Specialize in Nonverbal Communication
There’s always more to the story than what’s being said. Experts estimate that up to 70 percent of communication is unspoken—including facial expressions, body language, gestures, and tone of voice. From the way you shake a customer’s hand to how straight you sit, your nonverbal cues reveal who you are and how you feel. The signals your body gives work with your words to convey your message; they can either reinforce that message or dilute it.
The Eyes Have It
How do you feel if a referral source for your home healthcare program fails to meet your eyes during a conversation? Like he’s not telling you something that his eyes would reveal? Like he’s not that interested in what you have to say? What you see in your customer’s eyes can offer valuable clues into what he or she is thinking or feeling. Maintaining a consistent, comfortable level of eye contact indicates focused attention and interest. In addition, steady eye contact while you’re talking about what you have to offer adds credibility to your message.
Smiles Are Contagious
Doctors tell us that a smile can lift our spirits, boost our immune system, and reduce stress. A smile is also an important sales tool—especially in our high-stress industry. Many doctors, nurses, and administrative staffers in multispecialty clinics spend their days attending to the needs of a seemingly endless stream of sick patients. Tensions rise in tandem with wait times. These hardworking medical professionals appreciate the sales representative who shows up with a genuine smile each week. Remain conscious of the message(s) you’re sending with your facial expressions. Consider how many thoughts and feelings you convey with a sincere smile or a frown or a raised eyebrow. If you go into a meeting with a frown, you’re probably going to get a frown in return. You’re much more likely to leave that same meeting with a sale if you enter with a radiant smile.
Like a smile, relaxed body language is a sure-fire prescription that helps set a positive, low-stress tone during interactions with prospects and clients. What messages are you sending when you clench your jaw, hunch over in your seat, or cross your arms tightly against your body? Body language experts say these motions can relay unfriendliness, discomfort, or anxiety. Just as much as what you say with your words, what you show with your body can convey your approachability, likeability, and confidence. In addition to illustrating your excitement and dedication to growing the High-Return Relationship, your body language expresses your willingness and ability to make that process fun and relaxing. An open posture—shoulders down, back straight, belly in, arms loose and natural—says, “My heart and head are open to what you’re telling me. I’m happy to be here. I know the hospice services I’m offering will benefit your patients. I can make your life less stressful.”
Gestures like tapping your finger and twirling your hair can betray feelings of impatience or anxiety. They show you are not laser-focused and might make your client or prospect feel less than important. Such gestures weaken or confuse your verbal message. On the other hand, positive gestures, like nodding, signify your agreement, acknowledge shared beliefs, and help put you in sync with your customer.
Get in Touch
Touch is perhaps the most powerful nonverbal expression of professional intimacy. A light touch on the arm conveys sympathy or understanding; a gentle pat on the back expresses affection or support; and, when given with respect, a heartfelt hug truly speaks volumes. Offered in the spirit of kindness and with regard to the comfort level of the recipient, touch breaks through barriers to professional intimacy and deepens the High-Return Relationship. We explore the power of touch in Chapter 5, “Strategy No. 4: Show Appreciation, Admiration, and Respect.”
- “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”
- —Peter F. Drucker4