How These 7 Non-Verbal Cues Can Make Or Break Your startup
As appeared in Inc42 on March 3, 2017
As a startup or scaling up entrepreneur, you might be busy making your mark in your core business, which can mean that oftentimes you give other aspects a slip. You might be toiling through the night to beat your competition at being the first in product discovery or price performance, but that is not always enough. How many times do you spare the time and mind space to give attention to your nonverbals?
Here are seven different tips on how you should be paying attention to the communication you are sending out, which carries more weight than the words that you speak.
Entrepreneurs have a tendency to run faster than their feet will carry them. This typically means startup online media profiles are not updated or there are way too many entries. Perhaps the profile picture is missing. Or is one that was clicked years back. With the world searchable at the click of a button, I make sure I Google up every person I will be meeting. That includes not just their LinkedIn profile, but all social profiles which they have made public.
This gives me a very accurate idea of the type of person I am about to meet. First impressions of online presence of a business are made or broken within 2-7 seconds of clicking the name of the website. If you have revamped your business as a startup , have you spared efforts to automatically redirect visitors from the old website to the new one? Or as simple as it is, just had new cards printed with the updated website?
Even the fact that your email ID does not link back to your website can break the impression you make on the person you meet.
A potential investor Googles a startup founder’s name and finds an outdated LinkedIn profile with incomplete information. This gives a negative impression of the founder’s professionalism and attention to detail.
I have come across visiting cards of companies or startup with an international presence, which have very different colours from the colours of the company’s logo. The same story goes for stationary, website, office decor, packaging etc. Your brand should, in every way possible, be “smashable” or very evidently identifiable, as described by Martin Lindstorm in his book Brand Sense. The book is a great read if you want to know how you can exploit the perception of all the sense organs to communicate nonverbally about your products or brand.
Example: A multinational company’s visiting cards have a completely different color scheme than its logo and website. This inconsistency in branding creates confusion and dilutes the company’s identity.
Your “Curbside” Appeal
This term, coined by Joe Navarro, includes all those elements of your business office, which leave an impression on your clients who walk into your office. Cleanliness, the amount of light, wall colour, choice of artwork, comfort of the waiting chairs, all these indicate to the client how much you care about the place where you handle your employees and your clients day in and day out.
Example: A client walks into an office and notices that it is untidy, with dim lighting and uncomfortable waiting chairs. This creates a perception that the company doesn’t prioritize creating a pleasant environment for employees and clients.
How You Get Treated
Right from how quickly the receptionist rises or looks up from the phone to greet the client, to the way he is treated while he is waiting for his scheduled meeting, to the manner in which he is escorted to the meeting room, to how he finally leaves the office premises after the meeting – all of these leave an impression on him about your business, and ultimately you.
Example: A potential client arrives at a company’s office and is greeted by a receptionist who doesn’t acknowledge their presence or offer assistance. This gives the impression that the company doesn’t value its clients or provide good customer service.
How much the client needs to traverse through the employees to reach the meeting room would make him realise how much priority you give to him. There are those times when one is expecting to break the ice with the client during the first meeting. Have you then, provided for a space to seat the client without any barriers between the two of you? Perhaps you do have a provision for the same if you operate out of a coworking space. But how many times do you use this strategy?
Example: During a client meeting, the client needs to navigate through a crowded workspace with limited privacy to reach the meeting room. This conveys a lack of consideration for the client’s comfort and may hinder open communication.
When the team is small in a startup, it is essential for all the team members to have their people reading skills updated. The team cannot rely on just one individual who is a “people’s person” to be closing sales. Each team member is as much a representative of your company. What if the sales person is on leave and you need to handle a client? Or you are out on a totally different business agenda and there is potential to make a sale? The ability to be a people’s person typically means that you are able to understand the signals that a client is giving out with his gestures and expressions, and are able to react accordingly.
If you can master this simple skill, it can go a great way in impacting how well you can understand and communicate with others, as demanded by the situation.
Ability To Handle Unpredictable Situations
When things go awry, your presence of mind to react to the unpredictable gets tested. A lot of people have the ability to think on their feet. For others, there is a benefit to learn how you react to situations by being aware of your body signals. This will give you a clue to where you are, as against what you think the behaviour should be.
Example: A salesperson is absent, and another team member who lacks people skills has to handle a client meeting. The team member fails to read the client’s nonverbal cues and misses opportunities to build rapport, leading to a loss of potential sales
And will allow you to adjust to the same within milliseconds of noticing the disparity. This ability would make for an exceptional leader. These are, but a few of the various nonverbal factors which leave an impact on the people you meet every day to discuss business.
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