Sales Coaching: Five Body Language Clues in Sales

Sales Training Five Body Language Clues to Help Close Sales in California

Sales training CaliforniaSales managers and their reps are always seeking new and innovative ways to improve their sales performance. They continually want to know what they could say to get the prospect to buy more frequently. Interestingly enough, saying less may often help them more.

Developing a complete sales process requires more than excellent product knowledge and a sales presentation to consistently gets the prospect to recognize the value your product offers. The sales team needs to recognize when the prospect is saying, “I’m ready”, and when they are saying, “I’m not ready” based on the nonverbal body language signals instead of the prospect’s spoken words.

Sales Training Reading Body Language Tells You When to Sell and When to Close in California

Salespeople often do a wonderful job on their presentation and have true expertise in their field. The barrier to creating a sales breakthrough is often as simple as reading body language more effectively. Body language is among the best indicators or buying signals. When they signal resistance you then have a clue on where to adjust the presentation. When they signal an understanding of you satisfying their needs, then you have a clue to close the sale. Stop selling and start closing. Body language gives you clues to each. Start mastering body language and you are on the way to a sales breakthrough.

Advanced salespeople that continually lead the field are masters of body language. Some do it naturally and others intuitively. Like any top achiever, these reps learn to notice both macro and micro body language clues. It could easily be argued that mastering this skill is even more important than mastering the presentation and all the nuances of your product or service. Of course, in our quest for excellence, we recommend focusing on all three, which is why they are each incorporated into our sales training programs.

Recognizing Macro Body Language Expression

We were working with a large manufacturer in California that had a highly experienced group of salespeople and phenomenal reputation for quality. Of course no product sells itself. As much as each of the salespeople intellectually knew each of the following body language clues, they were often ignored. Their wealth of product knowledge and experience often worked against them because they felt the need to share more and more “essential” information. Once they became focused on reading both the macro and micro body language clues reps started to experience a breakthrough in closing percentages and increased order size.

  • 1. Macro body language expression: Touching of the nose

One of the reps was presenting to an audio dealer in their territory of San Francisco. It was an affluent area and the owner of the store clearly stated the prospect would appreciate the product, would love it and could afford it. However, the owner wasn’t buying. Prior to learning about macro body language the rep would have continued to sell since they received such strong verbal confirmation.

After two out of three of these positive statements were made the prospect touched his nose. Touching of the nose after a statement can often be a sign that the person has doubt about what they just said. In some case it can even be a sign the person is lying.

Two simple ways to remember this subconscious signal. Their was a story about a little wooden boy. His name was Pinocchio. What happen each time he told a lie? His nose grew longer. The other clue is that in order to touch your nose you need to cover your mouth partially. When you hide your mouth you are subconsciously covering up an aspect of what you are saying.

Once the rep was aware of this body tick, they adjusted their presentation accordingly. They focused more on the body language signal indicating the prospect still had concerns, rather than the verbal signal that was actually just the prospect being polite.

Note: You are watching for a change in body language behavior. If the person has been touching their nose at numerous random times it might be their own habit, an allergy or an itch. Sometime a nose touch is just a nose touch.

  • 2. Good posture and strong body language

When your prospect is sitting up straight or leaning forward (leaning into what you are saying), it is often a sign you capture their attention or piqued their interest. Noticing the shift in posture is critical. If the prospect has been leaning back and suddenly sits up or leans in the clue has more significance. With another in San Francisco, the same rep started to tailor what they would emphasize in the presentation based on this simple principle. He had countless facts and features to share. No prospect wants to hear each of these. Once he noticed when the prospect leaned in and became engaged, he began to focus on those elements. When a prospect’s body language became disengaged, he either minimized those parts of the presentation, or began to explain it differently, depending on relevance to the presentation.

As presentations became more tailored to each person, sales increased. As he presented the facts and features the prospect wanted to discuss rather than what his years of experience said were important, he began to create breakthroughs in his closing percentages.

  • 3. Arms folded, head down and toe tapping.

How many of you had tried to explain something to your teenager? With all your life experience you knew you were right and they were headed toward a mistake or challenge. Of course you wanted to help, so you proceeded to explain a better approach or option. You even did so in a supportive and understanding tone. And while you did this they nodded in agreement all while their head was down, arms were crossed, and toe was tapping. Maybe they did all of those thing or maybe they just did one. Either way, how much did they hear?

We all know it was nearly nothing. So in your profound wisdom and commitment to helping them, you continue on for another 20 minutes. How much did they hear now? Exactly, they heard even less. We know the signs of when someone is listening and when they are not. Observe them and act accordingly.

