What’s In It For Me?

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.



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