the buying decision is based not on what you say, but what you do nonverbally.  What are the silent signals that can increase your chance for sales success?


1.  Get a Grip

Practice your handshake! The average American handshake lasts three to five pumps. The more formal or urban the corporate culture the more pumps.


You want a lot of palm-to-palm contact in the grip as well. My fifteen years of research on handshakes shows its not the grip but the lack of palm-to-palm contact that makes people cringe when receiving a wimpy handshake, and it's no surprise that more than 80 percent of the men I have surveyed will not do business with someone who has a wimpy handshake. When someone keeps their palms open and in contact with ours we feel subconsciously that they are not hiding anything, such as a weapon or a secret, from us.


2.  Get Comfortable

When you are nervous in a sales situation and you sit down, you close down your body. You cross your legs and arms, you take up very little space, you tense up, making yourself the smallest target possible. Like a closed palm this makes you look like you have something to hide, or that you are not confident.  Instead you need to relax and open up. There is another reason to relax even when you don't initially feel comfortable.  When you hold any body language posture, the posture signals your brain to create the chemicals that match that state, within as little as a fortieth of a second those chemicals are shunted into your blood stream to make you feel the way you are holding your body. Tense posture equals tense chemicals. This affects your image and the quality of your sales interaction. So fake it till you make it.


It's okay to cross your legs, but if you are asked a complex question, uncross them. Brain research indicates is easier for us to process information with legs apart and both feet firmly planted on the ground.


3.  Match the Energy

Match the energy, friendliness or the formality of the greeting you get. You may have heard of matching before, but you might not know that the most important time to match is at the beginning of the interaction, especially the first three to five minutes. People trust people like themselves.  They are often afraid of  "strangers" and your prospect will keep their guard up if you seem very different to them. So match their energy level. Pay attention to their body language, enthusiasm, pace, amount of movement, and mirror it.


4.  Smiling Eyes

Generally, it is helpful for men and women to smile, especially in those critical first three to five minutes. It's the most important body language cue in initial interactions to show you are friendly. It is more important for women to smile since when we don't, men tend to think we are mad.  Once you have said the price or proposed the deal, all research says both male and female sales people should NOT smile. It makes it too easy for the prospect to turn down the price or renegotiate.

5.  Hands Down

Don't put your hand to your mouth. If you are unsure of your response or if you are not very confident about it, you will want to do this with your hand. Don't do it!  It is perceived as being deceptive.


Try to gesture with your palms open. Again this indicates you are open and willing to self-disclose.  Make sure to avoid pointing. Pointing is read subconsciously as a symbolic weapon.


6.  Leaning for Meaning

When you feel emphatic about something and you want to indicate that you are charged about it, lean forward in your chair. When you want to show that you're knowledgeable and confident, lean back, and that will symbolically indicate your confidence and expertise.


We all tend to tilt our heads as we listen to people. Women do this more than men and in excess it can be a problem, because a straight head is powerful, but when the head is held tilted to the side, you are seen as weak or subservient. When you tilt your head while speaking, the message can be perceived as being off center or crooked. By this time you may be thinking, oh come on. A crooked head makes you look crooked? Comprehensive research from the last 40 years on everything from  political speeches, television broadcasters and even couples indicates that it does.


7.  Sounds of Silence

Do not be afraid of silence. It is a powerful nonverbal communicator. Some prospects deliberately create silence to see what you will do with it. Use silence to your advantage as well. First it allows the prospect to talk.


Second it shows you are strong. When we are afraid the sales call is not going well, we want to fill up the silence with chatter. Claim the power in the silence.  Always stay silent after you state your price or deal. By making the moment uncomfortable, you make acceptance of your deal a way to release the tension and be comfortable again.


                These techniques can help you on your next appointment, sales call or interview.  By paying attention to your nonverbal message, you can land more deals and close more sales by harnessing the power of the silent sell.



Patti Wood is one of the nation's top body language experts, with over 20 years of experience researching and teaching others about nonverbal communication.  She has taught communication at the university level and written two books, "Success Signals- Body Language in Business" and "People Savvy."  In addition, Patti consults with and is featured in media like:

ABC, CBS, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, US Weekly and many more.  She has helped businesses such as AT&T, McGraw-Hill, Pfizer and NASA use body language to improve their sales, productivity and communication.  For more information on her seminars, please visit:



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