5 Body Language Cues Entrepreneurs Should Pay Attention to in Any Meeting
In order to thrive (and survive), entrepreneurs need to always be selling, whether it is to potential customers, investors or employees. Yet, sometimes founders believe they sealed the deal, only to find out later the person wasn’t interested.
So how can they tell if you are going to get a “yes” from a meeting? Well, it has more to do with what someone doesn’t say.
Potential customers, partners and investors may be saying they are interested, but if their nonverbal communication is saying something else, it is unlikely you will close the deal. Falsehoods, lies and impossible promises can easily come out of someone’s mouth, but a person’s body language will not lie.
As someone who has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and executives refine their sales strategy, the ability to read and understand someone’s nonverbal cues is imperative to help a founder, or a startup team member, determine if a partnership is worth pursuing, or if it is a complete waste of valuable time. These signs can tell if someone is receptive or resistent to your idea.
Here are some of the five most common nonverbal cues and how to address them.
1. Eye contact
If someone is avoiding making eye contact, it is indicative of a person not wanting you to see something or to avoid embarrassment. They may be looking at paperwork, the wall behind you, or the floor. Basically, everywhere but you.
If this happens, try to get them to refocus and engage. Sometimes, it comes down to candidness; if you give a person permission to be vulnerable usually that will solve the problem. For instance, by simply asking the person what's going on. You could say something like, "It seems as if you've got a lot on your mind, is there anything I can do to help?" or "It appears as if you've got a lot that you're juggling, is there anything I can do to help relieve the pressure?" Also, focus on being personable, transparent and conversational.
Lastly, pay attention to when they avoid eye contact. You might want to ask more questions in relation to the topic to get clarity and to learn about specific pain points.
2. Lean stance
Often leaning in, means the person is engaged, excited and wants to learn more. And while, at times, leaning back is considered standoffish (e.g arms crossed), it can also be a sign the person feels safe, relaxed and is coming from a place of authority. If you need help deciphering and want to better assess the engagement level, try the mirror technique. When a meeting is going well, people will often mirror, or copy one another’s actions as a way to feel connected.
For many of us, our mother taught us to stand up straight: it is not only good for posture but exudes confidence and respect. So, when you see someone slouching in a meeting, it tends to mean a person has lack of strength and is deeply insecure. It can also reveal reason not to trust the person, because insecurity often equates to not having the strength to own up to something. People who are deeply insecure, are more likely to not tell the truth or to cover up something to save face, than admitting to a mistake.
To get past this, ask specific questions to determine confidence, such as how confident are you to have this project done on time? What are the most important reasons for you to do business with us? You are looking for strong, honest answers. If they give you the runaround, it may not be the right fit.
4. Arm position
Arms crossed is a defensive posture taken up by a person who is insecure and resistant to what is going on. In my experience, these people often make excuses and are disagreeable in nature. They don't like asking for clarity or help.
If this happens, get them talking and give them room to express their experience. I often ask a person what they don't like about the topic we are discussing. (I can't solve a problem unless I know what it is.) Once you know what the resistance is, you can address it directly rather than guessing at what may be happening.
Hand motions are great; they liven up a conversation and drive home important points. However, fidgeting is not. It can have a variety of meanings including nervousness, boredom and anxiety.
When this happens, turn the conversation to the immediate – and get them to re-engage. Ask this person what they need right now. Listen and see if you can provide that. For instance, you would say, “Let me ask you something, what's currently you're number one challenge? or “Tell me why wouldn't you say yes to this?”
The result of body language:
Again, if people are exhibiting some, or all, of these non-verbal cues, it is often a sign they aren’t interested. If I believe they person’s body language is saying “no” to the ask, I often come right out and ask them why they are a no so we can determine if the issue can be fixed to get them to a yes. This is honest and respects everyone’s time.