Non-verbal communication is critical to your ability to influence when in front of your potential client.
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Albert Mehrabian is best known for his research within the communication field, claiming that 93 per cent of communication is non-verbal, “7 per cent words, 38 per cent voice, and 55 per cent body and face”. There has been a number of studies since then that confirmed the importance of non-verbal communication at rates greater than 70 per cent.
There is no doubt that non-verbal communication plays a big role in every presentation, especially those where the outcome is as important as selecting an estate agent to represent the property owner in the sale or leasing of property. Further research places the interpretation of a message is at least 80 per cent non-verbal communication when there is important information being conveyed.
As we know, communication is a two-way street – an exchange of information back and forward, with all parties involved interpreting each other’s words. However, with such a high percentage of communication attributed to nonverbals, little knowledge about body language can be dangerous. If you misinterpret the other’s body language and change your delivery, you could lose your ability to influence.
When you are speaking to someone and they are crossing their arms, they are tilting their head downwards, and leaning back in a chair, based on some body language knowledge, you may believe that the person is negative, blocking and disinterested due to the body language cues. This could be completely wrong, the individual you are observing could simply be comfortable in that position and they are listening intently to what is being said, or you could be right. Taking a chance and guessing is not a good strategy.
So, how can you interpret and more importantly use non-verbal communication to your advantage in presenting to a potential seller or property provider without making costly mistakes?
Start with observing what is called baseline non-verbal communication (BNC). What I mean by this is when you are communicating in an open and friendly manner (the first sit-down conversation as mentioned in previous articles), listen with your eyes. Observe the other person’s posture, arms, gestures, body movement, head position and eye movement (including blink rate). Observe their entire communication process and make mental notes or write them down. This is the client’s BNC.
When you are presenting key segments of your presentation, look for shifts from their BNC when discussing important details, such as price, marketing or commission structure.
The physical shifting from baseline to a different body position can be a key indicator that the person is not comfortable with what you are presenting, or they may require further clarification to better understand what you are communicating. When you are fully paying attention and notice such a shift, you are in a position to ask questions and further clarify what it is you would like them to fully understand. From the listener’s perspective, it will seem like you are reading their mind.
You, as the presenter, also have baseline non-verbals in casual conversations and presentations. A powerful way to make a point, to be heard and to influence is for you to shift from your baseline when making an important point, sending a non-verbal communication that this is important.
First, you must understand your baseline presenting style, your body position, voice patterns and gestures before you can shift when you want to land that most important point. When making that key message, subtly lean forward towards the potential client with a lowering of the chin, make a hand gesture moving forward and lower your volume – this makes a powerful impact on the listener and will be a game-changer when implemented with the right intent.
Non-verbal communication is a powerful tool to learn, understand and to use in every presentation. With such a large percentage of communication being non-verbal, it is important to pay attention, observe and practice non-verbal communication in your presentations, so that your message will land more effectively with your potential clients and increase your ability to influence the outcome.
Warren Tate is a performance coach at Harcourts Victoria.
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