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Sales Tips: How to Sell with your Body Language (don´t let the face-mask stop you!)

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Body language is defined as a type of nonverbal communication in which physical behaviors, as opposed to words, are used to express or convey the information. Such behavior includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement, touch, and the use of space.

In this new era of technology and communication, we find ourselves relying on different ways of selling our goods and services. Before, there were basically 3 ways of selling a product directly to a customer: you would either meet them Face to Face, send an email or text message with your sales pitch and offers, or you would call him up on the phone. Nowadays, video software has evolved into a place that you can meet, pitch, and sell your products in real-time online.

With facemasks, our customer´s features will be more difficult to read so we must open our eyes to the other signals they will give us. Hopefully, for in-person presentations, your company will provide clients with Face-shields instead of facemasks to be able to identify the facial expressions.

Whether you’re talking to them in person or through a video platform, it’s time to upgrade your Body language skills accordingly. Almost everything we do with our bodies sends a message, and, if we´re not conscious about our body language, we could communicate with our gestures exactly the opposite information we´re saying and thus lose the deal!

Although each one of those communication channels has its own strategies based on the type of product and relationship with the customer, we find that there are three basic areas that you must master to effectively Close the Deal. These are:

  • Words: the message you want to share.

  • Tonality: how you say the message

  • Body language: how you act and how you look when you say the message.

According to a study by the Professor in Psychology Albert Mehrabian in his book “Silent Messages”, the importance of words is only 7% of the total message! The other 93% is 38% Tonality and 55% Body language (the exact percentages have been disputed).

So, as you´ve probably heard “it´s not what you say, but how you say it”. In sales, this is absolutely true: you have to use your entire body in order to efficiently communicate your message and get a deal.

We will divide the information into three sections:

I.- What does each body-part tell us?

II.- How to Sell with your body language

III.- How to know if your customer is ready to buy

The purpose of this article is not to make you an expert in Kinesics (the science of interpreting the body language) but to make you aware that there are many other messages your customers are giving you in addition to what they are saying. This will also help you consciously adapt your body to match what you want to communicate with your clients.

I .- What does each body-part tell us?

1.- Facial expressions and Head Movement:

Every part of our body communicates something. In our face, from our brow to our cheeks, nose, and chin, there´s always something that can be identified about how we feel. With video conferences, we will most likely only be able to see their face, neck, and shoulders. I´ll center on the eyes and mouth because of how much information we can gather from them.

Eyes and Eyebrows:

Looking at our customer's eyes is one of the easiest ways of knowing what they are thinking. This is why many poker players in Vegas use shades! The micro-expressions the eyes make are mostly out of our control. They will look at us when they what information or are engaged. If they stare at us, they might want to intimidate us or are eager to control the conversation.

Be aware of the direction your customer is looking while you are doing your sales pitch, and you will understand if they are interested in your product or not. Ask them a question. Are they looking straight up? Most likely they are thinking about your answer. Are they looking up and to the left? They are probably trying to remember something. Are they looking up and to the right? They are imagining something (same as looking side to side: they might be lying).

Are they making eye contact? Research suggests that maintaining eye contact between 60-70 percent of the time is ideal for creating rapport. And in a negotiation setting, when people like or agree with you, they automatically increase the length of time they look into your eyes.

The pupil’s dilation is also out of our control. If you observe that during your sales pitch the customers´ pupils become dilated, they are interested and even excited by what you are telling them! Focus on that feature of your product! Did their pupils narrow? They might be concerned or have questions about what you´ve explained. Go back to that part of your presentation and clarify.

Mouth and Smile:

With everyone wearing a Face-mask, the mouth expressions will be difficult to identify, but at least you will have an idea if someone is smiling. A smile is a universal human feature that is supposed to communicate pleasure. Unfortunately, in sales we understand that smiles might be caused by different factors in addition to happiness; they might be caused by nervousness, cynicism, being condescending, boredom, and even anger!

We are looking for other signals from our customers that tell us that they are enjoying the experience such as nodding, open legs and arms, etc. (Don’t be fooled by someone who is just smiling because they might just be anxious to get it over with).

