If you follow my blog, you will already know that my great passion is the Argentine Tango. It is like a conversation. It is all about respect, trust, empathy, sensibility, courtesy, sensuousness and passion, as well as the resulting energy in pursuit of a common goal. The dynamic nature of the Tango can be wonderfully applied to sales. In my last blog article I took a closer look at body language, and today I want to turn my attention to the next “mind step”: establishing contact.
It is no coincidence that the sayings “love at first sight”, “a look says more than a thousand words” and “if looks could kill…” exist. You can see the power of a look and the effects it can have: it conveys emotions, captures attention, is the easiest way to show respect, appreciation and love, and most importantly, it builds bridges to other people.
When first making eye contact – when establishing contact – we spontaneously and subconsciously make the following decisions:
- Do I like my opposite number or not (flee or remain)?
- Will this contact be of benefit to me?
- Is my opposite number a potential partner for reproduction?
In the Tango too, contact is established through a look, the ‘cabeceo’. A glance back is sufficient to consent to contact. It all takes place without a word, yet it conveys: “yes, I’ve noticed you” and “yes, I’m open to contact with you”. It’s all quiet and lightning-fast and is intended for the other person alone.
So how does the cabeceo look in sales conversations? Do we give our customer a look and so invite them to engage in dialogue? Do we use the most powerful aspect of body language – eye contact – to ask our customer to dance a pas de deux? After all, by looking at your customer you show interest, attentiveness and a degree of affection. On the other hand, if you fail to establish eye contact or even refuse it, you express the opposite: disinterest, ambivalence and even a lack of respect. For many people the motivation to make purchases in bricks-and-mortar shops lies in the fact that they are shown attention, respect, appreciation and affection there on a personal level. Fulfilling these basic requirements is the only future-proof option for bricks-and-mortar shops.
Unfortunately, a lack of eye contact is the order of the day in many stores. Sales staff are busy with other things and lose sight of the customer. Who hasn’t experienced not even being welcomed, never mind being deemed worthy of a glance?
Initial eye contact is a key success factor in sales and is a unique opportunity for establishing contact with customers that contributes directly to the economic prosperity of a company. After all, the likelihood that customers will buy something is significantly greater if eye contact has been established with them than if they are not paid any attention. Any eye contact leads to the release of the happiness hormone oxytocin – with one glance you can make both your customers and yourself happy.
But eye contact also has to be practised. The duration and intensity of the look determine what type of relationship should arise. This ritual is played out again during every encounter. There are rules governing the duration of a direct look to ensure it is perceived as pleasant and inviting. In our cultural sphere, 2-4 seconds are appropriate. Once the conversation has been established, you should note that the correct ratio of looking towards and away from your opposite number is 80:20.
And don’t forget to smile, as that makes you look more powerful and authentic. After all, smiling makes you seem nice and means you stay in the other person’s memory.
So I would advise: Focus on the person and use the power of the cabeceo. Make sure you look and smile at your customers and so show them respect and attention – for the prosperity of your company.
The American psychotherapist Virginia Satir said: “I believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having from anyone is to be seen by them, heard by them, to be understood and touched by them. The greatest gift I can give is to see, hear, understand and to touch another person. When this is done I feel contact has been made.”