What Does Your Body Language Tell Clients?

Make sure your body language aligns with what you’re saying to clients. Here are some nonverbal cues that affect how you’re perceived.

Stacey Hanke fired a few real estate agents during her recent search for a Chicago condo — and it was the body language they displayed that led to the death of their business dealings.

For instance, one agent had robotic motions, giving off the impression that was only there because she needed to be there and not because she wanted to help. Another kept talking even when Hanke had already walked out the door.

Because body language speaks louder than words, real estate professionals need to be cognizant of how they’re expressing themselves. Good body language can express a positive attitude and confidence, while negative body language can communicate insecurities or apathy, which can be devastating to a working relationship and for an agent’s livelihood.

“The better we understand body language in ourselves — our posture, our eye contact, and more — the better we are able to reach our listeners,” says Hanke, owner of Stacey Hanke Inc. in Chicago, where she helps professionals (including real estate brokers) with their presence and influence in the business world. A big part of her training focuses on nonverbal communication skills. Here are some points that Hanke and other body language experts say brokers and agents should consider when it comes to body language and its effect on how people perceive you.

First Impressions Can Be Everything

There is a disconnect between what some people believe their body language says with what is really happening, Hanke says. This is especially true during an initial meeting, where they first impression you make is the most crucial.

You have just a few seconds to get in the mood you want to project, says Carol Kinsey Goman, author of The Silent Language of Leaders and The Nonverbal Advantage. She also is an executive coach and keynote speaker through Kinsey Consulting Service in Berkeley, Calif. “People look at your face and get all sorts of information about what is really going on,” she says, adding that sometimes they get that information subconsciously. For instance, a beaming smile is less influential than a slow onset smile. Your smile should grow as you get closer to the person.

The Importance of Your Handshake and a Touch

Touch is the most primitive and powerful body language, Goman says. If you can touch someone on the shoulder for one-fortieth of a second, you create something called the compliance effect, where an individual does what someone else wants them to do, following his or her request or suggestion. For instance, Goman says research from psychologists April Crusco and Christopher Wetzel shows that if a waiter gently touches someone on the shoulder lightly as they returned their change, their tip goes up.

Not suprisingly, the greeting of a handshake can be a powerful tool. A study by the Income Center for Trade Shows disclosed that people are two times more likely to remember you if you shake hands with them. Goman says that a good handshake begins by looking at the person in the eye, smiles in a positive and powerful way, and make sure your hand is right into the web of the other person’s hand. And when you end your handshake, don’t drop your gaze down, she says.

Adjust Your Body Language for Different People

Cathie Elliott, broker-owner at The Clarke Agency Inc. in Gunnison, Colo., says that after many years in the real estate industry, she has learned to adjust her body language depending on the customer.

For instance, when she senses that someone wants to look thoroughly through a house, she sticks close to them and does the tour more slowly than normal, explaining a lot of details. If she has a buyer who seems to joke around a lot, then she keeps everything light, with lots of smiles and a less businesslike tour while still being professional. “You can certainly tailor every showing depending on the person’s characteristics,” she says.

Make Your Posture Portray Positivity

If you align your body with the person you’re talking to, it shows you are engaged with what he or she is saying and doing. Also, you should approach them with your back straight but not stiff, and your shoulders should be relaxed so you don’t look too businesslike or uptight.

Unfold Your Arms and Legs

A study by body language researchers Allan and Barbara Pease discovered that people remember a lot more if they just sit with unfolded arms and legs. That means, if you are open to what your client is saying, you will remember more of their needs and wants.

Also, Hanke says, many real estate professionals have a tendency to talk too much instead of focusing on the person in front of them and what they are saying. “Just remember that if your body language is not consistent with your message, then your message becomes a distraction,” she explains.


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