Actions Speak Louder than Words

By Lain Chroust Ehmann

No matter how often you proclaim your confidence in your sales team you might be undercutting the effects of your words with your nonverbal signals, says Thomas K. Connellan, Ph.D., a specialist in performance and behavioral change and the author of Bringing Out the Best in Others! Three Keys for Business Leaders, Educators, Coaches and Parents (Bard Press, 2003).

Connellan stresses that just telling your team members you believe in them is not enough. Your faith in their excellence must go beyond words. “All the verbal intonations, all the nonverbal signals, the words you select, the way you set up the conference room – it’s all of those factors coming to bear,” he says.

Richard Harte, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and co-author of What’s Keeping Your Customers Up at Night? Close More Deals by Selling to Your Customer’s Pain (McGraw Hill, 2003) agrees, “We’re talking about body language as well as tonality.”

Here are some common mistakes managers make.

  • Meeting with team members across a desk or table. “If you have the person sit across the desk you’re already in a negotiation position,” says Connellan. Instead, sit side-by-side or at a round table. Connellan tells the story of a car dealership whose sales skyrocketed after he replaced their typical desk-and-two-chair office orientation with round tables.
  • Failing to give your full attention. Even over the phone it’s obvious when someone isn’t paying attention to you or the conversation. When you multi-task during a conversation with an employee, don’t be surprised if he or she feels less than first rate.
  • Passing your stress on to the employee. Middle managers are caught in a tough position with superiors pushing for more results and employees pushing back. Often, when managers feel pressured, “they’re flustered,” says Harte. “They go back to motivating by fear.” Your tone of voice, the words you choose, even your posture, all can convey your own tensions and fear to your employees, which in turn can cause them to freeze and act defensively. Instead, when you’re meeting with an employee take a deep breath and leave your own problems at the door. Concentrate on your team members, not on your boss or quota.

    For a salesperson to be successful, Harte says, “There’s a belief system required that I can do this.” It’s up to you, as the manager, to create that belief through your actions as well as your words.

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