Why is it that two people can offer the same terms, product, or service; and one can walk away with the deal while the other is left empty handed? The answer is what negotiators call “posture.” The way you present yourself can have powerful effects on your perceived credibility, trustworthiness, and authority.

Remember back to the playground, when kids used to pick teams. Who was more likely to get picked: the kid who stood tall, with a confident smile, and an indifference to which team he was chosen for; or the kid who was turned away from the crowd, half hunched over, desperate to be on the “cool” team?

Posture in The Business World

Now that we’re grown up, posture is a much more complex concept than it was on the playground. Instead of being about how you stand or the look on your face, now it has to do with how you carry yourself socially, emotionally, and physically.

Whether or not you close a deal has a lot to do with the subtle messages you send out about yourself in a negotiation. Are you conveying a sense of authority in your field? Are you creating urgency? Are you creating an environment in which clients are competing for your services instead of you competing for client’s business?

Posture is what gives experience negotiators a huge advantage over inexperienced ones. It’s a quality that can be learned over time, but takes patience to master. What constitutes posture is often subtle, and requires your attention to notice.

The Mower Store

Imagine a lawn mower store with a sales force of two: one who’s older and more experienced, and another who’s green, but excited to learn. Two customers walk in the door and are approached by each of our salespersons simultaneously.

As if in a parallel universe, both customers ask the exact same questions about the same mower, and both salespersons give the exact same answers. The only difference is how they say it.

The younger salesperson is so excited to see a customer, you can hear it in his voice. His eyes are bright and his enthusiasm is giving away the fact that he hasn’t had a sale all week. He follows around the customer like a puppy dog and caters to his every move.

The more experienced salesperson holds herself high, with confidence. Her professionalism conveys the fact that she doesn’t need this sale; she’s had plenty already. She politely smiles, is hospitable, and makes an effort to find answers for the customer; but doesn’t over-accommodate.

At the same time, both customers raise the same objection about the mower and insult our sales team’s intelligence. The green salesperson apologetically gives his rebuttal, scrambling to recover; while our seasoned veteran gives the same answer, but does so with confidence and turns away as if she would rather give up the sale than be insulted.

Posture Vs. Attitude

Having posture is different than having “an attitude.” Posture conveys a sense of sureness in one’s self, and definiteness of purpose. It’s neither “soft” nor “hard”; it’s somewhere in between.

Don’t Apologize

A person with posture confidently states her position, without apology. Excessive apology conveys a sense of incompetence. When talking about an objection, or a weak position that you might hold; communicate “this is the way it is, take it or leave it.”

Be Passionate

Passion, when combined with confidence, is extremely powerful. Not only do you know what you’re doing, you’re excited to do it. Communicate a sense of: “This train is going places and it can’t stay here for long. I know where I’m going, hop on board!”

Ask Questions

As long as you’re the one asking questions, you control the conversation. People love to talk about themselves, so let them.

Don’t Engage in Mudslinging

A person with posture doesn’t lower themselves into the mud. An ignorant personal attack doesn’t warrant a response.

The internet is flooded with people who hide behind their computers and sling mud at each other. It’s easy to let you emotions take over and engage, but it’s much more powerful to ignore. Engaging with mudslingers lowers yourself to their level and strips you of credibility.

Build Posture

Posture is one of those hard-to-describe qualities that give some people what it takes to be successful. It can be developed through attention to detail and hard work. Pay attention to how you are posturing yourself and you’ll start to close more deals.