7 Ways Your Body Language is Killing Sales

The unspoken signals you and your sales team give to shoppers can have a big impact on your small business.
Not getting the results you want during sales negotiations? You may be unconsciously sending signals that turn off shoppers. (Photo: ESB Professional/Shutterstock)

Have you ever been working with a seemingly receptive customer who walked away from a sale and wondered what went wrong? Even if your sales pitch was on point, unintentional cues in your own body language may be to blame.

According to Kasia and Patryk Wezowski, founders of the Center for Body Language, if you are not getting the results you hope for during sales negotiations, you may be unconsciously sending signals that turn off customers.

“The nonverbal signals that we transmit with our bodies are the signposts that can lead us along the right road to successful communication,” the Wezowskis wrote in their new book, “Without Saying a Word: Master the Science of Body Language and Maximize Your Success.

Patryk and Kasia Wezowski, authors of ‘Without Saying a Word: Master the Science of Body Language & Maximize Your Success” (Photo: HarperCollins Leadership)

In the book, the couple explores how to apply the science of nonverbal communication to everyday conversations, and the small gestures that can serve to build rapport or put up walls in a conversation. Here are seven ways your body language might be negatively impacting your small business.

You’re not making eye contact

In our Western culture, eye contact is a critical component of successful communication. People are more inclined to trust someone looking them straight in the eye and are skeptical of those who avoid eye contact.

“When someone looks into our eyes as she talks to us, it gives the impression of honesty. If she avoids eye contact, her message seems less congruent and we may start to doubt her sincerity,” said the authors. “Good timing and the right length of eye contact, appropriate to your conversation partner and your relationship, will help you come across as reliable and trustworthy, so that both you and your intentions will be viewed positively.”

Based on their research, the Wezowskis recommend maintaining eye contact with your conversation partner between 60 and 80 percent of the time, so that you’re neither avoiding the other person’s gaze nor making them feel uneasy by staring too long.

You’re creating a physical barrier

When uncomfortable, most people will subconsciously use a body part or object as a barrier. This might mean crossing their arms, fussing with jewelry or apparel, covering their mouth with their hand or even using a desk or counter to create a physical boundary between them and the other person.

These postures can be “interpreted as a sign of stubbornness, as an unwillingness to do something,” they wrote. “Assuming these positions can make us to feel safer and to speak with more confidence, [but] people like listening to others less in these circumstances.”

Related: How to Leverage an Introverted Personality in Business

You turn your head or upper body away

If you’re talking to a customer but your head and body are facing elsewhere, it can give them the impression that you’re not really interested in helping or lack sympathy, the Wezowskis noted.

“The front part of the upper body is the most important region for sending signals to others,” they wrote. “A lack of interest and a desire to keep your distance are displayed by turning away the front of your body. This message is enhanced if you also turn away your head.”


People are more inclined to trust someone looking them straight in the eye and are skeptical of those who avoid eye contact. (Photo: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock)

Your hands are in your pockets

Placing your hands in your pockets when talking with a friend may show that you’re comfortable and relaxed, but with a stranger or someone you don’t know as well, it can have the opposite effect.

“This pose can suggest a lack of commitment to the subject under discussion or can indicate that you want to distance yourself from your conversation partner,” wrote the authors. “The gesture can also have a compensatory meaning: it makes it possible to conceal inner insecurity to such an extent that the person can permit himself to behave in an unfriendly or even arrogant manner.”

If you get the sense that a shopper thinks you’re not interested in helping them, check your posture and hand position to make sure you aren’t unintentionally giving them the wrong impression.

Related: 4 Ways to Get Customers to Instantly Like You

Your hands are on your hips

While placing your hands on your hips can signal that you are ready to take action, it can also be interpreted as a signal of aggression or dominance, explained the Wezowskis.

“It is a bit like when a peacock spreads its feathers, trying to intimidate rivals by making itself seem bigger than it is. If someone gives instructions with hands on hips, this underlines what he sees as a dominant position. When someone receives instructions in this manner, it can cause irritation if the recipient does not regard himself as a subordinate.”

You’re overusing your index finger

Excessively waving your index finger or pointing too much can also generate a negative reaction in your conversation partner, mainly due to its reminiscence of a parent scolding a child.

“Pointing with your index finger is a sign of dominance or of an intention to warn or chastise,” the authors explained. “It is much better to indicate things with the wave of an open palm. This may require a bit of practice, since most of us are used to pointing at things with our fingers. However, the difference for your viewers is significant: They will find your presentation more enjoyable – and will pay more attention – if you use the open palm approach.”

Related: Why Every Business Owner is in Sales Whether They Know it or Not

Your smile is fake

Nobody is always in the mood to work with customers, but a disingenuous smile is another quick way to shut down a possible sale. While it is possible for many people to successfully fake a real smile, when noticed by your conversation partner, it can severely damage your rapport with that person.

Remember, you can control the nonverbal signals you send out, the Wezowskis said.

“Body language shows what is happening inside your body and mind. If you want to change that body language, the only way to do it is to start with your own emotions and moods.”

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