A Case for Face-to-Face Marketing
By Barry Siskind
"The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” - Theodore Roosevelt
Think back to the people you feel comfortable with. It could be your spouse, other members of your family, colleagues, business associates, customers, and even the mail carrier. What is it about these people that make you feel comfortable? Where does this comfort come from?
It may have been a common experience you had with a particular person—a movie you both appreciated, mutual friends and acquaintances, or a similar outlook on life. If you have the same experience with the people you do business with, the results can be the same. The people we like to do business with are people we like, respect, and trust – people we feel comfortable with. But where does this comfort come from?
In the 1960s, psychologist Albert Mehrabrian conducted a groundbreaking experiment. He found that people judge other people based on three observable clues: words, the para-verbal, and the nonverbal.
Think about someone you met for the first time. You may have thought to your self, “What an interesting person. I really liked the way he or she answered that question. That is exactly what I would have said.” Or you may have thought, “This person is a real jerk. I never would have said that.” Either reaction would have been based on what the person said—the words—but words are only one part of the equation.
Para-verbal is not what you say but how you say it. It is the tone, pace, tempo, speed, or volume of your voice. We all listen to people and create impressions of them based on how they use their voices. This is the second part of the equation. But there is one more element.
Yes, we do judge a book by its cover. We are all guilty of judging people by how they present themselves. We might say, “There is a successful person—she has that look of confidence in her eyes” or “He’s a loser—look at the way he is dressed.”
What do para-verbal and nonverbal clues have to do with face to face marketing – everything? Mehrabrian discovered that the relative importance of each in the equation is as follows:
Words: 7 percent
Para-verbal: 38 percent
Nonverbal: 55 percent
These numbers tell us that 93 percent of a person’s impressions of another is not directly related to what they say but how they say it; an important lesson for anyone in business. Customers do not just look for the best price; they also need a comfort level with the people they plan to do business with and they can only achieve this goal through a face-to-face marketing experience. Rapport will develop faster and last longer if you show your customer how much their business means to you rather than tell them. Build rapport with actions rather than words.
Rapport during the Ice Breaker
When you greet someone for the first time, it’s difficult to know how this person will react. If the person is timid and you greet them with a loud and boisterous “Hello!” there is a good chance this person will quickly move on. The best way to approach and begin to make someone feel comfortable is in a manner that is most compatible with the way they normally act. Rapport building starts the minute the conversation begins. Listen and watch how this person answers questions. Don’t just listen to the words; also study the para-verbal and nonverbal.
Para-verbal clues will reveal that some people speak loudly and others are soft-spoken, some will talk fast and others slowly, some have lots of inflection in their voice and others are monotone.
Nonverbal clues reveal that some people are demonstrative and others are standoffish, some will stand tall with perfect posture and others will slouch, some will come inside your personal space and others will keep their distance.
While many of the differences may be cultural, they all give strong clues on how you should proceed. By reading the clues properly, you are taking the first important step toward building rapport.
Let’s assume you approached by a potential customer and asked a well thought-out question. Let’s suppose that this person replies in a soft voice as in our previous example. If you normally speak in a loud voice and don’t adjust the volume this person will feel alienated and uncomfortable and a wall of indifference will develop. When you lower your voice to match theirs, the chance of creating comfort is greatly enhanced. There are many clues to look for such as posture, gestures, personal space, personal greetings, speed, pace, and tone of voice, to name a few.
By matching the para-verbal and nonverbal, you two now have something in common. As you proceed, look for additional clues that tell you how to act.
One word of clarification: Even though para-verbal and non-verbal are adjusted to match the person you are with, you never change your level of enthusiasm for your product or service. If a prospect approaches and the person’s body language says he or she is tired and irritable, you adjust your para-verbal and nonverbal to closely reflect theirs, but on the inside you always remain as passionate and enthusiastic as ever.
While e-commerce is growing by leaps and bounds, there are still many situations where customers want to know the people they are going to do business with. The best tool in your marketing arsenal is face-to-face opportunities like special events and trade shows. When you add well honed rapport building skills to your approach, you can expect a definite increase in your results.