Could facing your palms upwards when answering questions really lose you clients? Body language expert Richard Newman elaborates...
How important is it to use the right body language?
"In this day and age, we don't need to have face-to-face communication any more; we have text messaging, emails, faxes, post. So, if we are face-to-face, we have to make sure our body language and our voice are productive and useful, or you may as well simply send your client a fax of the information.
"You must decide how you want your client to feel about numbers and finance. I often speak to people about the rule of 3%. In some circumstances, 3% is vast; in others, it is tiny. If a client is in a room with you, they need to know whether £1m is huge for them, or small. They are going to look at you. Should that person feel exited, enthused, bored, devastated?
"It is wise to make a decision before you go into a meeting about how you are going to use your body language and voic. Otherwise there's no point in showing up. People want to do business with who they like, trust and who they believe will do right by them."
What do people generally do wrong?
"Most people have a lack of congruency. What I mean by that is our body language and voice all heading in the right direction. We always get it right at weekends, when we're relaxing playing golf or out with friends.
"But it all changes when people put on the suits and do business talk. I once worked with a lady who said she wasn't getting much luck drumming up business in her face-to-face interactions, networking, sales pitches and so on. I asked her simply to show me how she introduces herself. What followed was a very monotone, matter-of-fact introduction. We had to show her she had to be congruent between her message and how that was being delivered.
"Advisers must not settle into what I call the open-plan office mentality, where everybody keeps their voices very muted because they don't want their voices spilling out. When you're face to face, you have to let your face come to life."
What are the absolute body language no-no's?
"If people are in a profession for a long time, they can start to take things for granted. I once worked with a company dealing in car insurance claims and I was asked to listen in to some customer calls to see if I could improve the way the sales team handled them. Somebody rang in saying: ' Oh my God, I've been swiped off the road by a giant Hummer, my kids are screaming and my wife's nose is bleeding'. I then heard the sales team person simply ask, in, again, a monotone voice: 'Were you stationary at the time?' There waas no empathy, no nothing, because all he does every day is simply listen to people who have just had a car accident.
"The same goes in the world of financial planning, where advisers are dealing perhaps with very emotional issues. It is important to keep that empathy and realise that, even though you have dealt with this particular situation thousands of times, this is the first time for that person.
"It's like in the world of theatre. You can't do your thousandth performance like it really is your thousandth because, for probably everyone in that auditorium, it's their first time. There's no point coming on stage saying: ‘To be or not to be, you know all the rest...'
Are advisers complacent about things like body language?
"There is definitely a complacency out there. People often overestimate their skills. We all think we're good at driving, for example; it is the other road users who are the danger.
"There was a survey done recently in the US which polled one million randomly-selected people. One of the questions was: 'How good are you at communicating?' The options were: 'poor', 'below average', 'average', 'above average', 'in the top 25% of people in the world' and 'in the top 1%'. Out of a million people, not one person said they were 'poor' or 'below average'. I'm no mathematical genius, but that just doesn't work, because some people have to be below average for others to be above average. More than 40% said they were in the top 25% of communicators. So we all overestimate our communication skills.
"But the truth is everybody is reasonably good. We have to be to survive. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to work on your skills.
"After the recession, we weren't sure if business would go down because apparently any consultancy work around body language etc gets cut. Yet we found work more than doubled. The question is: 'How do we stand out?' One answer is: we can work on our communication skills."
Richard Newman is director of UK Body Talk. Find out more HERE.
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