Customer Body Language: What to Look for

The Customer´s Eyes

Staring can indicate a need for the customer to control you and the meeting.

Avoiding eye contact means they are uncomfortable with you, or trying to hide something from you.

A sparkle or glint means they are having fun - maybe even getting excited about your solution.

Glassy-eyed. Bored. Ask them a question, quickly!

Looking up and to the side; recalling something, or imagining something - maybe how your solution will make them a hero?

Looking sideways; recalling something they heard.

Casting their eyes down; experiencing an unpleasant emotion.

Shifting eyes; evasive, lying or looking for a way out. Glancing towards the door; they want out. Glancing towards an object in the room, a brochure, sample, etc.: they want to talk about it.

The Customer´s Hands

Drumming their fingers; impatience, "get to the point"

Hands forming a steeple, with fingertips touching; they are evaluating you, your product or your company.

Playing with a pen or pencil, shuffling papers. Concerned, annoyed, confused or wanting to say something. Ask them a question.

Pointing at you, jabbing the desk with their finger. Angry or frustrated. Show some empathy.

One hand holding the other wrist down; on guard, threatened or very cautious.

Touching, picking up or caressing your product; major buying signal! Go for the close.


In addition to the usual facial expressions indicating interest, doubt, confusion, distaste, delight, flirtation, boredom etc., here are a few specifics you may not be noticing;

Lightly rubbing the side of the nose with a finger when talking; lying or at least, not sure of the veracity of what they are telling you.

Stroking the chin; reflecting on what you are saying.


Folded across the chest; in a formal meeting, usually means they are protecting information or feelings.

Informally it can be a sign of relaxation.

One hand on the arm of the chair, elbow crooked and weight leaning on it: they want out.

Hands lightly crossed or open, resting on the desk; interested, trusting.


Leaning back; wanting to distancing themselves from you or your proposal.

Leaning forward; interested.

Bolt upright, stiff; need for control, seeking deference from you.

What do you do when you observe body language?

There are three simple responses that will always work.

1. Stop what you are saying or doing and ASK THEM A QUESTION.

2. Trial close.

3. Offer empathy. "You look like you have a question?" You seem concerned" "You look interested".


John Brennan Ed.D. Dr. Brennan is President of Interpersonal Development, LLC, a training and development firm. Interpersonal Development has provided sales training and coaching to more than 3,000 sales reps from over 100 companies. A native of Australia, Dr. Brennan received his doctorate from the University of Rochester. His dissertation researched the effectiveness of Behavioral Modeling Technology in training people in interpersonal skills. While he has spent most of his career designing...

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