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Body Language Expert

Professional Use of Space 


Tonya Reiman

Professional Use of Space and Crowd Behavior Space is relative. The distance from my space to yours is decided by my relation to you. None to 18 inches would signal intimate relations as between life partners, family and very close friends. 18 inches to 4 ft would be personal space, as between acquaintances and most interpersonal exchanges; and 4-12 ft is agreed upon as social space under formal situations. This science of the proximity or amount of space around or between people in interaction is an important branch in the study of body language, and has been given the name Proxemics. Someone has deemed it important enough to warrant a name—a very impressive one at that. Now that can only mean one thing. It belongs right up there with anger management and good teeth as far as a sales professional is concerned.  

Now from a sales point of view this space can be magical in that it can get you what you want; a deal or sale. Most sales talk, especially the one-on-one variety would take place in the rather confining personal space of up to 4 ft. Your ability to manuever in this circle without having your client checking out the nearest exit would be where your ability and reputation as master salesperson rests.  

Now it doesn’t call for a University degree to figure out how not to scare your clients off. First of all, your client is there because they are interested or at least curious about what you're selling. Half your battle is won. The other half rests on your ability to convince them as to how badly they need it to make their lives better, look younger, get richer, or get smarter and other seemingly impossible ambitions that only your product can achieve, and at a very viable, almost ridiculous good price.  

To do this you will need to execute moves around them in order to keep them interested in what you're saying. You would use facial expressions, hand gestures, smiles flashed at just the right brilliance at opportune moments, and even your eye-brows and pupils. All this would fall flat with a resounding thud if not executed at the right distance. Too far and you seem not interested enough in what the client really wants; too close you seem intimidating or even worse, a pervert.  

The boundary that separates personal space from intimate space is hardly discernible, especially to people who believe they are being very avuncular and appreciated, when you can literally see their epiglottis doing it's job. Any salesperson worth their salt would know not to step that close, or would learn this two days into their new job. So where do you draw the line and when do you step outside the line? This totally depends on what you're selling and to whom you're selling to.  

For instance if you are in haute couture, it is absolutely expected of you to not only enter the clients intimate space but also touch, pat, brush the person and sometimes even fluff the hair of the client while helping them into that Armani. Then again there might be that one client who prefers to go it alone, and you're only job is to hold the hanger and stay out of their intimate zone. So this space business may differ from client to client to a considerable degree. Moving into the intimate space may be routine in the area of personal products, health and beauty, or fitness, while it most definitely might seem incongruous if you are selling real estate or encyclopedias.  

The golden rule of space invasion would be that you shall not enter a client's intimate space without permission. So that would mean you may enter when you're signalled to. This won't be a blatant come-hither, so you need to be alert in catching this elusive gesture. When you start off both individuals keep their distance, and the boundaries are well defined. As you warm up, the no-man's land in between shrinks slightly and a degree of commonality is achieved but the boundaries are still preserved. Then, if your spiel has hit the mark and the client is really interested, they may lean forward ever so slightly and then retreat. This is when you mirror the movement to show you understand and sympathize with the client's needs and fears. Now you work on these needs and fears and assuage them, possibly with an extended warranty or by explaining the treacherous small print a bit more clearly. If that worked the client may actually move in your direction and not retreat fully. That's when you move forward, clinch the deal with a handshake and move on to your next prey, oops, client.  

Three is definitely a crowd when you're selling. Try not to think of it as three against one, and that will bring down the odds considerably. After you've talked the talk it is important that you give the group their space. If you continue to haunt their personal space they may feel disinclined to proceed. So retreat ever so gently till they are ready to make eye contact again. Crowd mentality is usually controlled by a leader whom you'll recognize in less than two seconds. While you need to address this person directly, you certainly have to divide your attention among all members and make sure you don't ignore even one person when pitching the sales talk. If even one feels ignored it may work against you when they put their heads together to reach a decision. After all is said and done, the leader may not be the one making the payment; it might be the lady in the droopy stockings who you thought didn’t count, but now walks out with the others following like sheep.

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