Incredible Body Language Research on How Non-verbal Communication can Increase Sales

Most sales people are aware of the fact that their body language can affect how other people think and feel about them.

We all know that smiling and nodding are important in communication skills and result in a much more positive impression than sitting with your arms crossed, for example.

Teaching body language basics like this in terms of sales techniques is nothing new, but Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy has recently published the results of a study into body language that shows how you position yourself can actually affect your opinion of yourself and even alter your body chemistry.

There is a universal power pose for success

Individuals in positions of power both within the human race and the animal kingdom, tend to adopt what Cuddy has dubbed “power poses” – standing or sitting in a way that opens up the body, with the arms often raised above the head in a Y shape.

We see this pose time and time again, perhaps most commonly in sports as a winning olympic runner passes the finish line or a footballer scores a winning goal.

These power poses seem to be an automatic reaction to power that is almost beyond our control – Cuddy notes that even blind athletes who have never seen others adopt this pose will raise their arms up above their head when they win a race.

Conversely, poses that make the body smaller – hunching, crossing the legs and folding arms tend to be seen in individuals who feel powerless or submissive.

Improve your skills & feel more powerful

What is most interesting about this particular study is the discovery that by simply adopting one of these power poses for only two minutes, we can actually feel more powerful and confident, improve our interpersonal skills, deal better with stressful situations and take more risks. Just as smiling can actually make us happier, positioning our body in a power pose can make us more powerful.

The research group was split in half and each participant had a baseline reading of their levels of testosterone (the power hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone).

Half the group then adopted power poses for two minutes while the other half adopted powerless poses.

This simple change in body position for just two minutes caused some quite dramatic differences in the two groups. The power group had on average, a 20% increase in testosterone and 10% decrease in cortisol, while the powerless group had a 25% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol.

So how is this research relevant to sales?

The qualities that we tend to associate with powerful people are also those that are found in successful sales people. Good salespeople are generally willing to take risks, keen at taking on new challenges and stay cool under pressure.

Ideally before going into a sales interaction, you would want your levels of testosterone to be high (inspiring confidence and risk taking) and cortisol to be low (helping you to deal with stressful situations).

A decrease of sales success by “bad” body language

However, the most common position adopted by salespeople waiting for a meeting with a prospect would be the one that causes the opposite effect on body hormones -sitting down, probably hunched over a smartphone or tablet to pass the time or catch up on emails.

Cuddy suggests that ideally anyone going into a stressful situation (such as a sales interaction) should try to adopt a power pose for a two-minute period to boost their levels of confidence-boosting testosterone and reduce stress levels.

This does not mean adopting a super-hero pose in the client’s lobby! Rather, a quick bathroom break is sufficient to adopt one of these poses for a couple of minutes in private and potentially make the difference between winning or losing a prospect.

The same principle applies when selling over the telephone and it may well be easier to adopt these positions when you’re in the comfort of your own office.

Next time you make a call, instead of hunching over your desk with your arms close to your body, try sitting back in your chair, putting your arms behind your head and opening up your body.

You may feel silly doing these poses at first but if the research is to be believed, they could make a huge difference to your confidence and resulting sales success.

Try it and see!

We’d be interested to hear any success stories of this technique, so please leave a note in the comments with your experiences.


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