How to read non-verbal clues
By Daniel Steenerson
Disability Insurance Services
While good listening skills are key to every sales process, it’s just as — if not more — important to learn to recognize and interpret your prospects' non-verbal communications. When prospects’ words are saying one thing, their body language is often saying another.
Have you ever had a gut feeling that what a person said to you was untrue? Often, gut feelings are triggered by non-verbal cues. So the first step toward increasing your non-verbal intelligence is paying attention to your gut reactions. If you’re getting a weird feeling, pay close attention to the other person’s body language.
Learning to read the signs
There are many types of nonverbal cues to help you better understand your insurance prospect:
- Environmental. If your prospect's office is barren, with everything in its place, he is probably a logical, rational thinker looking for the facts. If the office is cluttered with family photos and citations from charities, you’re probably working with an emotional decision maker.
- Approach. Does your prospect take time to chat or does he get right to the point? The beginning of an interaction can provide insight into the prospect’s behavior style, letting your know if he’s a driver personality or more amiable.
- Facial expressions. The facial expressions for happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust are the same across cultures. Is your prospect smiling or raising his eyebrows? Or is he wrinkling his nose, furrowing his brow, or rolling his eyes?
- Body movements and posture. How is your prospect positioned? Are his shoulders relaxed, or are they stiff and immobile? Is he leaning forward in interest, with knees and shoulders facing you? Or, is he leaning back or pointed away? Is he timid or bold? Bold, confident people tend to “spread out,” with their arm behinds their head or legs extended.
- Gestures. Is your prospect responding with closed arms and dismissive hand gestures, or with open arms and nods of agreement?
- Eye contact. Eye contact can communicate interest, affection, hostility, attraction and many other things, and it’s an important part of gauging the other person’s response. Is eye contact being made? If so, is it overly intense or just right?
- Speech. It’s not just what they say, it’s how they say it. Does your prospect’s voice project warmth, confidence, and interest, or is it strained? Is the person’s manner of speaking formal or informal? What types of words does the prospect use?
Visual: "Can you see what I mean?"
Auditory: "I like the sound of it."
Kinesthetic: "Are you catching this?"
- Watch for inconsistencies. Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said. Is the person saying one thing while their body language is saying another?
- Trust your instincts. Don’t dismiss gut feelings. If you get the sense that something isn’t adding up, you may be picking up on a mismatch between verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Don’t judge by one signal. Don’t read too much into a single nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals, from eye contact to tone of voice and body language. Taken together, are they consistent with the prospect’s words?
Don’t forget that while you’re busy interpreting your prospects’ nonverbal communications, they’re paying attention to yours, too. Projecting the right non-verbal cues can help put your prospect at ease. Try to mirror the style of the person with whom you’re interacting.
Learning to read and interpret nonverbal cues can help take your insurance selling to the next level. It provides great insights into interest levels and potential objections, allowing you to adjust your sales strategy accordingly.