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Scientists have statistically proven what many of us have known for a long time. Non-verbal communication (body language and tone of voice) is critical to building trust, and without trust, there is no sale. Researches at MIT’s Media Lab found that body language, vocal pattern and vocal pitch are so critical to human trust that researchers could predict the success of a sales pitch by reading body language alone. (The Washington Post February 15, 2009.) They didn’t even have to hear the content of the pitch.

Body language, vocal pattern and vocal pitch principles apply to the negotiation phase of the sales process as well. Conveying a negative message during negotiations could kill a perfectly good deal! Are you aware of what you are saying with your non-verbal communication?

Fifteen percent of Americans don’t like to negotiate at all. A vast majority of sales people, though, feel more ambivalent about negotiating. Some don’t feel confident and would rather be at another stage in the process. In fact, a colleague of mine bragged that he would rather make 100 cold calls a week than negotiate one complex deal. He just might be conveying unease with his body language at the bargaining table. According to the MIT researchers, there are some very positive things that you can do to win people’s trust.

Use Non-verbal communication to build trust.

First, use positive body language, like nodding your head in agreement or looking the person in the eye, in order to encourage the speaker to continue with her thoughts. It is simple enough, but easily forgotten. Smart phones and email are downright addictive and when you turn your attention away from the speaker to check your messages, you are telling the speaker she is not as important as the email. Other aspects of body language are: gently leaning into the speaker while she is talking, having your hands still and placed where the speaker can see them, and being relaxed in your posture while sitting or standing. These same tips apply just as much when you are on the phone as when you are in person. People can sense when you are distracted during a conversation.

Second, choose your vocal inflection and vocal pitch. There are striking differences between frustration and relaxation in both vocal inflection and vocal pitch. Say for example that you are frustrated that you are not permitted to be more flexible meeting a customer’s needs. If you were to unwittingly convey that frustration towards the customer, it could cost you the account. Your frustration is at the limitations not the customer, but the customer doesn’t know that. They just sense frustration. It is your responsibility during the negotiation phase of the sale to choose the message you want to send.

Finally, match the speed of the person you are talking to. If you are involved in a complex sale, you might talk to the financial buyer, the internal champion and the end user of your product or service. Each of these people will have different speaking patterns. Some may prefer talking rapidly using bullet points, while others may meander around to the point. Your goal will be to match the speaker to the best of your ability. It is not a false mimicking, but giving them the content in the manner that they find most attractive.

Now, more than ever before, sales people want to make the sale. Maybe it’s an internal drive, or maybe the company is setting more aggressive goals. Whatever the reason for your sales goals, you must be careful to send the correct non-verbal message. Come off like you are needy or pushy and you are out. Come off as confident and assured and you are in.

Alex Pentland, one of the MIT researchers said, “We’re still extraordinarily sensitive to socially appropriate behavior, but it is so deeply buried that we are almost unconscious of it.” Get conscious today. Pay attention to your body language at the bargaining table.