Winning Body Language For Sales Professionals 

By: Mark Bowden



Mark Bowden is an observer. He’s an observer of people and their body language. His key objective is to let us know how, as sales professionals, we can use body language effectively. Bowden is of the opinion that if our non-verbal communication during a sales process is correct, then people will trust us and what we say instantly, and attach these feelings of trust to our company, our product and our brand.

Join us for the next ten minutes to find how we can use our body to communicate and connect with our customer - without saying a word.


Non-verbal communication has an immediate effect. It’s primitive. We don’t look at someone and then later consider the meaning of his body language. We interpret it in the present and, in most cases, with a greater emphasis than any words used.

This all goes back to our primitive reptilian brain which instantly decides whether an unknown body is either friend, foe or can be ignored. Bowden tells us the default category into which we place others is the ignore category, and that unfortunately is where others will place us too. What we need to do is use our body language to she” this impression to ‘friend’ and avoid being seen as the enemy or perhaps even worse – dull!

So how do we do it?

We use the Truth Plane.


Bowden points out that the underlying objective of any type of communication: verbal or otherwise, is to be recognised as non-confrontational, open, available and sympathetic to others.

Whether it’s a client at a presentation, or it’s a customer browsing in a store, they are not looking for someone to put them down. They are looking for someone to help. Someone who appears calm, collected, controlled and friendly. This is Bowden’s Truth Plane.

Imagine that there’s an invisible line (or plane) dividing you in half, horizontally across your navel. By gesturing in this area - the Truth Plane - Bowden assures that we will not only project trustworthy signals but also feel the sensation of level-headedness, balance, and abundant energy.


Bowden tells us that your physical centre of gravity is located just a few fingers’ width below your belly button. This a specific location at which the whole system’s mass behaves as if it were concentrated. That same area is also linked directly with your adrenal glands, which are hormonally responsible for the extreme stress response of ‘fight’ or ‘flight’.

At a more physical level, the Truth Plane is also where our body is most vulnerable… just beneath the rib cage.

Going about our work we consciously avoid exposing this area to threat or attack and therein lies the crucial point: if we draw attention to and expose our weakest point we are clearly indicating we are open and friendly…just like a dog rolling over to get its tummy tickled. Bowden suggests that being able to understand the intentions of other people is an extremely important skill for humans in our social interactions.

For communication to succeed, both the individual sending a message and the individual receiving it must recognise the significance of the sender’s signal. When our hands gesture within the Truth Plane, an energised calm, confident, and balanced effect is felt by both the communicator and the receiver.

He suggests the act of placing hands in the Truth Plane is the single most effective way for a salesperson to fight against natural stress reactions. It sends a clear signal to potential customers that there is no problem and everyone can be confident. It says to the buyer that you do not pose a threat. It creates an environment that invites engagement and dialogue.


Bowden also introduces us to another postural plane. Imagine a door frame. Now, position your centre of gravity so you are standing exactly in the middle of the frame — not behind the door or in front of the door. Now you are balanced in what Bowden calls the Door Plane.

If we move our balance in front of the Door Plane we come across as aggressive and domineering. If we stand behind the Door Plane we will be interpreted as timid and submissive. Somewhere in the centre of the Door Plane lies the starting point to being physically and mentally available for taking our client toward a sale.

It all comes down to interpreting our client’s own frame. If there is a need to be more dynamic than our clients, then we must push ourselves farther in front of the Door Plane.

If we need to dial back dynamism in a relation to buyers, then we bring ourself to neutral or just behind the Door Plane. If we wish to show an equal rank to them, we then consciously mirror their alignment.


Bowden tells us that good body language is effectively all about the customer and what they perceive as their territory. Someone whose territory is being invaded feels that his status is being chipped away, is unable to listen effectively and appreciate a sales presentation.

Equally so, how we treat the space and orient ourselves to others in a room or around a table, is vitally important. The objective is to ensure others feel comfortable about their own status or rank within the territory.

