Mask Your Face, Not Your Trust

Businessman in a mask

The Face mask has sadly become a standard fashion accessory for our sales teams as showrooms begin to re-open to the public. While the public at large understands that masking is required, there is a part of our brain called the amygdala, and it takes control when our fight or flight mechanisms are triggered. So the questions become how will a masked sales team member be interpreted by the client, and how will it impact sales?

There are about 20 distinct facial expressions a person can make, and your smile accounts for more than half of the way another person translates your intents. Interacting with people without using your smile is the equivalent to using a text message to tell a story; it can be mistaken easily. 

When working with people face-to-face, the mask makes the job much harder during any type of interaction. Think about it for a moment, who wears a mask? We have been conditioned by media to react that a masked person is terrible, thieves wear masks, criminals wear masks. What are they trying to hide?

To the reptilian part of our brain, the masks’ intent has always been to hide the identity of the wearer; this becomes a conflict when the goal of the sales team is to create and foster rapport, trust, and a relationship with a client.

Selling is the conveyance of trust and emotion!

Before I go further, I know some showrooms have adopted using clear face shields like a welder or operating room technician. The guard provides a clear view of the face and is better. But because the hardware is out of place, it is still a distraction to the conversation, and our deep consciousness sees a barrier.

Changing Marketplace, Adapt & Overcome: 

One of the lingering effects of COVID will be about half the population will feel the need to continue to practice “distancing,” and those that venture out will wear a mask, even when all restrictions are lifted. 

So what have showrooms done when faced with new hurdles? They adapt and overcome. One way to have an unencumbered, rapport building client activity is by having virtual consultations and meetings. 

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Having a virtual meeting with customers must be done as early as possible in the sales process. Both you and the client get to see each other without the “mask,” creating a real human to human connection. 

The virtual meeting sets the foundation for the in-person session, and additional virtual follow up meetings. The client can see your face and learn how to associate your eye and upper facial expressions with your smile, so when the masked meeting occurs in the showroom, the level of rapport created virtually is continued. From my experience with virtual meetings since distancing began, I am a big fan of having the camera on!

The other benefit to virtual consultations is that you can create memorable moments with your clients that are scheduled, or if the relationship is rooted, you can be spontaneous. This activity solidifies trust and increases the feeling that is the showroom and associate they want to work with.

The addition of the mask limits emotional understanding. To better convey your meanings, you must understand your physical movements and then amplify, even exaggerate the use of decisive emotional hand and body gestures. Sales managers, this is your coaching opportunity.  

Masked Buying Signals:

Professionally educated sales teams look at the face for buying signal cues. When those cues are hidden behind a mask, the job of selling and closing has become increasingly difficult. Smiling eyes can not be easily understood when a mask covers the face, the easy to detect micro-expressions of the client are lost.

The sales pro compensates for the limitation of the facial covering by slowing down the conversation and then creating better questions that require a client response. Begin to look for other body language indicators that telegraph the client’s feelings. 

When the visible cues from the face are hidden during the sales conversation, sharpening our understanding of the non-verbal cues that will be displayed is a needed skill set. If we can’t detect and express back to the client, the emotions being expressed it reduces the sales encounter from an emotional transfer of energy to a methodical and meaningless transactional process. 

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Some non-verbal cues to be on the lookout for are positive gestures. Nodding the head positively is one, hand movements that reinforce the positive is another. Consistent eye contact is a positive communication sign, and if the client is touching a product casually or with intent, this is an indicator of interest. 

One non-verbal buying signal that has transcended all the changes in the face to face selling interaction is what I call “holding the vault.” Holding the vault means that the client physically takes hold of their wallet or handbag. Once you train yourself to look for this signal, you will begin to notice men firmly grasping their wallet in their pocket or watch a client bring their handbag close in or even cross-arm clasp it against their chest. They are holding on to their cash, so to speak because they are getting ready to part with it.  

Heroes Wear Masks:
A way to set a positive tone with a client while wearing a mask is to make a statement and then ask them a question. 
After your greeting, say to the client, “I kind of like Spider-Man (insert your favorite superhero), and this is your friendly neighborhood showroom. (without a pause) Who is your favorite masked superhero?”
Their answer is important, and so is the humor you convey in making the situation easy going from the beginning.

The masking of our sales teams is a broad and deep subject to tackle, and I hope that this brief article causes you to think. I want to end with this thought on masked salespeople. Be very considerate of the hearing impaired at this time. Many of these fine folks read lips to aid in their understanding of what is being said. Make sure you have a pad and pen ready to help these customers.

As always happy selling!