​Broker’s body language may be killing the deal

by AB11 Apr 2014
You have got a great product and a convincing argument – so why is the client tuning out and saying no? It could be your body language, says an expert and bestselling author on the subject.

“I’m telling you I made $2m last year,” said Mark Bowden, with his arms and hands lowered to his sides gesticulating. “Now, I’m telling you I made $2m last year,” he repeated, his hands brought up chest high, hands open in expression.

“What are you more likely to believe? Hands lowered make your reptilian brain think ‘I am disappointed’ or perhaps hiding something when I give you that number. When my hands are up here, open, it sends a message that ‘I am not a threat, I can be trusted.”
Your ‘reptilian brain’ refers to the part which controls primitive and instinctive function, shared by all mammals and reptiles.

So it is not what you say, but how you say it that gets results, said Bowden, who has demonstrated to Fortune 500 CEOs and G8 political leaders how perceptions can be completely altered by a simple gesture or action.

“Something as simple as your smile – if you see a client on the street and only flash them a quick smile, the reptilian brain needs to see that smile for three full seconds to fully evaluate if you are friend or foe. If the smile is too quick, or only half-hearted, there isn’t enough information for the brain to process, so it ‘fills in the gaps’ so to speak, and decides that there is something ‘going on’ behind that smile.”

And when you do sit down with a client, closing a deal can be decided by a few inches just by the way you position yourself at the table. 

“You need to be the length of your hand away from the table when seated,” said Bowden. “That way, you are exposing your midriff. When you show this area you are leaving your sensitive organs open to attack, which is a prehistoric way of showing trust to others – showing that you trust them not to kill you.”

And of course you should heed your mother’s advice to sit up straight, he added.

He also said while we use our ears for hearing it is our eyes that show others we are truly paying attention.

“I look at you and nod my head – the universal signal that ‘food is good,’” said Bowden. “You need to show that engagement, nodding, smiling and maintaining eye contact.”

It may sound like simple advice to many, but it is not easy when a broker is under the gun to meet targets, or trying to work while not feeling well.

“They are very simple things to do, but in a sense, not so simple to do,” said Bowden.

“It isn’t easy to smile when you are under pressure or just don’t feel like smiling. But it is necessary. People’s brains use these visual cues to make decisions – and whether you realize it or not, a client will make a decision on whether they want to do business with you in the first few seconds.”