How to Use (& Read) Body Language As An Effective Negotiation Tactic

How to Use (& Read) Body Language As An Effective Negotiation Tactic, effective body language in sales negotiations

Communication and negotiation are crucial skills we use in every area of our lives, from getting toddlers into their pajamas to servicing our cars – we’re constantly practicing the art of negotiation. However, effective body language is a crucial negotiation tactic often overlooked and forgotten until the last minute. The way you use body language to communicate will directly influence the outcome of your sales and negotiations. In fact, a recent study by psychologists and language experts Gengo reports that body language and non-verbal communication have a more significant impact on a discussion than the words you say. In other words, it can make or break a deal. Want to stay ahead of the game? Keep reading to learn the importance of body language in communication, read body language more effectively, and use body language effectively to win in all-important negotiations.

The importance of body language in sales negotiations

Strong negotiation tactics rely on much more than arriving prepared with a solid BATNA and WATNA; understanding how to use and read body language in negotiation helps you become a more effective negotiator. That’s because much of our negotiation communication is non-verbal, so observing your counterpart’s body language is crucial to knowing how your prospect thinks and feels. To do this, you also need to foster trust and increase the other party’s desire to react cooperatively to reach an agreement, so it’s crucial to control your body language at all times. This success is primarily achieved by backing up your words with physical actions that exude openness, honesty, and confidence, otherwise known as body language tactics.

Understanding how to use body language effectively in negotiations is essential because it helps salespeople understand what the other person is saying by interpreting their mood and emotions. By doing so, salespeople can pivot their position and reaction to their counterpart’s proposed ideas to satisfy both parties. 

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A note on communication styles

Regardless of sales activity, a salesperson’s job is to make customers and colleagues feel as comfortable as possible. To achieve this in sales negotiations, you must communicate with them in a manner unique to their personality- something we like to call Style flexing

The fact is that people like people, like them. They’re comfortable with people who are similar to themselves. However, this doesn’t mean style flexing is as simple as mirroring their gestures, parroting, or paraphrasing. Instead, you must adopt characteristics unique to your counterpart’s communication style to style flex successfully. “SOCO” is a quadrant model and an acronym for the four communication styles: Supportive, Open, Closed, and Organised. Here’s an overview of each below: 

Four Styles Of Communication. Supportive, Open, Closed, and Organised.

Discover the different communication styles and how to handle each individually to drastically improve your relationship and ability to connect with other people in our guide: Understanding 4 Communication Styles To Improve Your Own.

8 ways to effectively use body language in negotiations

8 ways to effectively use body language in negotiations infographics

1. Perfect your handshake

The handshake is your first physical connection with a prospect and sets the tone for the rest of what should be a great sales meeting. The University of Chicago recently published a group of studies concluding that the perfect handshake makes people feel at ease, promotes honesty, and increases the cooperative spirit that leads to closing a deal.

While the handshake is just one of many aspects that build a representation of you, it’s also one of the most crucial. You can arrive early, dress well, and prepare your data or evidence for the negotiation, but when you shake hands with your counterpart, it must be delivered well, not weak and floppy. Or worse – a painfully strong grip!

Don’t start your negotiations this way, instead get the perfect handshake and start perfecting your body language by following our ‘perfect handshake’ guide:

SOCOs® perfect handshake guide

  1. Always use your right hand—it’s customary to do so! Make sure your hands aren’t laden with notebooks, laptops, or anything else that will disrupt a smooth handshake.
  2. One shake is enough! You might well be enthusiastic, but remaining poised and professional is crucial.
  3. Firm handshakes are ideal, especially when you keep them brief. However, if you tend to be a little heavy-handed, be mindful that you’re not crushing your prospect’s hand. Otherwise, how will they sign off on the deal?
  4. Eye contact while shaking is crucial to showing you’re present. Throw in your best smile, and you’ll put your prospect at ease in your company.
  5. Don’t cover the handshake with your other hand unless you know this prospect personally; it’s more of an endearing action. You don’t want to invade their personal space so early in the negotiation.
  6. Introduce yourself! “Hello, I’m Tom from SOCO Sales Training” (or you know, your name!) followed by a reassuring smile will guarantee the prospect has your attention.

2. Leverage Eye-Contact

William Shakespeare probably wasn’t referring to sales. Still, when he wrote, “The eyes are the windows of the soul,” he was right because it is a perfect example of why nonverbal communication is vital for negotiations. You see when you avoid eye contact, it can imply that you’re evasive or dishonest—even if you’re not! So maintaining consistent eye contact is crucial to keeping your prospect at ease, developing rapport, and building trust.

On the other hand, prolonged eye contact can appear unnatural, aggressive, and even threatening in some cases. So ensure you’re looking away momentarily to process or think about what to say next. It’s a delicate balance, but if you get this body language tactic right, you’ll be on track to closing the negotiation with a great deal.

