Business dealings and negotiations are inherently risky. For the most part, the people involved understand the stakes. But some face harsher consequences than others from a bad deal, some form of fraud or outright malice. Large corporations have the margins to absorb these losses. Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, many startups don't.
It's important to understand how easy it is to be deceived in business and life. But it's equally easy for us to train our eyes, ears and minds to recognize the signs of a downward spiral and take action before it's too late.
During my time as a hostage negotiator and criminal investigator, I learned just how critical it was to understand human behavior. Making casual conversation in stressful situations helped me extract the truth.
The tips below aren't an exclusive list. While there are many more red flags to spot, this is a good start to help you determine if you're dealing with someone who is trying to deceive you.
Watch the eyes.
There's a great deal of truth to the "look me in the eyes" saying. If someone can't meet your gaze, chances are there's something else going on. There might be other reasons a person avoids direct eye-to-eye contact, but this is a definite early warning.
Watch the arms.
Ask a tough question. Something like, "Are you planning to meet with someone else, or do I have your commitment to do business?"
It's not a gut-wrencher, but it still triggers a slight degree of discomfort in the listener. If he or she is seated when you ask, watch the arms. Do they cross? Or become fidgety? Are the hands propped on hips or clasped behind the head? No single clue is a tell-all, but clusters of body-language cues will lead you to a predictable end.
Each of these motions carries a meaning. In sales and negotiations, crossed arms are a key indicator your audience isn't hearing what you have to say. Adjust your approach and spend a little more time warming them up before you make your pitch.
Watch the body.
Imagine you sit down with an employee to discuss a recent theft involving your business. What happens when you ask if he or she knows who is responsible? If your employee shifts his or her body in that hot seat, you should be suspicious of the answer.
Watch for distractedness.
Wandering eyes signal a greater likelihood of deceptive responses. There is some science behind this process. Behavioral scientists consider whether the other person looks directly at you or looks left, right, up or down. Together with other cues, this creates a pattern that suggests some degree of untruthfulness.
Knowing, understanding and mastering these clues can help you overcome any objections in your sales negotiations and win the deal.