Ensuring that customers have a positive experience in your store is not always an easy task. They must be satisfied with the products they see as well as the service they receive, and the latter part puts pressure on you. You may know all the right things to say and try all the right tactics for convincing a customer to buy a product, but have you thought about what your body language is saying? Many people are unaware that their body language could be giving off a very different vibe than the things they say, and they could be sending out a negative message.

Here are some top factors to watch out for, according to Sharon Saylor, author of What Your Body Says:

Placement of hands. Where should they go? Many people choose the fig leaf position, with their hands over their groin, for a business encounter. However, this position actually sends out the message that a person is timid or afraid. Another typical position for the hands is to be clasped behind a person’s back. This position could either mean, “I hope you like me” or “You should fear me.” Clearly, this is not the message you want to send to potential customers. Hands in the pockets are another no-no. This position exemplifies nervousness or boredom. If the hands are in the pockets but the thumbs are displayed, it could show that the person believes he/she is superior. So, what can we do with our hands? Placing them at your sides, where they naturally fall, is the best option. It may be uncomfortable at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll send out a more positive vibe.

Placement of arms. Many people revert to crossing their arms over their chest when they’re conversing. This body language conveys discomfort or unfriendliness, even if it that is not the case. Crossing your arms is one of the most negative forms of body language, so make a conscious effort not to do it! In addition, when your hands are on your hips and your arms are bent out to the sides, you are conveying power and action. It’s okay to use this position when you are giving orders, but not for a business setting such as selling to a customer. Use it sparingly. The best option is to simply keep your arms down at your sides.

Um, like, you know, uh. We all use these fillers in pauses in our sentences, but sometimes we don’t realize just how much we use them! If you were to record yourself speaking for five minutes and then counted up all of the “likes” and “ums” you used, you would probably be shocked! Instead of using these words, which make you sound less intelligent and credible, try just letting your sentences have a natural pause with no sound. Also, try to be conscious of your breathing while speaking, because the “likes” and “ums” come out when we need to pause because we are out of breath. Try to use shorter sentences, practice what you are going to say beforehand, or learn to be comfortable with silent pauses when you speak. It will greatly help people to take you more seriously!

Eye contact. Because the eyes are the windows to our emotions, they play an important role in the way that others perceive use. Maintain eye contact so that you prove you are sure of what you are saying. Averted eyes convey lying or insecurity. Judge the amount of eye contact you make based on the body language of the person you are speaking to. If they hold a lot of eye contact, do the same. If they break eye contact here and there, you can, too. 

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2011 (online 1/26/11)