Real estate agents’ body language and speech can cost them business

Find out which gestures cause clients to lose trust in you

What does your body language say to clients when you negotiate? Are you confident and strong, or weak and ineffective? Your tone of voice, stance and a host of other unconscious physical signals reveal much more than you may realize.

If you want to become a more effective negotiator, paying attention to your body language is critical. A great place to begin is by making a video of your next listing presentation or offer negotiation. Here are some of the critical points to evaluate.

Confidence image via Shutterstock.
Confidence image via Shutterstock.

1. Did you keep your body language still?
Barbara Walters is one of the most effective interviewers ever. If you study her interviews carefully, you will notice that she keeps her body very still. This makes it easier for others to trust her. If you gesture when you talk, you will be more effective if you keep your hands and body still. This provides your clients with a sense that you are calm and in control. It’s also less intimidating. While it may be uncomfortable initially, this approach can definitely help you close more deals.

2. The ‘power pose’
Several years ago I was tasked with making sure that more than 100 agents in a very important meeting didn’t leave the room to take business calls. I stood directly in front of the exit with my feet planted firmly apart and crossed my arms. Several agents considered moving until they looked at me. Everyone stayed seated.

Amy Cuddy from the Harvard Business School has found that the “Wonder Woman” pose changes a woman’s body chemistry so that she feels more confident and successful. While this pose is usually too aggressive for most negotiations, using it prior to your client meeting can give your confidence a big boost.

3. Did you appear weak?
Do you stand with one foot in front of the other or with your ankles crossed? If so, these are both weak poses that suggest you lack confidence. So does fidgeting, playing with your phone, or brushing back your hair. To break yourself of these habits, practice breathing in to the count of five, holding your breath for the count of five, and then exhaling for the count of five. This stops rapid breathing, makes you feel more relaxed, and greatly reduces any nervous fidgeting.

4. Did you make direct eye contact?
An especially challenging issue for many women, as well as many younger people, is looking others in the eye. When you fail to look someone directly in the eye, it decreases trust. Moreover, it signals weakness, as does dropping your chin. If your mother ever said, “Stand up straight and look me in the eye,” she was giving you excellent advice on how to negotiate effectively.

5. Did you use downstrokes when speaking?
One of the most common ways that agents sound weak is by using upstrokes when they speak. This is especially true for women, since they are more likely to use this speech pattern to avoid being confrontational. In fact, when Hollywood wants to cast a “dumb blond,” they will make sure that she uses upstrokes when she speaks.

What is an upstroke? Listen to the difference when you say, “Hello” vs. when you say “good morning” or “good evening.” The word “hello” normally ends with an upstroke. In contrast, the words “good morning” and “good evening” end with downstrokes.

While most American men speak in downstrokes, most American women end their sentences with upstrokes. This is also true for people who speak languages such as Vietnamese that vary word meaning based upon tonalities.

To avoid sounding weak when you negotiate, practice ending your sentences with downstrokes. A good sentence that illustrates what this sounds like is, “It’s raining outside.” Again, a good way to see whether you use upstrokes or downstrokes is to record an actual presentation. Keep practicing until you master this skill.

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6. Did you intimidate or try to control your clients?
Maintaining a powerful body position while negotiating is important, but avoid becoming controlling or intimidating. As mentioned before, keep your body language still.

It’s equally important, however, to use what is known as “charge neutral.” This refers to speaking in the tone of voice you might use when dealing with an upset child. While it may be tempting to raise your voice to someone who is yelling at you, avoid doing it. Virtually all anger and obnoxious behavior results from fear. When you yell at someone who is afraid, you only add more energy to his or her fear. The result is that you exacerbate the situation rather than improving it.

If your mother ever said, 'Stand up straight and look me in the eye,' she was giving you excellent advice on how to negotiate effectively."

If you want to up your negotiation skills, try applying some of the techniques outlined above. You may be very pleasantly surprised how much more smoothly your negotiations go.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of the National Association of Realtors’ No. 1 best-seller, “Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success.” Hear Bernice’s five-minute daily real estate show, just named “new and notable” by iTunes, at www.RealEstateCoachRadio.com.


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