Head and Neck:

Another unconscious signal we send our clients will send us comes from how they move their heads. We will tilt, shake, and touch our heads depending on how we feel about the information.

A lowered head that covers the neck with the chin and hence can be a defensive posture or a sign of submission. If the clients raise their head at some point during your presentation, they are showing interest: either they are liking what you are showing them or they heard something they don’t agree with, understand, or need clarification.

Watch out for other signs of interest such as dilated pupils, raised eyebrows, or smiles to know if you just hit a DBM (Dominant Buying Motive). Raising the head and looking at the ceiling may signal boredom or that you are in front of a visual thinker who is looking at internal images.

Tilting the head sideways can be a sign of interest, curiosity, or uncertainty. A tilted head pulled back tends to indicate suspicion, as the uncertainty of the tilt is combined with a defensive pulling back.

The basic nodding up and down will indicate approval or agreement, and turning the head side to side indicates the opposite. Nodding and tilting the head from side to side will usually mean “I´m not sure”.

Touching the face or the neck is a common sign of anxiety. This may be because the buying decision is close or because the client still has reservations on the offer. Touching the chin or the nose is usually a signal that they are thinking and judging you or your offer.

Read more in Joe Navarro´s "What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People"

2. Gestures and Body posture.

The body posture and gestures can be explained by two simple rules:

  • open and near = interest, acceptance, or sincerity.

  • closed and far = fear and rejection.

The closer someone gets to you, the more comfortable they are. If someone leans in your direction, they want to either make a point or are enticed by your argument. On the other hand, if you are talking to them and they seem to lean back they might be rejecting your argument, or losing interest.


Look at their arms. Are they relaxed, loose, open, and welcoming (positive signal of interest and receptivity) or are they clenching their fists and crossing their arms (they might be defensive, skeptical, or upset)?


The hands are another important indicator of how your customer feels. If they are saying something sincerely, they show the palms of their hands. You might see them with their hands on the table and suddenly pull them away or put them under the table, showing that they re uneasy or are trying to hide something. Fidgeting fingers usually mean nervousness, anxiety, or excitement.

The hands together in a "praying manner" with fingers extended transmits confidence and trustworthiness, while clenched hands suggest frustration or unease.

Click here to see a complete hand gesture list and what it means.


Now let’s focus on the shoulders and torso. Are they leaning towards you? They are engaged. Leaning back? Losing interest. Shoulders turning sideways means they are feeling uncomfortable or confused by what you are saying.

Feet and Legs

Our limbs are programmed to respond automatically to how we are feeling. The Legs and feet will quickly show if your client is interested or ready to run away from the negotiation! Crossed feet towards you? They feel comfortable. Crossed feet away from you? They are closed and disengaged.

If someone has their feet planted on the ground facing you, it is a positive sign (they´re engaged in the conversation). If their feet are pointed towards the door, they might want to end the negotiation and leave. Bouncy feet and legs can either show excitement or anxiety, so look for other signs to see if you are on the right track or you have to redirect your presentation.

3. Touch and use of Space

Although handshakes, hugs, and touching your client’s forearm are a great channel to transmit emotions to your clients, we now have to be careful. Due to sanitary measures, in most business environments handshakes or any form of touching will be substituted by a simple bow or putting your hand across your heart.

Another way of substituting handshakes or hugs (for example on video Calls) is by holding both hands together in a handshake motion, or crossing your arms (as if you were hugging yourself). This is another way of transmitting the same feeling even if you´re selling long distance.

If you are required to shake your client’s hand, keep in mind that depending on how you do it may help or harm the negotiation process. Handshakes will be an important part of the first impression you create.

Some clients will try to give shake your hand squeezing as hard as they can, trying to demonstrate superiority and power. They also do it because they feel that they have to show strength to avoid being bullied into buying. Others will have a soft handshake signaling calmness or submission, while others will give you the “limp fish” handshake which means that they probably are uncomfortable to be in a sales situation and want out.

No matter how they shake your hand, immediately adjust yours to match. If you shake their hand too hard, you will come across as domineering, and if your handshake is too weak, you will be perceived as lacking self-confidence. There is no need to extend the handshake time or hold their hand with both hands, as some people will find such a handshake from a stranger insincere.

