Body Language for Sales

By Chris Carter

Chris Carter, who recently presented at the general session at the Marketing & Distribution Convention, shows how to identify when your prospect is ready to buy, and how to communicate so that they’re always buying YOU.
Christoper Carter

It’s no secret that strong interpersonal skills can give a salesperson a leg up on the competition. Among the most important of these skills are the abilities to both understand and use body language.

When it comes to using body language in sales, there are three crucial steps. First, we must choose to be fully present and to pay attention to the prospect. This is often difficult, because we’re so focused on our own agenda, including things like making our quota and ensuring that we’ve communicated every benefit of the product, that we forget the fundamental importance of just listening and taking in what the prospect is saying, both through their words and their body language.

Second, we must become aware of the meaning behind nonverbal signals that the prospect is sending to us.
While there are many possible body language cues to take in, I recommend and teach focusing on what I call The Big Four. These are Proximity, Orientation, Pacifiers, and Open Body language. To help remember these, I use the acronym, POPO.

Proximity has to do with whether people move closer to us or farther away while we are communicating. We all have a natural tendency to move closer to people when they activate the reward center of our brain. When you’re with a prospect and they suddenly move closer or lean into you, it’s very likely that you are talking about something they like or find strong value in. Likewise, if they shift or move away, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ve just said something they disagree with or perceive negatively.
Understand that it’s the direction of the movement that counts more than the degree. So become aware of sudden changes in the prospect’s proximity to you.

Orientation has to do with how a person’s head, torso, and feet align. Humans are very good at faking paying attention. We can look directly in a person’s eyes and act like we’re really listening. But we’re terrible at lying with the rest of the body. Often a person’s torso or feet will point in the direction of what they’re really paying attention to. When a prospect is looking towards you, but has their torso or feet aligned in a different direction, it’s likely that they’ve grown impatient with the discussion and are thinking about going elsewhere.

Pacifiers are the physical movements we use to calm ourselves when our emotional energy starts to elevate. These include things like adjusting collars or cuffs, drumming fingers on the table, curling hair with our fingers, bouncing a foot up and down, and many others. When a prospect suddenly starts to use pacifiers, they’ve become uncomfortable or anxious. You won’t necessarily be aware of the source of the anxiety. But seeing these pacifiers is a signal to you that you should begin asking questions to uncover the cause.

Open Body Language:
Open body language signals confidence and trust. It’s a common myth that if a person’s arms are crossed, they must be resistant to what we’re saying. Simply having arms crossed is usually just a comfortable position. But when people start to feel uncomfortable, they often engage in body blocking behaviors. Be on the lookout for clusters of these. Both arms and feet crossed, for example. Multiple forms of closed body language can signal resistance or even hostility to our sales message.
The third step is to be aware of what our body language says to others. Each of the four body language signals mentioned above can convey to our prospect both our level of confidence and our level of engagement with them. If we keep our body language open and avoid using pacifiers, we will look like we truly understand our product and believe in our sales message. If we lean in a little when the prospect is talking about the issues that matter to them, and if we keep our head and torso aligned toward them when we communicate, we signal that they have undivided attention. And that goes a long way towards building trust.
As the old saying goes, people buy from those they know, like, and trust. Body language is an important and often overlooked component of creating both trust and connection.

Christopher Carter is an influence speaker, corporate mindreader and communication expert. For more than 25 years, Carter has helped businesses create powerful connections with presentations for sales meetings, customer appreciation events, product launches, trade shows, and more. As a mindreader, or “mentalist,” Carter electrifies the audience from the stage with stunning demonstrations of thought reading and mental influence. To learn more, go to