As a business owner, you give sales pitches on a regular basis and most likely spend a considerable amount of time editing, tailoring, and perfecting your content for each prospect. But how much time do you spend editing, tailoring, and perfecting your physical presence and non-verbal communication?
Studies reveal that roughly 55% of the success of your business speaking is dependent upon two factors: your physical demeanor and the non-verbal messages you send. At first, this may seem like a high percentage, but it is not surprising when we note the findings of a 2007 study by the American Optometric Association: vision was found to be the “number one sense” that people would not want to live without. Dr. Vince Young, an ophthalmologist at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, reported, “Americans tend to fear vision loss more than anything, more than memory loss or heart disease.”
It is no surprise, then, that in your sales meetings, prospects and clients are watching you. They are making judgments about you based on a variety of non-verbal communication pathways: your behavior, eye contact, facial expressions, handshake, gestures, and posture. Seeing is believing; what do they see in you, and what do they, therefore, believe about you?
Here are a few guidelines to enhance your physical presence when you pitch your products and services.
Take Stage Like a Broadway Actor
How do professional actors get the audience’s attention and keep them riveted to the action of a play? One answer is that they “take stage”:they inhabit the space with a “do or die” purpose and an attitude of complete belonging. You need to do the same thing when you give your pitch. Take the stage, command attention and keep your prospects/clients focused:
- Walk into the room and approach them with a relaxed, unhurried pace, with your shoulders back.
- Make good eye contact and smile!
- Whether you are seated or standing when you give your pitch, begin with both feet planted firmly on the ground, and imagine that your legs are tree trunks and your feet are roots extending deep into the ground. This initial grounding helps you claim the space as your own and gives weight to your subsequent movements. It helps you project confidence and authority.
Consider Your Arms and Hands
Do not plan or rehearse your gestures! Instead, be mindful of your gestures. Allow a friend or trusted colleague to observe you as you rehearse and provide feedback about any gestures that do not serve you or your message.
- Keep your hands open and available for natural gestures.
- The hand should speak: the movements should match both your content and the energy in your voice.
- For power and punch, use both hands to gesture whenever possible, and put down pens, papers, and pointers when not using them.
Don’t Let Your Body Language Betray You
Messages communicated through body language vary according to culture. Here are a few things to remember about the general perception among people raised in the United States:
- A strong subtext is communicated through eye contact or lack of it. Eye contact can project caring, interest, honesty, and sincerity, while the lack of eye contact can project arrogance or contempt. Be sensitive to “moral looking time” (the length of time you can hold eye contact with a stranger without sending a particular message): about three seconds.
- When you shake hands, be sure that your hand contact with your partner is “web to web” (the soft skin between the base of the thumb and base of the forefinger). Your handshake is very revealing; make it project power and a desire to engage.
- The head nod is critical in communication and tells your communication partner “I understand” and “I agree.” It tends to elicit a positive response and is particularly effective during pitch meetings.
- Raising your hand or fingers in front of your mouth during business discussions often communicates a withholding of information or reluctance to be entirely forthcoming.
- Helplessness and an urgency to be understood are sometimes expressed when you speak with your hands open at chest level and spread sideways with the palms up.
As you rehearse your pitch (yes, rehearse; this means aloud; internalizing and not memorizing), be mindful of any physical behaviors you exhibit that may be sending unintended messages. Make appropriate adjustments, even if those adjustments take you out of your comfort zone. This will have a dramatic impact on your projection of confidence, authenticity, and authority — and your ability to close the deal!