Say What? 4 ‘Zones’ for Quickly Reading a Customer’s Body Language

Data mining has taken knowing the customer to a whole other level, and it’s certainly something that every dealership needs in order to be successful today. Of course, gathering info on customers is nothing new—it’s just that way back before computers it was done through conversation.

No matter where your data comes from, being able to read a customer’s physical signals is another method of info-gathering that can help your sales go from good to great. Whatever their demographics and online behavior, when customers are standing right in front of you, it’s often what they’re not saying that can tell you the most.

Reading body language is something we’ve been doing unconsciously our entire life; here are a few tips for picking up on signals more proactively:

1. Eyes

People tend to look at things they’re interested in more often and for longer periods of time. If you hand a customer a deal and his pupils dilate or his eyes widen, he likes what he’s seeing. If his eyes narrow, what he’s looking at is likely troubling him.

A study at Johns Hopkins Medicine in 2014 revealed that people engaged in impulsive decision-making tend to move their eyes with greater speed.

Other research shows that in a negotiation setting, when people like you or agree with you they increase the amount of time they look into your eyes.

2. Face & Head

Former FBI counterintelligence agent LaRae Quy says to be wary of “reads” you get from facial expressions, as the face is the area of the body we practice controlling from a young age.

But there are some giveaways. Quy says people will often touch their nose when they’re about to lie, or when they’re very carefully planning their response. Raised eyebrows are often a sign of positive emotions that can’t be held back, and a tilted head is a sure sign of feeling comfortable.

Signs of disapproval often include pursed lips, frowning, and clenched jaw muscles, or when a customer turns his or her head slightly away from you.

3. Torso & Gestures

If a customer starts out with hands on the table but then suddenly removes them and places them out of view, it’s probably a signal that something unwanted just happened.

You might even consider the way your customers hold their beverage. According to Carol Kinsey Goman in her book The Silent Language of Leaders, the higher the coffee (or whatever beverage) is being held, the more of a barrier the person is creating—the lower, the more open and engaged the person is.

Quy says he’s learned that people are likely being dishonest if they display “clusters of gestures,” e.g., throat-clearing, feet-shuffling, and head-scratching, all at about the same time.

An open stance, with torso turned toward you and arms and hands open, is a good sign that a person likes what’s happening. Leaning in toward you is another good sign. Conversely, if a customer crosses his arms in front of his chest, turns his torso at an angle to you, or moves away, he’s probably not as interested.

4. Legs & Feet

When seated, uncrossed legs generally mean a more open attitude. But crossed legs with the feet pointed toward you could show interest, while feet pointed away from you or toward the exit show disinterest.

Studies have shown that most people, when seated, make their final decision about something with both feet on the ground (i.e., without legs crossed).

Research also suggests that people move their legs and feet more in general when they’re being dishonest. “Jiggling” feet almost always signify a desire to escape from what’s happening, while placing one foot forward, closer to the other person, displays interest.

Share with us what you’ve learned from noticing your customers’ body language!

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