Every time I park in front of a business and raise my mask to enter, I hearken back to every cops and robbers' movie I've ever seen. A few months ago, businesses had signs on their doors that said, "No one with a mask can come in." Now, no one without a mask may come in. How times change!
What does having to wear a mask mean to our sales efforts? It means it is a bit more difficult to communicate clearly with our prospects and clients. What do we need to know? What should we do?
Remember that what we say only amounts to 7% of communication. Only 38% comes from tone and inflection. 55% of communication comes from non-verbal sources. Our bodies can tell different stories than do our words.
Ray Birdwhistell studied non-verbal communication and noted that the average person actually speaks words for a total of about 10 or 11 minutes a day. The average sentence takes only about 2.5 seconds. He also estimated that we can make and recognize around 250,000 facial expressions.
Allan Pease shows that in business encounters, body language accounts for between 60 and 80% of the impact we make around a negotiating table. And, people form their initial opinion about a new person in less than 4 minutes.
Now enter the face mask. Wearing a face mask drastically cuts down on being able to see our facial expressions. No one can see the 250,000 facial expressions. Are we smiling? Are we approachable? Hard to tell behind the mask. Can they see the smile in our eyes? One salesperson told me he thought he was being hindered because "people couldn't see his nice smile."
Wearing a mask also means that our voices are muffled. We must clearly enunciate. We must speak a bit more loudly and more slowly. These things make us more understandable. Our clients wearing masks means it may be more difficult to understand them as well. Make sure we hear them correctly.
While our face is hiding behind a mask, what is the rest of our body doing? Social distancing means standing or sitting farther away from our clients than normal. We don't shake hands anymore. We need to make an extra effort to greet people warmly upon entering. No nervous "ticks" that may become exaggerated in less than normal business situations.
What about virtual meetings? Although we may forgo our masks, we are not in the same room with our clients. They can see our faces, perhaps our upper bodies. What else can they see? What are you wearing? How's your lighting? What's behind you? Although we are used to seeing people working in home settings, are random family members walking through the camera? Are animals barking? Are children interrupting our meetings? Wherever the meeting originates, it's still a business meeting. We need to treat it as such.
It's a new world. It's the same world. New rules for client interaction still boil down to being able to clearly communicate with our clients, to establish good relationships with them, to understand their goals and needs. Don't let the new rules inhibit your ability to do so.