Do you realise that even when silent, you are still communicating your innermost feelings and true thoughts to clients through your posture, facial expressions and other non-verbal cues?
Marketing isn’t just about attracting clients into your hair or beauty business, it’s about converting them into loyal, high-spending clients. What happens at their appointment, and how they feel as they walk out of your salon door, will largely decide whether they return.
Deliver a better client experience
Mastering the basics of body language will help your team deliver a better, more personal experience and improve loyalty and retention. And as body language expert Allan Pease says, “Anyone can teach themselves consciously to read the signals”.
In this post, I look at how to recognise these body language signals and what they are silently telling to your clients:
- Facial gestures
- Signal you’re interested
- Posture to give you confidence
- Arms and feet can give you away
- Body language for difficult clients
- Remove non-verbal barriers
- Mirroring clients
- Avoid invading personal space
- Bond with touch
Sloppy body language costs you money
Your team, especially the younger members, may assume that because they work in a friendly, vibrant salon atmosphere it’s acceptable to use the same body language they do at home or socially.
But they are not at home. They are at work.
And inappropriate or thoughtless body language can make clients feel uncomfortable, ignored and unimportant.
How we communicate
When communicating with our salon clients every one of us uses a combination of:
- Tone of voice
- Body language and non-verbal signs
And you guessed right – these 3 elements are not of equal importance.
Research reveals some startling facts:
What your body language says about you
Body language is the outward reflection of a person’s inner emotions. No matter how friendly the words, if a therapist or stylist is feeling anxious, bad-tempered or bored their body will send signals which a client may well pick up on.
Women are more perceptive
Research by psychologists at Harvard University showed women are far more alert to body language than men and much more likely to spot the contradiction between someone’s words and their body language.
Given most salons, clinics and spas have a majority of women clients this makes it more important than ever for your team to be aware of the subliminal messages they are constantly sending out.
Start before you even greet your client
Your body language should build rapport with your client from the start, put them at ease and get them to trust you.
To do this your own non-verbal communication needs to be right from the moment they first see you. As you walk into reception to greet your client you want to convey a sense of quiet confidence, not arrogance by any means, but openness and authenticity.
Let’s look at the simple (but not always easy) ways you and your team can do this:
1. Facial gestures
Easier said than done when you’re not having a good day (and we all get those!). But a genuine smile, where both your eyes and mouth are engaged, shows interest in your client and pleasure at seeing them.
Make eye contact:
How many times have you stood at a busy bar and felt invisible – the bar team seem intent on looking at anything other than you?
They are avoiding eye contact with you because it’s a really easy way for them to communicate the message, “I’m too busy to deal with you right now.”
Maintaining good eye contact shows respect and interest in what hair and beauty clients are saying, and it shows you are listening.
This is especially important during the consultation at the start of the appointment when you’re building rapport so your client opens up to you, talks about their beauty concerns and start to trust you.
How much eye contact is best?
Body language experts recommend aiming for around 60 – 75% eye contact during the initial salon consultation. Any less and you signal a lack of interest in your client and their problems. Any more and it feels like you are staring and is a tad disconcerting.
2. Show clients you’re interested in them
As a beauty or hair professional you understand the importance of listening to your client.
But you also need to show your client that you are actively listening to them.
Demonstrate you’re friendly, listening and interested by:
- tilting your head to one side
- leaning towards your client
These positive non-verbal signs reassure your client you’re engaged and attentive, especially during client consultations.
Avoid negative cues such as leaning backwards or keeping your hands in your pocket – both can signal a lack of interest, disrespect and even dislike.
Client Consultation Tip
Encourage someone to continue speaking and open up to you by nodding your head using clusters of three small quick nods.
Research shows that people will talk three to four times more than usual when the listener nods in this manner.
3. Posture which says “I’m an expert”
On a first appointment, or with a difficult client, the last thing you want is for your body language to reveal you’re feeling intimidated or anxious. On the contrary, clients need to see you as an expert and a safe pair of experienced hands.