Physical barriers that block us from our clients will also block our ability to use the Truth Plane and getting into the “friend” category. In these circumstances we should consider moving away from furniture into more open space, in order to show our openness.

Also, if we are seated while selling, we should pull our chair back from the desk or table and make sure it is high enough, so we are communicating from our Truth Plane over the top of the table, just like a news anchor.

Bowden tells us that the further we are from our client, the less social, personal, or intimate an effect we are able to have on them. To make a greater impact we must have spatial intimacy with them, and so we should move toward them.

However, we must remember how easy it is to cross important boundaries of spatial acceptability if we get in front of the Door Plane. We run the risk of intimidating customers and lowering their status by moving too close into their territory or by towering over them.


Bowden suggests that shaking hands is one way to instantly overcome the risk of status lowering. He claims the secret of a great handshake is to “give the upper hand”. It is frequently recognised that an effective handshake should always make good full contact - palm-to-palm – and the hands should be angled slightly from the vertical.

It’s easy to see why. Extend your arm as if you were shaking a hand and make sure your wrist is vertically aligned. Slightly uncomfortable isn’t it? Now turn your wrist so it’s at an angle of 10 degrees off the vertical, palm facing down. More comfortable?

Now consider where the other parties hand is. Less comfortable and natural. You have taken the upper hand. Bowden suggests that when we have the “upper hand” in a handshake, we put the other party at a physical disadvantage. We have “one-upped” him, lowered his status, and now he may be fleeing from us or fighting us. But there’s more. If we push our upper hand, along with our colleague’s hand, closer toward his Truth Plane, the person will become more passive.

His unconscious mind knows he has been compromised, and it will wait for further instructions from the higher-status individual (you, in this case). Of course, knowing this technique, we can use the opposite version to boost the other person’s status.

Doing so instantly raises their engagement because of the sheer unconscious pleasure it gives. We’ve conceded for positive effect.


Whether you’re a “tech-geek” selling a product or service to a firm of “suits” or a junior salesperson on a call with your seniors, or a young female presenting to a room of middle-aged males, you are likely to find yourself inside the enemy’s tent.

The challenge here is to ensure you can assume the necessary status to hold your own and to progress the sale. So how can we get a handle on the culture of the tribe from the physical behaviour of that group and work our way in?

Bowden advises that the key is to observe behaviours and show that you accept their status (and rituals) by using open gestures, listening, gently smiling, and gentle nodding of the head. Whilst he suggests that we don’t have to join in with the customers, we must still show recognition.

Bowden recommends we take great care in keeping ourselves solidly in the centre of the Door Plane and in the Truth Plane, while any behaviours that may feel alien to us are being played out. In this way we stand a chance of appearing non-judgmental.

We should also watch for how people physically greet each other and present themselves. Alpha-types assert their presence and tend to stand straight. They project their assumed power. Subordinates will adjust their positions to keep the alpha in front of the Door Plane and in a stable status.

To maintain our own position, we need to observe and mirror the behaviour of the others in the group, as it will help our relationship with the decision makers. We need to be conscious not to overstep the rank at which we are hoping to fit in within the hierarchy.


And now for a few words about dress code: Go for mirror + one! Knowing how to fit in with a tribe by fitting in with the dress code is always a challenge.

Bowden gives us a simple tip: hang out at the edges of the tribe’s territory and see what the members wear. Move your wardrobe further toward the clothes worn by others in their environment.

He suggests a good rule of thumb for a salesperson is to dress within one style notch of the tribe. If you are meeting with a frontline team that wears polo shirts and khakis, put on a jacket to present yourself with just a little more gravitas…but not so much that you look out of place.

Be close enough to the house style to not disrupt people’s cognitive ease in seeing you. If you don’t feel comfortable with wearing what they wear, or you make a mistake and show up too far removed or missing a meaningful detail, then use your body language to show acceptance of their dress and to demonstrate your ease with the situation.