When meeting with a client you are communicating with that person on two levels: a verbal one and a non-verbal one. While verbal communication is important, understanding body language can help you navigate a conversation more subtly and with more insight about what your client is thinking and feeling. This can make you a more effective advisor by addressing a client’s concerns even if he does not state them out loud.

Body language during a formal appointment includes watching client eye activity, facial expressions, and hand gestures.  Here are three specific examples:

The Eyes

Research shows that maintaining eye contact with someone 60% to 70% percent of the time is best for creating rapport.  So if a client is avoiding eye contact, then it means that he is uncomfortable with what you are telling him. If he becomes glassy-eyed, then he is bored. If his eyes dilate, then he is interested and wants to hear more. If he looks at something in your office – a brochure or a chart – then he wants to talk about what it contains. If he looks at the door, then he wants to leave.

Facial Expressions

People reveal more through their facial expressions than they often realize. When meeting with a client, keep a look out for pursed lips, lowered eyebrows or clenched jaw muscles. These indicate that the client is confused or disagrees with what you are saying. On the other hand, if he is smiling and nodding, then he likes what he is hearing.

Hand Gestures

The hands speak volumes, so pay particular attention to them in client meetings.  Most meetings start with the client’s hands open on the table.  This means that he is receptive and waiting to listen. If he starts fiddling with a pen or shuffling papers, then he is annoyed or confused.  If he taps his fingers, then he is impatient.  If he moves his hands to his lap, then something has made him uncomfortable. If, though, he gestures with his hands open or touches something – a binder or document – related to your product or service, then he is interested in what you are saying.

In nearly every situation in which a client feels confused, annoyed or distrustful, the way to ease his discomfort is to ask him a question. What does he think about what you just said? Or does he have concerns?  By asking him something you are showing interest in him and easing the situation.

With a little practice, you will soon be an expert at deciphering non-verbal body cues.  You will understand your clients better, and they will trust the advice that you give them even more than they do now.

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