We commonly think of the brain as being divided into two hemispheres. The left is logical and analytical, while the right is responsible for creativity and feeling. While this general description suits what modern science has identified as the cortex, or “new brain,” there is actually a third dimension we often overlook. The hypothalamus, or “prehistoric brain” is the region of the brain stem, and a hugely important area responsible for our instincts.
Experts have referred to this area as the brain’s guard or gatekeeper. It is distinctly responsible for deciding whether each person we encounter is a friend or an enemy and provides us with the ability for “fight or flight” response. Accordingly, it does not contribute to rationalisation and is responsible for the moments we run purely on instinct.
If an initial interaction with someone stresses that gatekeeper of your brain in any way, that base response will kick in and shut down all other message receptors in your brain. As a result, any further communication is rendered useless.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder we find truth in the old adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Initial perceptions can make or break the opportunity to develop a relationship, and allow for the chance to build the language of trust. That’s the first step in developing rapport, finding success in customer service and building sales.
So if the gatekeeper of your brain doesn’t reason, does that language of trust need to be spoken verbally? Absolutely not! First impressions are delivered based on instinct, and they include signals you give out, often without realising it, within the first few seconds of meeting someone new. This signals are your body language – gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice, respect of personal space, open and relaxed eye contact – as well as just your actual speech and appearance.
Your overall appearance, clothes, smell, posture and enthusiasm are certainly part of it, but it’s so much more than that. It’s imperative that you make a positive impression in these areas initially. Once you’re past this stage, you can begin building rapport with your prospective client.
A renowned university professor at UCLA in America, Albert Mehrabian, has broken down forms of communication into different points, which he refers to as the “Three Vs.” They are:
- Verbal – The actual message and words that you use.
- Vocal – The sound of your voice, including the pitch, projection and speed at which you speak.
- Visual – The body language, gestures, eye movement and facial expressions people see you use, particularly while you’re speaking.
The Thomas Gordon Institute also looked at this development, and further broke it down into the following areas:
- Words = Verbal
- Voice = Vocal
- Face = Visual
- Body = Visual
Each institution also measured how effective the components of communication are and how they contribute to believability; namely, how good they are at conveying that what you’re saying is sincere. They discovered the following:
|Verbal 7%||Words 7%|
|Vocal 38%||Voice 23%|
|Visual 55%||Face 35%|
Using this data, along with sales experience and related research, we can determine the following initial steps are key in delivering outstanding customer service and making sales:
- Approaching and greeting your prospect with a friendly demeanour and open body language.
- Using gentle, and even soothing, voice.
This enables us to get past the brain’s gatekeeper and gives us opportunities for discussion and developing rapport, opening the potential client up to receiving our message. The words themselves aren’t as essential – in fact, simple is best.
Once you’ve mastered the art of the great first impression, you can delve into the discussion – preferably leading into your prospective client sharing their excitement over why they must have your product or service right away!