Archive for April, 2007

Watch Your Body Language During Client Encounters

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

Body language can say it all.

Recently I helped a group of lawyers from a major international law firm with their client development techniques.  All of the lawyers actively participated in the training, asking questions and volunteering answers–except for one.  This partner sat for several hours with a frown on her face and her arms crossed.  At the end she said, “I’m not good at client development.  Socializing with clients makes me uncomfortable.”  Her discomfort was palpable.

How do you react to client development?  Are you perfectly comfortable speaking to clients, or does your body language betray you?  For example, when speaking to a client, do you:

-move in close or move away

-speak too loudly or too softly

-speak too rapidly or too slowly

-speak in a monotone or over-excitedly

-gesture actively or cross your arms

If you are not sure how you act, ask your significant other or a trusted colleague for feedback.  If they have not seen you in a client development situation, try to have yourself videotaped during a somewhat stressful situation–such as while answering questions during a panel discussion.  Learn from your body language and speaking style under stress. 

Being aware of what you do is the first step towards correcting bad habits. Then, practice rapport building, using techniques like those described in Michael Brooks’s Instant Rapport.

During cross-cultural communication, be sure and watch for inadvertent gaffes.  Study up on a client’s cultural communication norms by reading resources like the Culture Shock series, Roger Axtell’s books like Gestures, and my article on cross cultural client communication.