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Does your body language stop your sales presentation before it starts?


Pharmaceutical Representative

An effective salesperson needs to know how to master the subtle cues of body language before he or she can be successful.

Most everyone knows that the way you dress can influence others. But if your body language isn't professional, you can wear the most expensive business suit and still fail to convey confidence, approachability or, perhaps most importantly, sincerity. As pharmaceutical representatives, you are always looking for new ways to make contact with physicians and other decision makers. What you need to remember is that you can't sell anything until you effectively sell yourself.

People put out visual signals based on their body language. Often we are not even aware of doing so. These signals include posture, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and other factors. An effective salesperson needs to know how to master the subtle cues of body language before he or she can be successful. Visual signals can make you seem less in control and detract from your overall presentation … not to mention the sale.


Salespeople are always giving presentations – whether they realize it or not. Even while you are sitting in the waiting room, chatting with the staff or having a meeting with the doctor, you are always presenting yourself.

Your posture is an important part of the presentation. Your objective is to be comfortable and controlled. You want your audience to see you relaxed. This puts them at ease as well.

If you tend to sway or rock while speaking, spread your feet about six to eight inches apart, parallel to each other with toes pointed straight ahead. Flex your knees and put your weight on the balls of your feet. Standing in this position will stop any swaying or rocking motion and reduce distracting heel movements. You can move around and return to this position, just don't pace. While seated, remember to avoid swiveling in the chair or tapping your feet.

Make sure you are standing up straight and are facing your audience head-on. Keep your posture open with arms relaxed and hanging down at your sides. If your hands are clasped firmly in front of you, your feet are crossed and your body is tight, you are not exuding confidence. Also, don't:

• Put your hands on your hips – you will look too condescending or parental.

• Cross arms – you are not conveying a look that says, "Let's talk."

• Keep your hands crossed in front of you – otherwise known as the "fig leaf" stance, this makes you look weak and timid.

• Keep your hands joined behind your back – this stance (the "parade rest") makes you seem like you have no energy.

• Lean back in a chair, if seated – you look like you're ready to pass judgment or are nonchalant about the discussion.

• Play with things in your hands – it makes you seem nervous or untrustworthy (it can also make handshaking more awkward).

• Put your hands in your pockets – this also makes you seem nervous and can jingle any change or keys that might be there.

The effective salesperson keeps his or her hands open. Hold your chin raised, giving you the aura of being in control.


Gestures, which include hand, arm and head movements, are an important part of your visual picture. They reinforce the words and ideas you are trying to convey. We all know people who "talk with their hands." In some cultures this is the norm.

Two gestures to avoid are:

• Using a pointed finger – this makes you look accusatory.

• Fist raising – this is hostile and threatening.

The most effective gestures are spontaneous. They come from what you are thinking and feeling, and help your listeners relate to you and your message.

When giving a presentation, make sure you vary your gestures. Don't use the same motion over and over again. Audience members will focus on the repeated movement instead of your content. Use your palms and open them out to your audience when gesturing. Move your arm and hand as a single unit, motioning up and down, and always keep your hands and gestures above your waist.

Eye contact

Any career-related manual or book will agree that one of the most important things that someone interviewing for a new job can do is to make eye contact with his or her interviewer.

The same is true of a salesperson giving a presentation. Even if it's one-on-one, don't be afraid to make eye contact. When you make eye contact, you are relating to your audience, which will help you get your message across and seem more credible.

If you make eye contact with someone who quickly looks away, try not to look directly into that person's eyes again. In some cultures, direct eye contact is inappropriate, and some people just feel uncomfortable. If you are giving a presentation to a group of people, eye contact should be made in an irregular and unpredictable "Z" formation – looking at one person for three to five seconds, until you complete a thought, and then moving on to the next person.

As you work to make eye contact, try not to overdo it and stare. By nodding your head occasionally, you will stay better connected with your listener.

Facial expressions

There are different variations on it, but the age-old maxim is true: "The look on your face speaks volumes." Be aware of your facial expressions. If possible, look in a mirror and watch your face each time you are on the phone – do this for one week.

Be aware of any artificial, unfriendly or deadpan expressions you may be making. Do you squint, frown, make strange faces or have a nervous tick? Once you are aware of any expressions you may make, it will be easier to eliminate them. Practice smiling and looking pleasant.

When making facial expressions, don't:

• Arch your eyebrows – this makes you seem surprised or questioning.

• Frown – your moodiness will be the only thing the other person remembers.

• Grimace – your prospect will wonder where it hurts.

Your audience has extremely high expectations for both your knowledge and the time you take from them. Be aware that your body language can cause people to mentally shut the door before you open your mouth. It is equally important, therefore, to practice and polish your posture, eye contact and facial expressions as it is to know your products. PR

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