3. Practice a poker face

Whether you like it or not, your prospects will examine your every move in a negotiation. That’s why you must enhance your negotiation with hard facts, evidence and data but never show your hand in terms of emotion. But how do you negate any unwanted facial expressions? You must never forget that everyone produces unintentional facial expressions – wrinkling your forehead and frowning are always the worst offenders in negotiations. The solution? Keep your chin high and your eyes level to show positivity and eagerness. Then, mindfully nod and smile in agreement wherever possible.

4. Mimic your counterpart

It’s a universal fact that people respond positively to those who are similar to them. So yeah, you guessed it – mimicking your prospect’s body language is one of the most effective body language techniques. Aim to return the same enthusiasm to your prospect, and we’re sure you’ll create an air of short-term trust.

5. Relax

It’s completely normal to feel anxious, stressed, and worried in a negotiation – but you need to relax because your prospect expects you to be calm and self-assured! So how do we combat this? You must adopt a relaxed and comfortable position when sitting or standing, aim to be soft-spoken, and try not to make sudden or aggressive remarks.

6. Ensure an open posture

In any negotiation, you want to be as attractive as possible to your prospect, so your overall posture must focus on open body language. How do you achieve this? Lean in and keep an open stance whilst ensuring your hands are placed below your chest, ready to put your fingers together when you want to make a confident point.

7. Nod

A simple head nod is an excellent non-verbal communication skill to maintain steady eye contact, diffuse tension, and quickly build a rapport with your prospect. Not only is it reassuring, but it’s signaling that you’re listening to their every word and encouraging them to give as much information as possible. Practice an affirmative yet gentle nod for your next negotiation, and note how much more engaged your prospect is!

8. Be mindful of proxemics

Have you ever had your personal space invaded by a colleague, stranger, or even a friend? Maybe they stood too close to you, blocking you into a corner – It can feel pretty aggressive, right? That’s precisely why considering your body language in negotiations is so important. You see, Proxemics is the science of personal space. So, how does the distance between two people as they interact affect the outcome of the negotiation?

If either party feels intimidated or threatened, it will throw off the entire balance of the negotiation. Your prospects need to feel respected in their personal space, so a good rule of thumb when beginning negotiations is to first sit or stand a few feet away to assess your prospects’ comfort level.

How to read body language in negotiations

While being mindful of your body language is important, so is theirs. Reading social cues and behavioral language is important to know what type of customer you are dealing with and what needs to be done to ensure they get what they need. It can be a bit confusing, so here’s how to make sure you are picking up on all the cues your customer may be putting down in a sales negotiation:

1. Watch the eyes

Make sure you pick up on where their eyes are going, as that can help give you cues about what they are genuinely interested in. If counterparts are fully engaged, they will be looking directly at you. If they aren’t interested in your words, you can expect them to look around or become distracted.

2. Notice the arms

As a general rule of thumb, if someone has their arms crossed, it’s a good sign that your counterpart doesn’t want to discuss a specific term or topic. They may be considering pivoting the conversation, or they may not know what they want yet and need a minute to figure it out. Regardless, if they have their arms crossed, make sure you stay vigilant about the fact that they may not be ready to talk about the terms of the negotiation. On the other hand, if their stance is generally open to you, it could be a cue that they are ready to talk and hear what you have to offer.

3. Focus on the mouth

Unless your customer has a great poker face, you can usually tell how they feel by looking at their mouth. A turned-down mouth can signal that they aren’t happy with where the discussion is going, while a slight upturn can be a good sign and a solid “green light” to continue your negotiation.

Body language as a negotiation tactic

Incorporating effective body language into your negotiation is only the start of mastering the art of negotiating. You must also be clear on what and how to prepare to negotiate. Once ready, you must tactfully open the negotiation and have a bag of negotiation strategies to handle even the toughest adversaries. Once the negotiation is complete, everyone must walk away feeling confident that this is only the start of a harmonious business relationship.

All of this happens when you learn how to negotiate business deals tactfully.

Close More Deals; Master the Negotiation Process

Profit, relationships, and deals are won or lost during negotiation. When successful negotiators arrive armed with the tools and skills needed to negotiate effectively, desired outcomes are optimized, and loss of profit is avoided. However, profits and closed deals aren’t the only desired outcomes when it comes to negotiations. That’s where our Negotiation Skills Training comes in. 

Preserving the relationship is crucial to ensure that long-term business opportunities and negative feelings aren’t harbored.

Sales professionals, procurement departments, and business leaders must learn how to navigate effective negotiations that positively impact both parties and inspire future business.

negotiation skills mastery workshop booklet
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