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This article was last updated Oct. 18, 2022.
What all clients — regardless of age, culture or background — have in common is the use of non-verbal body language signals. These non-verbal cues can tip you off when your client is ready to write an offer, if they’re doubting what you’re saying, or if they’re angry and on the verge of firing you.
Albert Mehrabian, a pioneer researcher of body language in the 1950s, found that only about 7 percent of the impact of a message is verbal (words only). Tone of voice, inflection, and other sounds account for 38 percent. Non-verbal or “body language,” accounts for the remaining 55 percent.
To test your body language negotiation savvy, take our quiz below. Most of the questions will have photos that illustrate the body language in question. Scoring and explanations for each answer are at the end of the quiz.
1. Which of the following statements is true?
- Looking up at the ceiling and waving your hands above your head can quickly improve your mood.
- Raising your hands above your head taps into childhood anchors that make you feel good.
- When people cheer, dance, or raise their hands above their head and also look up, they almost always have a smile on their face.
- All of the above.
2. True or false?
Listening to music that makes you want to snap your fingers to the beat is a quick way to put your brain into peak performance mode before your next appointment.
3. You have just met a new client and you’re taking her out to look at property. Which one of these statements best describe her and the types of property she will be most likely to buy?
- She speaks relatively fast and likes properties that are light and bright with an open floor plan. A view is a huge plus.
- She has a rather dramatic voice, likes pleasant sounds, and prefers privacy and quiet.
- She speaks slowly and deliberately. For her utility matters most. She likes properties that are “homey and cozy.” The property must also “feel” right if she’s going to purchase it.
4. Your new client shows up to look at property wearing socks and sandals. What’s the best way to close her if she seems interested one of the properties you just showed her?
- I can see that you really like this property. Let’s go back to the office and take a look at the numbers.
- The home you are considering is so peaceful and quiet. It sounds as if this may be the right property for you. Are you ready to talk about some numbers?
- This house is so warm and cozy. I have a hunch that you can get a good deal. Would you like to get a feel for the numbers?
5. Do paper brochures have any advantage over digital brochures when it comes to providing body language cues that indicate the buyer’s interest level in the property?
6. Your first-time buyer’s mother is helping him with his down payment and will be going on the title. What is the best way to handle his nay-saying parent who keeps objecting?
- Tell her how prices are skyrocketing and that it will cost even more to purchase as interest rates increase.
- Mirror and match her son’s body language.
- Explain the urgency of having her son act quickly due to the scarcity of inventory.
- Tell her that your role is to be a trusted advisor.
7. The agent on the right is having a conversation with a potential client. Is she likely to hire him?
8. A man is right-handed and left-brain dominant for language. Which way will he look when he is telling the truth — to the left or right?
9. You just told the buyer pictured below that the listing agent is expecting three offers on her new listing by the end of business today. Did sharing that information increase his urgency to write an offer?
10. You just presented a counteroffer to your buyers where the sellers said they are unwilling to lower the price any further. They look down and put their hands to their mouths. Which of these statements best describe your buyers’ reaction?
- The buyers are unhappy with the counteroffer.
- The buyers don’t believe the sellers are unwilling to budge any further on the price.
- They’re thinking about taking the offer—time to “shut up and sell.”
- They’re ready to sign the offer.
11. The agent below is showing a condominium to a couple who speak English as their second language. The couple steps away and starts an animated conversation in their native language. What’s going on?
- Time to show them a different property.
- They’re interested in the property and may be ready to write an offer.
- They’re unhappy about something the agent did.
12. The picture below depicts a “downward” handshake. What does the agent’s body language say about what she’s really doing?
- Her smile and direct eye contact indicate an open, friendly gesture.
- The buyer shaking the agent’s hand feels positively about the agent.
- This is a power play by the agent—it’s all about showing she’s in control.
Questions 1-12 are one point each.
1. The correct answer is “d,” all of the above.
When babies are hungry or need attention, they cry. When a parent or caretaker arrives, they reach up to be fed, changed, or soothed. According to Neurolinguistic Programming research, this behavior becomes “anchored” as a positive feeling and is often coupled with the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter, beta endorphin.
Common places where you will see this behavior in adults include cheering when your favorite team scores or dancing with your hands in the air.
To easily tap into this anchor, look up at the ceiling and wave your hands above your head. Due to early conditioning, this body position triggers a release of endorphins in most people. The result is a smile on your face and a much better mood.
