Body language speaks louder than actual words. When you or colleagues meet with customers, what your body says may be hurting business.
The wrong hand gestures, stance and fidgets can kill credibility, create awkwardness and make customers suspicious. Meanwhile, making the right moves can create comfortable and productive meetings with customers, says business expert Laurie Hayes.
The biggest problem with certain body language: Customers interpret it differently than its meant to be. In fact, most of the time people don’t mean anything when they strike a pose or use a gesture, but it’s mistaken to have some kind of hidden meaning.
So here are six seemingly innocent things anyone who deals with customers in person wants to avoid, how those movements are interpreted and what to do instead:
1. Sitting when you should be standing
Meeting customers eye-to-eye when you need to show some authority on a subject is a bad idea. In most customer situations, sales and service pros need to appear more knowledgeable so they need to stand because it sends an unconscious message of superiority. If you must sit, stretch out your legs and put your arms on the side of the chair to take up more space — which sends that subconscious message.
2. Folding your hands
Holding your hands folded together in a ball does little to show your intellect. Instead, “steeple” your hands. Have the fingers and thumbs on both hands touching with palms wide apart. Studies have found that gesture gives the listener confidence in you. Watch C-Span and you’ll see it’s a gesture politicians use often.
3. Crossing your mid-section
We all tend to be sensitive to and embarrassed about some mid-section bulge, and end up trying to hide it with crossed arms — a gesture that implies the person is close-minded and detached from the conversation (things you never want to be accused of in customer conversations). So let your midsection show with a slight turn at the waist while still meeting customers with shoulders head-on.
4. Playing with hair, face, cuffs …
When people subconsciously groom or play with their hair or fix cuffs and other clothing items, they indicate a lack of confidence. Customers may see it as someone who doesn’t feel comfortable as is. Instead, make sure you’re groomed as you want to be before meeting customers and keep your hands to yourself and ideally in the “steeple.”
5. Shaking or fidgeting
Many people who fidget, shake or tap something when they’re chatting don’t even realize it. But they’re all annoying habits that tell customers you’re bored, impatient and disinterested. Keep these things in check: pen tapping, crossed leg kicking and phone checking.
6. Staring too much or too little
Eye contact is critical to any meeting with a customer. Too little makes you appear dishonest, anxious or disinterested. Too much is creepy. To maintain the right amount, maintain contact for about five seconds at a time, more so when listening.