Whether you’re meeting with a potential client for the first time, giving a presentation about the services you offer, or leading a project kickoff meeting, non-verbal communication skills are incredibly important. Your actions give meaning to your words, and your movements subtly indicate your thoughts, feelings, and personality to the person you are speaking with.
In sales, it’s not just what you say to a prospective client—it’s also how you say it. Even a pitch or dialogue that looks perfect on paper can be impacted, for better or for worse, by non-verbal elements or influences. If you’re nervous, in a new situation, or distracted by your environment, those feelings can be reflected in your gestures, posture, and voice.
Here are the three major types of non-verbal communication that you should be aware of when pitching your services and techniques for improving each.
1. Body Language
When promoting and selling yourself as a consultant, your body language should express confidence instead of doubt, warmth instead of aloofness, and enthusiasm rather than apathy.
You want to avoid aggressive stances or postures that may make your client feel uncomfortable. In general, avoid crossing your arms, slumping or slouching, and excessive fidgeting. Beware of nervous behaviors you might slide into such as unconsciously clicking your pen, shaking your leg, or playing with a piece of jewelry or clothing. Greet the client with a firm handshake, sit up straight, and use open palm gestures when speaking.
2. Facial Expression
Facial expressions are a subset of body language that come with their own set of nuances. One of the most effective and important is eye contact. Eye contact conveys trust, confidence, and respect. It shows that you’re interested in what the other person is saying and holds their attention when you are speaking. However, it is also easy to overthink. Try to remain natural and relaxed, striking a balance between unwavering staring and nervous avoidance.
A close second to eye contact is remembering to smile. Don’t hesitate to show your warmth, friendliness, and enthusiasm. When the client is speaking or asking questions, nod occasionally to indicate you are interested in what they are saying. Always be sure to give them your full attention and when in doubt mirror their body language, which will indicate that you are listening and are in agreement.
3. Tone of Voice
Tone of voice isn’t “non-verbal” per se, but in conjunction with your actual words, how you use your voice can influence your client as well. Monotone recitation of your experience and specialties is unlikely to inspire excitement in a prospect—or even keep them awake. Likewise, exaggerated eagerness can come across as insincere or possibly suspicious.
You want to convey passion, enthusiasm, and confidence through your voice, regardless of the circumstances of the meeting. Speak clearly and talk to the client as you would like to be spoken to.
Take time ahead of meeting with a client to practice these non-verbal communication skills. Record your voice and listen to your pace, tone, and inflection. Do you talk too fast or too slow? Do you sound monotone and uninterested or overly enthusiastic? Enlist a friend and give them your pitch to receive feedback. With practice, your skills will improve and you will be able to lead your next client meeting with confidence.