Most people seem to understand the value of non-verbal communication skills, but occasionally I am confronted by a person who has that “what’s in it for me?” attitude. While thinking about that question recently, I happened to recall the day I bought my current car. Michael, the salesman who sold my by Acura, is a great example of even a little bit of attention to body langauge can pay off in a big way.
I put around 50,000 miles per year on my car. Consequently, I go through the darn things a bit faster than most. Four years ago I decided to visit one of those big auto malls to purchase my new vehicle, and I was met at the door by Michael, who handed me his card and asked me what I was looking for.
I told Michael that I wanted something that would be comfortable on the road, have decent power, yet still get fairly decent gas mileage. I also told him that, as I lead a pretty active, outdoor lifestyle, I thought I was interested in a small SUV. “No problem,” he told me, and we went off to try some out.
I remember the first one he showed me. It was a Honda, and from the outside it looked great. But the moment I sat in the driver’s seat, it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t have told you exactly what I didn’t like about it, but it just wasn’t “the one.” We went looking for more, but I had the same experience with the next two.
After the third try, Michael said to me, “we could look at another SUV, but if you’re willing I have something else I’d like you to take a look at.” From there we went to see some Acura sedans. The moment I sat in the car that I eventually bought, I knew it was the one for me. It wasn’t a rational decision, it just ‘felt right.’
When I was signing the papers, I asked Michael why he decided not to show me to another SUV. He said, “Every time you walked up to a SUV you were really animated, but the moment you got behind the wheel you suddenly became very still and quiet. I could see you just didn’t like the feel of it. You had talked yourself into the idea of an SUV, but your heart just wasn’t in it. I guessed that you wanted the feel of something that hugged the road better, and it turned out I was right.”
Michael didn’t read my mind. He didn’t know what I wanted, at least not precisely. Instead, he observed enough to be able to tell what I didn’t want. As it happened, that was all he needed to know. From there it was just a matter of experimenting until I found something that made me happy. The result for him was a nice commission.
It’s not about reading minds. It’s about being sensitive to people’s moods. But if you can do that, it sure looks like reading minds.