Here's a video showing the power of a proper handshake by Allan Pease

At you will find a detailed list of what every body part communicates.

II.- How to SELL with your body language

1.- Mirror your Client

As we said before, the body orientation, tone, and speed of the customer´s voice will tell us how they are feeling. When we agree with someone, we tend to mirror their behavior. One of you will usually lead and the other one will follow. To use this to our favor, try to mirror your client and slowly throughout your presentation invert the position and try to get them to mirror you.

If they move or speak slowly, adjust to that level, then slowly increase the speed or volume as you build rapport. Mirror their posture and if your client changes to mirror you, you’ve made a positive connection.

2.- Watch your posture.

Focus on your posture the same way you focus on your mindset before your sales meeting or presentation. Take a few seconds before you meet the Client for the first time (or when you are going back to the table to bring an offer) to breathe, concentrate on the deal, but also the image you will deliver.

When you walk towards your Clients, hold your head up high, keep your shoulders back, chest open, and arms loose. We want to look powerful and in control without being threatening to them. Remember that the clients are there to see a friend, someone that will help them and not an adversary that will put them on defensive mode.

Doing this will not only create a great first impression, but it will make you be conscious of your body language throughout the presentation.

3.- Open = Positive

Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, as well as your hands open, even if your client is confrontational or the sales presentation is not going 100% as planned. Remember: you are in control, and if you cross your own arms or legs, you are sending the message that you are “losing the battle”. People who appear in control and relaxed, are perceived as powerful and positive.

Keep your hands in sight at all times. Whenever you show something try to use your palm facing up instead of pointing with a finger. It might feel weird at first, but in your client’s psyche, you are showing that you have nothing to hide.

4.- Eye contact is key.

When you look at someone´s eyes while you are doing your presentation, it indicates truthfulness and trust. Looking at their eyes 60% to 70% of the time is enough to make a positive connection.

When using video Software, try to look at the camera lens instead of the screen to appear more natural and trustworthy. Just be careful not to stare too long as it might make your clients uncomfortable.

5.- Tilt your head when listening.

Face your client and keep your head up, especially when they are talking. Also tilting your head indicates that you´re are really paying attention and understanding them.

6.- Smiling and nodding = a great sign!

This is true for both you and you´re clients. If they are Smiling and nodding, you are on the right path. Just be sure to include a couple of trial closes to use as a thermometer in case they´re smiling and nodding a little too much. Clients who don´t want to appear confrontational will use it as a way of breezing through your presentation with no real interest, misleading you into thinking that you´ve got a sale.

III.- How to know if your customer is ready to buy.

As the customer is getting warmer into the close, you will see multiple factors changing. Put attention to these buying signals as salespeople might miss the signs and “go past the close”.

Many times the client is showing multiple body language signals that they have made up their mind to buy and the salesperson continues pitching and over-selling, losing the deal.

The “Ready to Buy Customer” will spend more time facing you than before, leaning towards the table. Present them with the offer on paper and they will be pointing at it, pulling it towards them or holding it with both hands (subconsciously taking ownership). Their arms will be open and loose. Depending on the sales situation they will be Smiling and nodding (sales triggered by fear of loss, scarcity, or urgency won’t always induce smiles).

If they are feeling a little excited or anxious, maybe they will sweat or have “Happy Feet” (bouncing the leg or rapidly moving their foot). They might even ask for a break to go to the restroom. These are usually great signs since the emotions are taking over the physical body.

If you are selling to a couple, they will look at their spouse raising their eyebrows seeking approval or signaling that they are interested. At this point, they will also hold their spouses’ hand, leg, or even give them a hug. (Be aware of these connections as they may be happening under the table) .

In Conclusion

Non-verbal communication has existed since the beginning of life. The human race has used it not only to survive but to create civilizations and empires. As professional salespeople, we are just learning and taking these same skills and using them to fully understand what our clients are really thinking and feeling.

Just as Detectives read Body language to know if their suspect is telling them the truth, use this knowledge to see if your prospect is interested or not in your product, as well as to present yourself as a genuine, trustworthy, confident Sales Professional.

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