Ask Sue


Find Jobs, Post Resumes

Ask Sue 

Choosing Careers 

Job Search Strategies

Interview Tips 

Resume Tool Kit 

Cover Letters 

Sample Resumes 


Home Business  

Human Resources & Management  




Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Nonverbal Communication Help for Salespeople

Dear Sue: I am fairly new to an outside sales position and am looking for information about non-verbal communication. I am interested in learning about office settings. Any other information that can help me to 'read' a situation better would be appreciated. 

- Amy      

Sue Says: During the average 30-minute sales call, a buyer and seller exchange approximately 800 different nonverbal messages, yet most salespeople focus on the verbal part of the sale, according to Jan Hargrave, a body language consultant and author of the book, Strictly Business Body Language.

Salespeople who pay attention to body language typically focus almost exclusively on facial expressions. However, the way words are spoken and the speakers face all provide information about how the sales call is going. The voice and face are only part of the picture. The body is the communication channel over which we have the least control and understand the least, but has the most impact.

Where you sit and how the furniture is arranged can either encourage friendliness and cooperation or confrontation. Hargrave says that sitting across the table from a person during a negotiation creates a defensive, competitive atmosphere and can lead to each party taking a firm stand on his or her point of view. The table becomes a solid barrier between both parties and allows for a distinct division of ideas. Massive desks create a physical barrier, and serve as a visual barrier as well.

If you can't see someone from the chest down, you don't know if the buyer's legs are crossed, if he's tapping his foot or cleaning his nails. Office furniture can be arranged in a way to give a person as much power, status or control over others as they wish. Just sitting behind a desk conveys a sense of power and positioning because all who enter must look across it, which gives the person behind it control. Increased status and power can be achieved with: 

  • Low sofas for visitors to sit on.
  • A wall covered with photos, awards or qualifications that the occupant has received.
  • A slim briefcase; those who do all the work carry large, bulky briefcases.
  • Red folders on a desk marked "Strictly Confidential."
  • An expensive ashtray placed out of reach of the visitor causing him inconvenience when ashing a cigarette. (I do not recommend smoking on a sales call, however.)

If you are in a buyer's office and are free to choose where you sit, it is best to chose a seat beside the buyer's desk rather than one across from it. The height of the chair can raise or lower a person's status; the higher the back of the chair, the greater the power and status of the person sitting in it.

You are wise to take in a person's environment to learn more about that person. If you are having trouble communicating with someone, moving to a new location, changing positions or getting him or her to come out from behind a desk can change the dynamics of the interaction.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
For more Ask Sue articles, click here.

Share This Page




Source of images:

Privacy Statement

The information compiled on this site is Copyright 1999-2016 by Attard Communications, Inc. and by the individual authors.
Career Know-How is a service mark of Attard Communications, Inc.