Michael Senoff interviews Kevin Hogan
The Complete Body Language Interview
Michael: How about this? How about seating arrangements for man-to-man or man-to-woman and woman-to-woman? Does it matter where people sit?
Kevin: It matters a lot. This is so important. Let’s just talk about probably the most important thing in where to sit first.
If you have a right-handed person that you’re working with as opposed to a lefty, from their vantage point, you want to be off to their right. And the reason is that it activates their left brain more when they’re looking at you.
To be overly simplistic, their left brain is a little more logical, it’s a little more linear, it’s able to be convinced by logic and rational thinking. The right brain is sort of the storehouse of emotional memory, autobiography, feelings, all that kind of stuff. And all that’s great, but you don’t really want to be setting off all those emotional feelings and all that when you’re meeting somebody in a sales presentation because if you do, you’re probably going to set off bad feelings and bad memories. Most people’s most powerful emotions are negative and that is a shame but that’s the way it really is.
So the first thing you do no matter who it is, is you try to be off to their right, if they’re right handed. I’m not even talking about the left. You can go to www.kevinhogan.com and there is all kinds of stuff about this subject there.
The starting point: Imagine yourself in their body. If they are turning their head to the right to look at you, you are in good shape.
Now, let’s go to a few rules of thumb in communicating with men.
If you are a man, you’re probably best to give men a little space. Men seem to be most comfortable when they have 4-6 feet between each other. So if you have a choice between a little table and a big booth, you should choose the big booth.
If you’re at a small table, men are going to be very uncomfortable. Men are very adversarial, and with that in mind, if you can make your presentation on a right angle, if the man is in position A and you’re off to his right at 3:00, that’s ideal. So you’re at a 90 degree angle to him and your justification is so you can show him your portfolio or your PowerPoint presentation or whatever it is you want to show him.
You don’t want to be too close to him but you don’t want to be directly across the chessboard from him either, because men are very confrontational.
Women, on the other hand, women are relationship creatures. They want to be directly across from each other, talking and looking at each other. They tend to have lengthy eye contact; they like to be much closer than men. A woman can be 3-4 feet across from another woman or 3 ½ feet across from another woman. Face-to-face works the best. Interestingly for women they can also be side to side, very close, and successfully you can have a sale made from a presentation side to side.
You can’t do that with men though; it doesn’t work.
And you should know, this is partially contact dependent. If you’re at a sports arena, if you’re at a baseball game and you’re seated next to a guy, you guys can talk business and close the deal, no problem, but otherwise, that’s simply not a good idea.
Women can intentionally sit next to each other and actually transact business like that, almost as easily as they can face to face.
Michael: That’s great stuff. What does it mean to send appropriate body language with your message?
Kevin: There are a lot of mistakes that people make with their body language. Men tend to be body language idiots.
Imagine…If you think back to how men act around other people, they’ll sit on a chair with their stomach facing the back of the chair. Their legs will then be spread as far as they possibly can from each other. So from knee to knee, there’s say 3 ½ feet between their knees.
This kind of body positioning in the presence of women is common but unwise and will generally cost a man the sale.
Michael: You don’t want to do that in a meeting, huh?
Kevin: It’s not a good thing, but I’m telling you I’ve seen this and other things that are equally as futile. I’ve walked into offices where people will do that, but I’ve seen where a person will put their feet up, shoes up on the desk or meeting table, and then they’ll lean back and everybody else will be sitting at the table. Now this person is obviously the power person, but it’s a major faux pas in a business setting because, although there’s nothing wrong with that in a personal setting, it’s not well received in biz.
I love to sit back and lay down, too. People come to my house, and I’ll be laying on my couch, that’s not unusual here. And it could be a faux pas in some instances but I’m not trying to close a sale or to make a sale or to build a business here when friends stop in.
Michael: Your job should be to more mirror them and be like them rather than be different?
Kevin: That’s it. If you have a chance, the most respectful and honorable thing that you can do for another person is to model their body positioning and to make them feel comfortable, to let them know that you’re not a threat; that you don’t look down on them, you respect them, you care about them. And so you literally want to be like them. And the great thing is, if somebody ever says, “hey are you doing that modeling,” (mirroring, synchronization, matching, pacing, leading, whatever you want to call it), on me?”
I always say “yes, absolutely, I want you to feel good. Is it working?”
And then they can either say yes or no and I’ll say what do you want me to do?
Michael: Do you have people really pick up on your modeling and mirroring them?
Michael: Okay, that would be funny. Do people really make snap judgments about people within the first 4 seconds?
Kevin: Yes, in a significant number of instances you literally know who you’re going to marry in the first 4 seconds essentially.
Before a person opens their mouth, you’ve already decided whether you’re going to “buy them” for the most part. When you walked into the office or into the store or the restaurant or wherever you’re at, and the person sees you, the way that you walk, the presence that you have, the “aura” that surrounds you, how you walk, how you carry your body; are you carrying it really comfortably, are you carrying it like a military colonel, are you carrying it like a guy from the ‘hood? If that fits with what the other person likes, then they are really likely to do business with you. And if it doesn’t fit, your chances of overcoming it are very, very, very difficult.