We helped the sales team of a banking firm in San Diego overcome the prospect’s resistance to sharing information and “connecting” with a banker by helping them recognize the physical barriers the prospect displayed. Consciously, the prospects were polite to each rep, but subconsciously, they were guarded. This could easily be observed by body language clues such as closed arms, leaning away from prospect, feet being pointed toward an exit route, etc.

The solution was rather simple. When the business development reps came into the person’s business, after a few pleasantries were shared around the table, they asked for a tour of the business. As the business development rep walked through the business, numerous things happened. Everyone was walking in the same direction. They were walking side by side or at following the owner. In either case, the business owner now felt equal and in alignment with the banker. They were moving so everyone felt less stiff and formal so it was easier to relax and open up. And those crossed arms unfolded. It would look pretty silly to walk around your own business arms crossed and all clenched up. With each little change the prospects relaxed, the bond was strengthened and new accounts were opened.

Note: When you find yourself with a prospect that seems to be presenting resistant body language, find a way to get each of you moving in the same direction. It might be a tour of the facility, getting up together to get some coffee in the break room area, or just switching from your desk to the conference room or vice versa.

Create physical alignment and alignment of ideas can then follow.

  • 4. Eye contact

Eye contact can have you easily know if you are chatting with your prospect or at your prospect. When you share an idea, does your prospect make eye contact with you? Are they wide-eyed and interested or glazed over? When the prospect is looking you in the eye or attentively looking back and forth between you and what you are showing them, you typically have their interest. You need interest and connection to sell effectively.

One of our clients was the owner of a retail stores in Los Angeles and had their salespeople increase sales of accessory items by developing awareness of that simple principle. Accessory sales was a great way to increase margins and average order size. In the past, the retail sales personnel presented items they liked and made recommendations regardless of how well-connected they were to the prospect.

By observing what items the prospect’s eyes focused on, major up-sells started to occur. They went beyond the obvious of noticing what the prospect liked and didn’t like as they presented options. In addition to that, they also started noticing what the prospect looked toward when actually in the process of trying something on or waiting for the rep to get an alternate-sized item. The more they became in tune with following what the prospect viewed each moment, the more they connected to the prospect’s viewpoint. They made it easier for the prospect to see what they wanted instead of just being shown the salesperson’s ideas. The more prospects worked with salespeople that saw their point of view, the more excited and open they were to also seeing what the salesperson wanted to recommend too.

Once again, a simple change and the development of macro body language clues led to a sales breakthrough.

  • 5. Legs crossed and guarded

Each of the macro and micro body language clues flow into one another. In most cases, you will actually see a combination of signals combined with one another. The mixture of signals is a helpful way to get a more accurate read on the prospect’s mood or feeling. Observing a change in body language is very significant. If the prospect has shown signs of being open and suddenly pushes back from the table, crosses arms and legs and looks distant, it’s more than likely that they have disengaged. If they suddenly uncross arms and legs and lean forward in a relaxed way, they may suddenly be receptive to what you have to offer.

Crossing of the legs can be a sign the prospect is guarded. It also serves as a good example of reminding us to watch for changes in body language behavior and to observe multiple signals. For example, is the room cold? The reason for the crossing ams and legs could be because they are cold. Especially if eye contact, posture and seem favorable. On the other hand, if they are looking off in the distance, face is not relaxed, and answers to your questions are closed, then you have someone that is guarded.

Establish a body language baseline. During a sales training program, one of the reps mentioned that their very best customer in Los Angeles continually either crossed their legs or folded their arms. Whether they were meeting the person for lunch or at their office, upon arrival, legs were often crossed. If the prospect was sitting back and exchange pleasantries, legs were often crossed as well. At other times they would lean back in their chair, cross their arms, and tell stories about the weekend’s escapades. Remember, body language gives us major clues about where a prospect is in the sales process, but it is not the definitive answer. Hence the combination of observing multiple signals, the context of the situation or environment, and asking questions to deepen your understanding of the prospect’s needs are all required for sales mastery.

Key Takeaway: Notice in each of the above examples, the sales breakthrough in higher closing percentages and average order size came from how salespeople were able to read their prospect’s nonverbal skills. The breakthrough in sales was not through fancy scripting, key phrases, or learning about more facts and features to present. Simply observing our prospects and recognizing all the clues they give us leads to higher sales.


  • 1. As a team, list all the nonverbal signals your prospects give to favorable acceptance
  • 2. List signals the prospect is becoming less interested
  • 3. Learn 3 more ways to recognize additional macro clues

Extra credit: Learn 7 micro expression for advanced reading of body language