Sales has always been a complex art form, balancing the science of strategy with the instinctive understanding of human behavior. This understanding has often relied on observing non-verbal cues – the so-called ‘body language.’ However, as we transition to a digital-first age, traditional human sellers must now adapt to first engagements of buyers coming from a digital sales channel, either through a network or a website.
In fact, according to Forrester, Digital influences 60% of retail sales – reaching $2.7 trillion in 2022. This is expected to grow to 70% and be $3.8 trillion in 2027 at a CAGR of 7.2%. This significant change has created a hybrid of digital and human buyers’ journeys with parallel behavioral events to understand. More recently, in an era marked by 3D, Augmented Reality (AR), and spatial computing, our perception of ‘body language’ needs a significant recalibration. Salespersons who learn this new digital body language are now able to observe more human-like behaviors online thanks to the advances of three-dimensional mediums that are more life-like.
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs
Understanding Traditional Sales and Offline Body Language
In traditional sales scenarios, most interactions are face-to-face, rich with a multitude of non-verbal cues. Salespersons are often trained to interpret these cues to understand a prospect’s thoughts and emotions better.
Open body language, involving uncrossed arms and a slight lean forward, generally signals a buyer’s comfort and interest. Similarly, maintaining eye contact is often perceived as an indication of trust and confidence. Mirroring, the subconscious mimicry of the other person’s gestures, has long been viewed as a sign of rapport and alignment.
Furthermore, the nodding of the head indicates agreement and understanding. Body orientation or the direction a person is facing can be another insightful cue. Lastly, observing how a prospect uses personal space can offer valuable insights into their comfort levels and engagement. This understanding of a buyer’s behavior allows the salesperson to adapt and personalize their interaction to increase the likelihood of a sale – but the observation and reaction are time-consuming on a one-on-one basis.
The Transition to Digital Sales: Personal Computers and Mobile Devices
With the advent of digital technology, sales interactions increasingly moved online, altering the landscape of body language. This transformation required sales, merchandisers and marketing professionals to adapt to ‘digital body language’ – an understanding of prospects’ online behavior.
In the context of personal computers and mobile devices, digital body language involves observing online actions like email open rates, website navigation patterns, the amount of time spent on certain web pages, and click-through rates on digital marketing material.
For instance, if a prospect frequently visits the pricing page or returns to specific product descriptions, it could suggest they are closer to making a buying decision. These digital behaviors can offer critical clues about a prospect’s engagement level and readiness to buy. This approach to analytics has worked adequately, given our early understanding during that period and technology’s limits. However, that immature understanding of the internet medium led to limited sales results.
For a more robust foundation, let’s look back at how these mediums have emerged. Often new mediums become vehicles for old content. This is cyclical – you can see the pattern from theater to movies, radio to TV, and now magazines to the internet.
The internet, as a new medium, became a vehicle for the content of newspapers, magazines, and print-based thinking. Blocks of text and 2D images filled the pages. The emergence of 3D resonates with us – not just because immersive 3D connects so well with buyers, but because 2D feels so deficient and impersonal. With the emergence of greater technology, we now have the ability to interact naturally in the digital world, similarly to the way in the real world. With the emergence of immersive technology, we need a better understanding of digital behavior, past pages, clicks, and cookie data, and the ability to shape experiences based on those behaviors.
Emergence of Immersive Technologies: 3D, AR, and Spatial Computing
The arrival of spatial computing technologies like AR and VR and devices like Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs), such as Apple’s Vision Pro, is revolutionizing the way sales professionals understand and interact with their prospects. These technologies offer a blend of real-world and digital interactions by allowing prospects to navigate and interact within a virtual, yet tangible, 3D space.
Interpreting body language within these spaces involves understanding interactivity patterns – the ways in which prospects engage with the 3D or AR environment. Metrics such as interaction frequency and duration, navigation paths, gaze duration, repetition of actions, and even physiological data such as heart rate can all be measured and analyzed to gain a deeper understanding of a prospect’s interest and engagement.
For instance, if a prospect spends a significant amount of time interacting with a particular product feature in a VR demonstration, it likely indicates a strong interest in that feature. Similarly, if their gaze frequently returns to a specific product aspect, it might suggest they are particularly interested in that aspect. Repeated interactions with certain elements could imply either confusion or heightened curiosity, both of which are valuable insights for sales professionals. Individually, this information empowers a salesperson to tailor their responses. At scale, interactive 3D content can adapt to the preferred angles and configurations most likely to increase sales at each stage in the buyer’s journey.
Conclusion: Towards a More Nuanced Understanding of Sales Observations
The evolution of sales observations from traditional body language to digital body language and now to spatial computing body language reflects the adaptive and innovative nature of sales strategies. With each technological advancement, sales professionals have expanded their observational toolkit, adapting to new contexts and possibilities.
Today, spatial computing offers a new frontier for sales observations, combining the tangible, interactive aspects of a physical sales scenario with the data-rich environment of digital interactions. This fusion allows for a more immersive understanding of a prospect’s behavior, taking into account not just what they say, but how they engage with a product or service within a virtually constructed environment.
Understanding these new forms of digital body language can provide a more nuanced view of a prospect or a segment’s mindset, preferences, and potential objections. Sales professionals can use these insights to tailor their sales approach, creating a more personalized and effective strategy.
For instance, a salesperson might notice that a prospect frequently returns to a specific feature in a VR product demonstration, suggesting a particular interest or perhaps a lack of understanding. The salesperson could then focus on explaining this feature in more detail or demonstrating its value, thereby addressing the prospect’s interest or concern. Merchandisers can adapt site content and the 3D experience itself based on interaction and interest patterns.
Moreover, spatial computing technologies also enable sales professionals to conduct more accurate A/B testing or comparative analysis. By presenting two different product versions or sales approaches in a virtual environment and observing user interactions, salespeople can gain deeper insights into what works best.
In conclusion, the evolution from offline to digital body language, and the advent of spatial computing technologies, have broadened the spectrum of sales observations. The role of sales professionals in the modern world goes beyond mere persuasion. It has transformed into a role of insight-driven guidance powered by the ability to decode the increasingly complex language of customer behavior.
As we move forward, sales professionals will need to continue to adapt and evolve their observational skills and techniques. The rise of spatial computing technologies presents a unique opportunity to deepen our understanding of customer behavior and, ultimately, enhance the effectiveness of sales strategies. This evolution is not just a testament to technological progress but also a reflection of the ever-evolving art of understanding human behavior in the context of sales.
Justin Scott is CEO and Cofounder of Dopple.