In 1999 I held a speed dating event. I did a couple of these, and I did them here at the Learning Annex in Minneapolis. I remember calling Kirsten there and saying, “I want do a speed dating course.”
I wanted to test to see how fast people know if they like somebody or not. We drew a ton of people.
Speed dating works like this. The woman actually sits down at her table and then she’s going to have 15 dates in the next 60 minutes; 10-15 dates with 10-15 different guys in the next 60 minutes. And so what happens is the guy goes and he sits down and he starts talking with the girl and they decide whether or not they’re going to like each other. They don’t tell each other that yet, but at the end of the date, they have a comment card, similar to a customer comment card from McDonalds and on the back of it, it just says, “do you want this person’s phone number, yes or no?”
And then at the top it says the person’s name. What happens is that men want about 70% of the women’s phone numbers. Women want about 10% of the men’s phone numbers.
And women almost as quickly as men decide whether they would ever want to go out with this person again or not. And most women, when I interviewed them after the class, told me that they didn’t need 4 minutes.
Michael: They didn’t need 4 minutes; they could tell instantly?
Kevin: Within 30 seconds most of them were telling me whether they wanted to go on a date again. And dating is a lot more personal than making a sale.
Michael: Now had you heard of this speed dating?
Kevin: Yes, because there was a Jewish web site that I was reading.
Kevin: I don’t remember, this was 12 years ago and it’s old but it could have been J-date. But anyway I was reading it and I thought this is a cool idea. I’ve always been interested in Judaism. I was doing some research on the Bible and I came across this page.
Michael: It’s a great technique because it could sure save the people out in the dating market a lot of time.
Kevin: And you know, Doctor Knowles down in Arkansas, I had mentioned him earlier; he’s really one of the people who has greatly influenced my work.
He’s done some research on a concept called oscillation that we sort of go back and forth in the course of a minute several times as to whether or not we want to say yes or no to a proposal. And really nothing changes after the first minute that’s going to be different in the 7th minute or the 12th minute or the 16th minute except the probability of making the sale. It can have more variables come into the situation. So what I’m saying is that, all things being equal, you should get the name on the piece of paper like in 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, 4 minutes whatever, fast because variables will start to enter into the equation.
Somebody will walk in the door, the telephone will ring, the door bell will go off, the person will have to go to the bathroom. And generally speaking, as a rule of thumb, interruptions rarely are, “hey John, you just won the lottery.”
You’re seldom happier after an interruption happens, so generally speaking, the first 4 seconds determine whether the person likes you or not. In the first 30 seconds they decide whether they’re going to buy from you or not. And then once they’ve decided to buy, that’s fine, ask, and you will receive. Otherwise you run the risk of going back and forth.
Michael: I’ve got a question for you. You know we’ve got consultants all over the world. I don’t know what they look like but how can physical looks be hurting their chance in their consulting practice? And you can be hard on them and give them some tips on how they can increase their chances by changing any kind of physical look or clothes they wear or anything like that.
Kevin: There are a lot of unfortunate things that happen to us poor guys out there. One is we start to lose our hair. Balding men make fewer sales than men with hair. That’s number one.
Number two is tall men make more money, about $3,000 annually per year for every inch that they are taller than someone else. So a person who’s 6’4″ on average is going to make $12,000 a year more than somebody who’s 6′ tall. The same thing is true with women.
Shorter women, if you’re 5′ even, you’re going to make about $10,000 less than a woman who’s 5’4″. So the first thing you have do is recognize height and it’s always a really smart idea if you’re going to wear shoes, wear a lift that’s going to buy you an extra ½” or an 1″ in your shoes if you’re trying to make a sale. And if you can actually walk on it. That’s number one.
Next is the way that you’re dressed. Generally speaking, people want to see you dressed as well as they are plus one. In other words, I used to sell advertising to a lot of different places like gas stations, so I’d walk into a gas station and I would not wear my tie, I would not wear a coat into a gas station. I’d take my coat and tie off, stick it in the car and I’d walk in with an open shirt. I would look nice but I would not look too many “notches higher” than the owner of the gas station would. Does that make sense? Because what happens when you walk in with a coat and a tie, you look like the church people from down the road trying to get you into their church and people take offense that you would be dressed that much nicer than them. Also the fewer people involved in a meeting, the more you want to be dressed like the people.
If there are a lot of people in a room, say you’ve got 100 people in an audience, if you’ve got to make a presentation, you do have to dress to match the “best dressed person.”
So in other words, if there’s going to be one guy that always wears a suit and tie and everybody else is going to come business casual, you’re still going to wear a suit and tie.
There are so many things people can do for their looks. Pounds per square inch matters on the human body in sales. The more that we weigh, the fewer sales we make. Even if I’m sitting at dinner across from a man and he is 350 pounds. The poor guy is just way overweight, no control over his eating or whatever. Let’s say that the salesperson is 300 pounds, so you have a 300 pound sales person sitting across from a 350 business owner.
