How to Read Your Prospect Like A Book

Gargamel“You know, I’m sorry I have to eat you, but if I don’t, I’ll hate myself!” – Gargamel speaking to Weepy Smurf

While you may already know of the infamous Gargamel, for those that don’t, he is the evil wizard and a sworn enemy of the Smurfs. He is the main antagonist in the show, comic books, and movies about the fictional world of The Smurfs.

In any given episode, his entire focus is on destroying the little blue creatures. But you don’t need to read the quote above to know that. You can see it in his eyes. You can see the hatred in his face, and even in the way he walks. He isn’t one to hide his feelings.

While reading Gargamels body language is easy, reading a prospects is much harder.

Because prospects, unlike Gargamel, are always trying to hide their real feelings

They may agree with you on the surface but they could be thinking the exact opposite underneath. It’s not that they are trying to be deceptive, some are just to shy to share how they feel. Others are trained to hide their real intent in negotiations.

Unfortunately, not knowing how a prospect really feels can be very frustrating to a sales person at a hotel.  How many times have we given a site tour, or talked to a person on a phone where it seems like the prospect is saying all the right things but then the all of a sudden, they back out. All too often.

So wouldn’t it be great if we knew some of the telltale signs that would clue us into what is going on in our prospects mind?

This is where understanding body language comes in

Body language is a form of nonverbal communication that clues us in on whether a prospect really means what they say. By developing our awareness of the signs and signals that people give off, we can better understand what is really in our prospects mind.

For example, if you are sitting across from a meeting planner and they are saying yes to everything but they aren’t smiling or even nodding, that is a sign that they are not really sold. Whatever it is that you are selling to them, it is not working.

And knowing this, you can adjust your approach or even just ask them a simple question like “Hey, I get the sense that you are not really sold on this. Can you tell me what your objections are”.

It’s an honest and direct approach and many of your prospects will thank you for

It gives them the opening to say how they really feel. Using body language to get a better understanding of what goes through a prospects mind is not something new. Top salespeople, consciously or subconsciously have used it forever. They know that it is the easiest and most effective way to get inside the buyers mind. Its how they can better communicate with their prospects. Its how they listen with their ears and their eyes.

And there is research to back this up too

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 55% of all communications is through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). Based on these statistics, it’s apparent that body language can serve as a wonderful predictor of what out prospect really thinks about something.

And by being aware of the signals a buyer gives off with their body language, we can become aware of the signals we give off to the buyer too. Being able to ‘read’ body language helps us:

  • Spot when a planner is being deceitful, or bored, or stalling
  • Realize if the person is feeling pressure from you
  • Understand how people really feel about something
  • And understand how a prospect may be perceiving our own non-verbal signals

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the more prevalent gestures so we can learn to spot important signals and what they could mean. By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll have a much greater understanding of the meanings behind even the most insignificant of gestures.

Lying or stressed

  • Eyes looking right and up
  • Tight lipped smile or biting lip
  • Scratching or touching nose while speaking
  • Arms crossed, or lots of fidgeting with things
  • Interwoven clenched fingers


  • Eyes looking left and up
  • Palm up or open
  • Chin up


  • Focused eyes when you are speaking to them is a great sign
  • Hands across lap or on knees
  • Head nodding
  • Head tilted to one side
  • Fingertips and thumbs touching each other on opposite hands
  • Pinching nose while listening
  • Hand stroking chin
  • Hands on hip while standing
  • Uncrossed legs


  • If the prospect is not making a lot of eye contact, it’s a sign of disinterest
  • Hands in pockets
  • Playing with cell phone or PDA
  • Yawning
  • Examining hair, teeth, or nails
  • Fidgeting
  • Blank expression
  • Forced smile that doesn’t reach the eyes, occurs too long after the last remark, or lasts too long
  • Frowning
  • Compressing lips
  • Clenched fist
  • Crossed legs


  • Fidgety hands
  • Foot tapping
  • Head tilted down
  • Crossed arms


  • Arms crossed
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Shrugging eyes or eye roll
  • Smiling with the bottom lip jutting out
  • Pursed lips
  • Head shaking side to side
  • Hand clasping wrist

While the above signals can certainly lead you in the right direction, remember not to use just one or two signals.

Doing so will lead you to the wrong conclusion

Much like looking at a cluster of stars to get a better understanding of what you are looking at, you have to look at these signals in clusters. So don’t assume things are going poorly or great based on just one signal. Wait for them to confirm with multiple other signals. Doing so will give you a more accurate read. And remember that this more an art than science.

And as it is with any art, it can be abstract

You may not always be able to interpret a buyers intentions. They may be able to hide their feelings better or they may understand their own body language and are willingly not showing you their true feelings. It is not going to be perfect, but it is something you can expect to get better at.

Just be sure to start with one

If you try to understand and spot all the signals above today, you’ll fail miserably. So just pick one of the signals and see if you can “see” it. Once you are able to consciously spot something like deceit, then add another to the repertoire. Much like riding a bike, it takes time and practice. You won’t ride the bide the first time you try it, but if you practice, it will happen.

In summary studying body language helps you understand your prospect better. It helps you get a better sense of whether the buyer is bored, being deceptive, interested or even stalling. By knowing and understanding these signals we can turn what would have been lost business into booked business.

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