2. The correct answer is “true.”
Listening to music that makes you want to dance or snap your fingers to the beat, synchronizes the brain waves in your left and right cerebral hemispheres. Hemispheric synchronization has been linked to peak performance, especially for athletes and in sales situations.
3. The correct answer is “a.”
Questions 3 and 4 address whether your client’s primary brain modality is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. About 40 percent of the population is visual, 40 percent is auditory, and 20 percent ise kinesthetic. Answer “a” describes those who are visual, “b” describes those who are auditory, and “c” describes those who are kinesthetic.
It’s easy to spot visuals because they are color coordinated, they care more about how they look (as opposed to how comfortable they are), and usually speak at a more rapid pace. (Note the woman in the picture is perfectly put together with her matching hat and hoodie.) Visuals want light, bright, and a view if possible. They also like soaring ceilings and open floor plans.
4. The correct answer is “c.”
As in the previous question, answer “a” describes visuals, “b,” describes those who are auditory, and “c” describes those who are kinesthetic.
The person with the socks and sandals is kinesthetic and cares more about comfort than how they look. When you work with someone who is a kinesthetic, use words that describe feelings such as “warm,” “cozy” and “hunch.” They generally dislike open floor plans and big rooms, preferring smaller, more intimate spaces.
If you have an auditory client (the “b” options in each question), they are attuned to sounds, quiet, and often have a dramatic (radio) voice. Use the words “talk,” “hear,” and “sound.”
5. The correct answer is “a” (Yes).
In addition to opening drawers, looking in cabinets, touching the walls, and slowing down their pace during the showing, another important buying sign has to do with how the agent treats the brochure. If the buyer has rolled up the brochure and unrolls it to take a second look at it, that’s usually a buying sign.
6. The correct answer is “b.”
If there ever was a time to shut up and sell, when you’re in the presence of a “naysayer,” this is it. Your best approach is to explain that your role is to be a “conduit of information.” They are the decision makers, not you.
The second body language tactic is to mirror and match your client’s body language — not the mother’s. In other words, if your client is smiling, you smile. If your client has a serious look on his face, mirror his serious look. Unless the son has a poor relationship with his mother (i.e., there is open hostility,) mirroring her son’s body language will make her feel that you and her son are on the same wavelength.
7. The correct answer is “a,” Yes.
This is a case where the “toes have it.” If your client’s toes are pointing toward you, they are with you emotionally. The woman in the picture is smiling at the agent and her toes are pointing toward him. This body language signal usually means she will be doing business with him.
8. When the man is looking to his left, it indicates he’s telling the truth.
Approximately 90 percent of the population is left brain dominant for language. This means when they look to the left, they are telling the truth or recalling an actual memory. Looking right means they are not telling the truth or basing what they’re saying on an actual memory.
To recognize the other 10 percent of the population who are right brain dominant for language and look left when they are lying, look at how they hold a pen or pencil when they write. Here’s how to tell:
- If the person is left-handed but doesn’t “hook” their hand around like most left-handed people do, (i.e., they write like someone who is right-handed), they are right brain dominant for language. (If they are left handed and “hook,” they are in the 90 percent who are left brain dominant for language>)
- They are right-handed, but “hook” and write like someone who is left-handed. (Males who have this trait often have extreme difficulty learning to read and may be ADHD as well.)
9. The correct answer is “b” (No).
When your client raises one of their eyebrows, they don’t believe you.
10. The correct answer is “c.”
When buyers touch their face or lips and are also looking down like the two people here, it means they’re thinking about it. Again, this is a time where silence is your friend. Wait for them to comment, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for you. This way you avoid pushing them and allow them to come to their own decision.
11. The correct answer is “b.”
When you work with buyers who do not speak English as their first language, relying on verbal cues can be difficult. Most agents don’t realize that when their clients step away and begin an animated conversation in their own language, they’re not being rude. Instead, they’re usually talking about writing an offer.
12. The correct answer is “c.”
A handshake where one person places their hand on top of the other person’s hand, as shown in this photo, is a way of indicating they are the dominant person in the relationship. In other words, it’s a power play.
How well did you do?
9-12: You’re a master at reading body language when you negotiate.
4-8: You have mastered the fundamentals but would benefit from reviewing the pictures and adding some of the more advanced techniques from today’s article.
0-3: Reading body language is new for you. Study the pictures in today’s quiz and start paying attention to the body language cues your clients constantly use. See how well you can predict outcomes based upon what you observe. Finally, always remember that silence is golden—“Shut up and sell!”
Bernice Ross, president and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with more than 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.