The fact of the matter is that the 350 pound business owner looks at the 300 pound salesman and thinks, “gosh he’s fat.”
But wait a second, YOU are 350 pounds. That’s the thought process.
That’s how people think; they think YOU are out of control. Do I really want this person who is out of control, telling me how to run my business? And so the best thing to do is to cut down your weight because it’s the most controllable variable that we have about our appearance.
Another great idea is teeth whitening. And this is one of the things that I do. I use Rembrandt it works well and there are others.
When you think about it just from a psychological point of view, if you’re looking at somebody that has really white teeth, you think that they are on television, they’re a celebrity, that they are people that are meeting a lot of people often, so it just gives you a psychological advantage. Interestingly, I don’t think that there’s been a controlled study done. It would be a pretty tough study to do, but it just makes sense to have white teeth.
Michael: How about colognes and perfumes?
Kevin: Boy, men and women are all terrible at this. I’ve competed with a lot of men over the years for sales and it’s really interesting where a guy would go into the office and 10 minutes later, I’ll walk in and I can still smell his after shave, which means that he is not going to get the sale and I will. So that’s why he left and I still had the appointment.
Women do the same thing. If you walk into Dayton’s or Macy’s, it’s terrible.
Michael: What are some ways a consultant can use their hands in communication that will work for them?
Kevin: Good question. There are a few things that you can do with your hands. There’s something I call the Clinton Box. The Clinton Box is sort of a cute little way to remember what to do with your hands. Bill Clinton, back in the 90’s was known to get in a little bit of trouble with people because of his hands. So you want to always keep your hands above your waist and below your shoulder line.
You don’t ever want to touch anything above your neck while you’re communicating with another person. There’s nothing good that you can touch above your shoulder line that is going to help you get this piece of business; get this person to date you; whatever. They’re not going to do it. You don’t touch your face, you don’t touch your hair, you don’t touch your nose, you don’t touch your ear, you touch nothing.
And then from side to side. The furthest part of your shoulder straight down to the floor is where you don’t want to put your hands outside of.
So in other words, if you were to extend your hands all the way as far as you possibly could in both directions, they would be 6 feet from end to end and you would probably not make the sale. But if you keep your hands in the Clinton Box and you don’t put them outside, you look like you’re in control. You actually know what you’re doing. You appear more competent. And then if you want to create good feelings with your hands, you don’t point your finger at somebody with anything other than a cute, nice smile.
And then if your palms can be face up towards your audience or towards the person you’re talking to, as opposed to face down, you win. Palms face up is almost like what we were talking about in the restaurant with the dimming lights and all that. There’s sort of an unconscious response with people when they see a person’s hands and they’re gently up and comfortable, not like extended and tight and straight out. But just hands that are face up, palms face up; generally it causes a good feeling in other people. It’s a very vulnerable position. People with hands closed, hands in a fist, hands that are touching each other, all that stuff just doesn’t work very well.
There’s more. Your hands should be clean. If you’re working with women, women notice hands and hands for whatever reason, are very, very, very important to women. Probably because they put a lot of time in on their own. And they look at your hands and they judge you based upon what your hands look like, in addition to your face, too of course. I wrote one book, Michael, “Irresistible Attraction”, and I’ll never forget the interviews I did with women. They say, “we spend almost two hours in front of the mirror getting ready for you. Would you guys please spend two minutes in front of the mirror getting ready for us?”
And I thought, gosh, that’s a really good point. And so literally just making sure that you’re presentable. And men tend to overlook this and of course, they just don’t think about it. We’re very task-oriented. We’re not sitting there thinking, oh is my hair in place or do I have anything in my teeth, which is an instant no-sale if you do. All those kinds of things, but anyway, hands are really important.
Michael: What can we tell about people when they shift their seating position towards the door? Or cross our legs towards the door?
Kevin: The point of your toes; where are your toes pointed? That’s what I’m looking at. Not so much my lower body or my legs, but where do my toes point? I know it’s weird. But one of the things that I look at when I evaluate politicians or celebrity photos as to whether they like each other or they don’t like each other, there’s three things. One of them I do is I look at their feet; where are their feet positioned in respect to the other person? Are they angled toward the person or away from the person? And it’s a remarkable predictor of longevity in their relationships.
Michael: Now is this how you can tell if a person’s covering hidden feelings or is that another topic?
Kevin: No, that’s a pretty solid predictor. There are a few things that people will do. People who are with another person for example, will maybe put their arm around somebody if it’s a man and a woman. But they won’t be close to each other. There will be like 3 or 4 inches between their bodies. That’s usually a good thing so people will attempt to see there.
Michael: How can you tell if another person is covering hidden feelings?
Kevin: If you’re just looking from the non-verbal aspect, there are a few things. People don’t like to look at another person when they’re covering hidden feelings because unconsciously we know that the longer that we look at that person, the easier we are to read. And we don’t sit there and think that; it’s just unconscious.
Another thing is that vocal intonation is a lot different. So if you were to ask me, “Kev, is everything okay?” And I say, “Yes everything’s fine.” That might or might not be the real answer. It simply depends on the intonation right?
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