Non-verbal communication skills for selling

When selling to customers, your non-verbal communication skills – such as active listening and interpreting non-verbal cues – are just as important as what you say. Developing these skills will help you understand what your customers want, so you can offer them the most suitable products and services.

Listening skills

Listening to your customer to discover their needs helps you suggest appropriate products or services to meet those needs.

Active listening is the process of confirming what you think your customer has said, and meant, by observing their verbal and non-verbal cues. To be a good active listener you should:

  • focus your full attention on your customer
  • briefly summarise your understanding of what your customer has said
  • take notes if necessary
  • use appropriate non-verbal cues such as nodding your head, inclining your body forward and maintaining eye contact
  • note your customer's non-verbal cues – are they eager, reluctant, impatient?
  • use appropriate, well-timed probing questions and summary confirmation questions.

Understanding non-verbal cues

Interpreting your customer's non-verbal signals and behaviours allows you to read their attitude and better understand their needs. Projecting the right non-verbal cues yourself can help your customer feel at ease. Here are some positive and negative examples of non-verbal cues:

Facial expressions

  • bad – wrinkling the nose, furrowing the brow or rolling the eyes
  • good – smiling, raised eyebrows, relaxed mouth

Eye contact

  • bad – avoiding your customer or looking outside your sales space
  • good – looking back to your customer's face and at your products


  • bad – closed, firm or expressionless mouth
  • good – smiling or relaxed mouth


  • bad – hands folded to the chest or near the face
  • good – hands moving freely, relaxed, touching the product


  • bad – closed arms, dismissive hand gestures
  • good – open arms, nodding the head


  • bad – slouching, shoulders turned away
  • good – standing upright, inclining the body forward


  • bad – moving too close, facing away
  • good – observing personal space accommodating cultural differences.

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