Can You Read Your Clients' Body Language?

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“You need to earn your clients’ trust. One of the best ways to do that is by actively listening to what they’re telling you—their needs and wants are important to them, and they should be important to you, too… When your clients know you’re genuinely concerned with what’s best for them, they’ll trust you to take care of them,” says Allison Van Wig, a Lakewood, CA Realtor® with Van Wig and Associates.

As a skilled, talented, and experienced real estate agent, you know all about body language. You can tell when one of your clients falls in love with a house, is a little “iffy” on the details, or desperately wants to escape. You can even tell if your client is excited about one particular feature of a home or, conversely, when someone is trying to maintain a poker face.

Can’t you?

Are You Reading Your Clients’ Body Language Correctly?

It turns out that humans are hard-wired to give off some pretty strong signals when we’re feeling happy, unhappy, or anything in between. The caveat: We’re not necessarily adept at interpreting those signals when others use them. It’s not that we’re mentally unable to interpret them; it’s that there’s a disconnect between the interpretations we’ve learned through experience and the biological roots of the signals others are sending us.

“When it comes to reading people, the most important thing to pay attention to is changes in behavior. You have to establish a baseline as far what their typical behaviors are. For example, if someone has their arms crossed the during an entire conversation it means something different than if you see them cross their arms mid-conversation,” says Dr. John Paul Garrison, Psy.D. Garrison, a clinical and forensic psychologist practicing in Roswell, GA, is an expert in nonverbal communication.

How to Tell When Your Real Estate Clients Are Uncomfortable (With Anything)

As a Realtor®, it’s your job to make sure your clients are comfortable throughout the entire buying or selling process—but that’s tough when you can’t get a good read on someone. Sure, some people wear their emotions on their sleeves; others put championship poker players to shame.

So how can you tell if your client is experiencing discomfort, whether it’s about a certain feature in a home or it has to do with the buying or selling process?

“The most important changes you can pay attention to are pacifying and calming behaviors. In other words, when people engage in behaviors to calm themselves down then they feel uncomfortable,” Garrison says.

“A few examples of pacifying behaviors are men touching their face or neck, crossing arms, or women touching or flipping their hair. If you are talking about features of a property and the client starts touching their face or stroking their neck, then it can be a good cue to ask how that person feels about that feature. It will allow them to process their concerns if they are, for whatever reason, not voicing them at the time.”

More often than not, though, you’ll see clients who are ready to relax their guards—and you need to know how to recognize that, too.

How to Tell When Your Real Estate Clients Are Comfortable

“When someone is relaxed and comfortable, you can tell almost immediately. You’ll see a physical change for sure right away,” says professional mentalist Christopher Grace. Grace is truly an expert at reading nonverbal cues; he does it at hundreds of events each year; he’s performed for several Fortune 500 companies (including Google, GE, and Comcast) and for audiences that have included Steve Jobs, Johnny Depp, and Steve Martin.

“Direct eye contact will be more frequent, gentle motions and actions show themselves,” Grace says.

Dr. Garrison agrees.

“Crossing one foot over the other while standing is the ultimate way to show you are comfortable and not threatened (the wider your leg stance, the more you can physically protect yourself).  The more someone is facing you directly, regardless of distance, the more relaxed and engaged that person is,” says Garrison.

Other Client Behaviors Realtors Should Watch For

According to Garrison, there are several subtle signals that can allow you to read someone completely, such as:

  •          Squinting the eyes is common when someone hears—or thinks of—something they don’t like. It’s an instinctual way to block the idea or thought.
  •          Excessive eye blinking can suggest stress or irritation. 
  •          Using the tongue to press on the inside of the lips indicates emotional discomfort.
  •          A two-shoulder shrug is honest body language when you say, “I don’t know.” However, a one shoulder shrug often suggests deceptive body language.

“Genuine emotion is observed bilaterally on the face, which means you can see it on both sides. The only exception to that is contempt, which is a one-sided smirk, but all other emotions (such as happiness, sadness, anger, and others) are bilateral,” Garrison says. “So a one side smile is not real happiness. When you see both eyebrows raise, then you know that person feels surprise.”

The bottom line is that the better you can read your clients, the more successful you’ll be in making them happy.

“If you consistently identify when someone is uncomfortable, angry, or skeptical, then they feel more emotionally close to you. They allow themselves to be more honest and see you as being more genuine,” Garrison says.

What Can You Do With Your Own Body Language to Help Your Clients?

Once you’ve nailed down reading your clients, make sure you’re giving them signals they can understand, too.

Dr. Garrison suggests being expressive—it helps build trust.

“Use your hands often and expressively when speaking. People who hide their hands or don’t use them when talking are perceived as being dishonest,” says Garrison. “The reason is that biologically you are wired to move less when you are trying to hide from danger. When you lie or are dishonest, then you try to move less and hide to get away with the lie. We instinctively know that. If your body language is open, expressive, and confident, then you are thought be to open and honest.”

One last thing: “Never point your finger at a client. We are hardwired to hate that. We unconsciously interpret that as being disrespected. If you have to point, then use your whole hand,” Garrison says.

A Word on Finding Common Ground

It doesn’t hurt to find common ground with your clients, too. Remember, there’s quite a bit going on in a client’s brain before he or she even meets a real estate agent face-to-face. That’s where your offline marketing skills come in… and so do the takeaways that keep you front-and-center in a client’s mind.

Some of the most effective branded marketing materials to do that include:

o  Branded note pads for real estate agents

o  Branded seed packs with Realtors’® contact information

o  13-month real estate calendars

Good Body Language and Nonverbal Communication in Practice

“When my wife and I bought our home in Massachusetts, we went through a ton of Realtors because they were either too aggressive, treated us like we knew nothing, or assumed they knew what was best for us,” nationally recognized performer Christopher Grace says. “I’m a performer and my wife works in a school. When we finally decided on an agent, we chose her because she ‘got’ us. She was friendly, knowledgeable, accommodating, and willing to work through what we wanted. We didn't have to look at too many houses with her because she listened and focused her leads on as many of the checklist points we had.”

What Do You Think?

Have you had these types of experiences with your clients? Have you been able to read body language and nonverbal cues to help your buyers or sellers? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so please share them in the comments section below or visit us on the Real Estate Calendars Facebook page!



Comments (2)

Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

I try, since body language is responsible for most of our communication, even if you do not see your client, I'd suggest listen carefully to any changes in voice or tone. 

Nov 21, 2017 12:43 AM