By Amy Campbell
The topic of body language came up a few weeks ago following the second presidential debate in which Donald Trump appeared to be looming over Hillary Clinton. Social media immediately lit up with memes and jokes about Trump’s body language and even that of people in the audience. I encourage you to Google it if you’re looking for a hearty laugh. Of course, during an election, body language is going to be an ongoing topic of conversation as everyone’s looking for physical clues that either acknowledge their own stance or pick apart the other side. In reality, body language—both positive and negative—can have a lasting effect on even those who aren’t running for the highest office in America.
Whether consciously or not, all of us are cluing in to others’ body language around the clock. As a self-storage operator, you may use the body language a customer is giving you to make an assessment about whether the person will be a good tenant. Sorry, but it’s often true. We all make judgments based on body language. And it’s not just about what other people are projecting, but what we’re putting out there as well.
When a tenant walks in the door, do you put on your “happy face” or grimace? Do you rise from your desk and offer your full attention or peek from behind your computer? Do you offer eye contact or let your peepers wander around the room? Simply put: Does your body language say, “Come on in. I’d like to offer you the best customer service I possibly can”? Or is it more like, “I’m stuck here at work and I have zero desire to talk to you”?
Developing an awareness about this important non-verbal communication will help you better understand others and communicate more effectively. For example, if you’re speaking with a prospect about your property, but he’s more interested in his phone or looking out the window, it’s a surefire clue he’s not interested in what you’re saying. Conversely, if a customer is telling you about her awful day—and this happens a lot—but you’re avoiding eye contact or are otherwise distracted, she’ll be able to tell. And while she likely won’t call you out on it, you certainly didn’t leave the impression that you actually care about her or her problems.
Even though we’re all aware body language plays an important role in communication, it’s not easy to control or decipher. Sure, you can probably tell someone who’s more interested in his phone has likely tuned you out. But what if he’s looking right at you across the desk, but slouching in the chair. Does it mean he’s bored or just tired? How about a tenant with her arms crossed? Maybe the customer is nodding as you speak, but are there one too many nods? Is he really listening or just trying to hurry you up? Even a handshake can offer clues. Is yours firm or half-hearted?
I recently asked members of Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest online community, how they keep their body language positive. I also asked if they clue into their customers’ body language and how they use that knowledge. Not surprising many said maintaining eye contact was critical. Another member suggested he always has a relaxed pose. This can often be difficult to pull off when you’re under pressure. However, exuding a relaxed attitude can put a tenant at ease—particularly one facing a hardship such as a divorce or move.
If you’re clueless about body language—reading or presenting it—it’s worth the time to learn about it. Self-storage is a customer-service, retail-oriented business. Understanding the fundamentals of non-verbal communication can help you better related to your tenants, close more sales and possibly even avoid a potential bad lease.
Are you an expert at reading body language? How has this benefited your facility? Post a comment below or in this Self-Storage Talk thread.