Let Your Body Language Speak for You
By Ted Ings, Executive Director
Often when we speak, we are unaware of the message that we are conveying.
Our words may be saying one thing but our body language may be saying something completely different. In the digital age, we are becoming more and more reliant on written communication but in the car sales industry, face-to-face communication is still key to the sales process. You need to know how to communicate with your customers and realize that how you say something, is just as important as what you say.
With written communication, your words are usually well thought out, considered and edited. You have time to construct your sentences with care and ensure that your meaning is clear. But when you are talking to a customer on the showroom floor, you do not have the luxury of editing your words and following a predetermined script. You have to go where the conversation takes you, and a face to face conversation is as much about what you say as how you say it. Your actual words only make up a small percentage of how you communicate during a conversation.
“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The tone and pitch of your voice, the nuances of your speech, your facial expressions, pose and body language speak volumes. These non-verbal elements say far more than the actual words coming out of your mouth. They are a window into your mind and present your customer with visual and audio clues to your real thoughts and feelings. In gambling terminology, these would be referred to as your “tells.”
When you speak to customers in the dealership you always have to be aware of your non-verbal cues or tells because you do not want your body language and tone of voice to contradict your words. This undermines your credibility because when non-verbal and verbal communication is incongruent, people tend to respond to and accept your body language above your words.
In practical terms, this means that if you are telling a customer that the car they want to buy is the safest one on the road but you can’t look them in the eye when you say this, you are going to come across as unconvincing.
The 55-38-7 Model of Communication
In the 1970s Professor Albert Mehrabian from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) studied verbal and non-verbal communication and developed his commonly cited 55-38-7 communication model. His studies suggest that when we speak to someone, we respond far more to their body language and tone of voice, rather than their actual words.
The 55-38-7 model looks like this:
• 55% of communication is body language
• 38% of communication comes from your tone of voice
• 7% of communication comes from your words
This means that the non-verbal elements of communication are particularly important when talking to customers and trying to close a deal.
You always need to be aware of the subliminal messages that you are sending your customer and when you discuss your products, you need to speak with belief and conviction. If you are sincere and genuine then your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice will convey the same message as your words and this will help build trust between you and your customer.
It is important not to oversimplify Prof. Mehrabian's 55-38-7 rule. Prof. Mehrabian himself cautioned, “Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking. Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.”
This means that the interpretation of body language and tone is subjective. It is difficult to quantify the impact of nonverbal cues on the effectiveness of communication but his study is a reminder that non-verbal cues and body language are predominantly more telling than words.
Communication is more than mere words
From the moment a customer enters the showroom, you are communicating with them so make sure that the messages you are sending are positive.
As soon as a customer walks through the door, make eye contact. This sends out a clear signal that you are interested in them and ready to do business. When you greet a customer make good eye contact and look at them when you talk. But be careful not to stare them down and be aware that there is a fine line between positive eye contact and freaky eye contact.
Don’t let customers wander aimlessly around the showroom, walk over to them, greet them and shake hands. Your handshake speaks volumes. A firm handshake conveys confidence and gives you credibility but make sure you don’t crush the customer’s hand. This is not a battle of strength and your intention is not to dominate your customer.
Do not cross your arms when speaking to customers, this is a clear visual indicator that you are not open to a discussion. Rather lean in slightly when the customer is speaking as this demonstrates that you are actively listening to them and interested in what they have to say. This is good body language to employ during your fact finding discussion. As is note taking. This shows the customer that what they are telling you is important and that you are invested in the sales process.
When making your sales presentation, keep your posture relaxed and don’t slouch
By standing up straight, but keeping your shoulders relaxed, you will reinforce an image of being comfortable in your surroundings and confident about your product. Affirmative movements, like nodding and smiling, are also important because they make people feel like you are on their side and identify with their needs.
Just as your body language conveys certain messages, so does your tone of voice. You need to speak clearly and concisely. When you describe the features of a vehicle, don’t mention every tiny little detail and waffle on in a boring, monotone voice. Talk enthusiastically about the features that your customer has expressed an interest in during the fact-finding conversation. But don’t get too carried away and rattle off loads of details at a fast pace, this will make you appear nervous rather than enthusiastic. Remember to take a breath and slow your speech slightly.
If you want to be an effective and persuasive salesperson, you need to make sure that your body language and tone compliment your words. All three elements of the 7-38-55 model of communication need to be aligned if you want to convince your customer that you understand their needs and have the best vehicle for them.