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Perfecting the Pitch: How to Read Your Potential Client’s Body Language

Have you ever started a pitch meeting only to look at several poker faces wondering whether or not they’re going to give your project the green light?

Wonder no more. After speaking with Karen Siff Exkorn, founder of SpeakOn.org and one of the nation’s top corporate trainers and keynote speakers for Fortune 500 companies, we’re confident about perfecting the pitch meeting courtesy of her pointers.

1. Body language. For starters, look at the people you’re pitching. Is their body language open or closed? The author of the parody, Fifty Two Shades of Blue-ish, says, “Look for little things. Are they leaning into you? Are their heads tilted? That means they’re listening. Are they nodding?” There are verbal cues as well such as saying, “Uh huh.”

As for you, when you’re pitching, your body language should be in neutral mode, preferrably with both feet flat on the ground if you’re sitting.

If someone you’re pitching to has his or her arms crossed, they’re not open to your ideas. As for a suggestion, Exkorn recommends mirroring them and folding your arms as well only to subtly separate them to open up your body language in anticipation they’ll subsequently open up their own. Essentially, when it comes to mirroring if your audience is reflecting your body language, it’s a sure sign they’re in agreement with you.

And if they’re texting or online and clearly disengaged with your presentation, switch gears and lower your volume “so they are forced to lean in.”

2. Eye contact. This sounds basic but you’d be surprised how many people forget to gauge this one. Is your audience looking at you or past you or are they simply gazing? If it’s the latter, they’re likely not engaged and not interested.

As for what you can do, make eye contact with every single person in the room. “You want everyone to feel special and a part of what you’re saying.”

Exkorn adds, “Look at all the people during the pitch but you want to identify the power player.” That is, who is the decision maker who will ultimately choose to hire you?

3. Likeability. In addition to knowing your audience ahead of time and preparing for the pitch so you speak from the heart instead of from a Powerpoint deck, she explains, “Get people to fall in love with you. As much as your product is important, you have to establish rapport and credibility up front.”

Pointers aside, even with a presentation that’s off the chart, what if you completely bomb?

Ask questions, says the expert. “In the moment you do need to regroup,” she points out. “Say, ‘I feel like I’m losing you. What do you want from my services? Let me help you find a solution to this problem.’”

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