You give the game away if you slouch, drop your chin and hunch your shoulders forward. Whilst fiddling with your hair, biting your nails or fidgeting with jewellery can come across as tense or nervous.
To disguise these emotions, and appear confident to salon clients, simply:
- stand straight and upright
- keep your head level
- relax your shoulders
- spread your weight evenly on both legs
4. Hands and feet reveal true feelings
A backward flick of the hand looks dismissive when a client suggests or asks something.
While entwined hands or wringing your hands are signs of discomfort, as are hands that:
- fiddle with your hair
- touch your face
- cover your mouth (even slightly)
Your mum probably drilled into you that pointing with a finger or thumb is rude. Instead, adopt open hand gestures with the palms facing up. Having your palms slightly up and outward says open and friendly.
Arms and legs:
Comforting as it can be when faced with an awkward client, don’t cross your arms and legs as it appears defensive and sends ‘closing down’ messages.
Think about this particularly when you are doing the initial client consultation and may be feeling apprehensive.
Do your feet wiggle, waggle and fidget?
You’ve mastered the confident posture, your head is nodding and your hands open, yet there is one giveaway we often overlook when we’re stressed…
…our jiggling feet.
Our feet reveal our true feelings as we curl, stretch and twiddle them disclosing our stress, boredom or apprehension.
So keep those feet still.
5. Body language for those difficult clients
What if a client questions or challenges you during an appointment? Perhaps they don’t like the treatment results, query your qualifications or experience, or the price?
In this situation it’s hard to stay in control of your body language which is desperate to switch into defence mode. But the worst thing you can do is look or sound defensive as this simply validates the client’s complaint.
First, empathise with their concern, and then suggest your solution. While doing this, the most important thing is to ensure your words and your body language are not contradicting each other.
Difficult I know but:
- Use nods and tilted head to show you’re listening.
- Keep your hand gestures open and palms facing upwards.
- Avoid squinting, frowning or pursing your lips.
- Make eye contact without staring.
- Breathe deeply and slowly to show control.
Learn more about dealing with clients’ complaints here.
6. Avoid non-verbal barriers
Avoid placing a physical barrier between you and your client. Holding a hairdryer, mug or product bottle in your hands creates an obstacle in the space between you.
When you have to hold something, keep your hands around waist level.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re likely to cradle the obstacle higher and closer to you, reinforcing the barrier and signalling your discomfort. Take a quick look in the mirror. That hairdryer clutched to your chest looks less relaxed and in control than if you were holding it loosely at waist level.
An easy mistake
I was looking forward to a blow dry in a top-notch London hairdresser’s before Salon International last October.
The stylist, a lovely bubbly girl, having plonked me immediately in the chair proceeded to do the whole consultation standing behind me talking via the mirror.
Not once did we come face-to-face or make proper eye contact, and I had to shout to make myself heard as she remained behind me.
The blow dry was fine. But ‘fine’ isn’t enough if you want to wow your clients. I was left with the impression she didn’t care and the whole experience felt very impersonal. So always pull up a stool and face your client.
7. Mirror your client
“People like people who are like themselves, or who are like they would like to be.”
Research shows that we prefer people who we perceive to be just like ourselves. Mirroring is a technique for building rapport by making yourself more like the other person.
Mirroring needs to be done subtly and discreetly otherwise it becomes mimicking and causes embarrassment or offence. It’s more about matching their level of energy, intensity and engagement rather than movements.
Body language expert Elizabeth Kuhnke explains, “Mirroring and matching others’ actions doesn’t mean repeating them exactly, movement for movement. Rather, you reflect the sense of what they’re communicating.”
As well as their gestures and expressions you can adapt your behaviour to mirror your client’s temperament or energy levels. For example, if they are reserved and quiet try to behave in a similar way and avoid being seen as brash or invasive.
8. Respect personal space
Respecting client’s personal space can be particularly tricky for beauty therapists and aesthetic practitioners as sometimes you just have to get up-close and very personal to carry out the treatment.
When you have to invade their personal space, be particularly conscious of your body language and tell them in advance what you’re going to do so they are prepared.
9. Bond with touch
While you don’t want to invade their personal space, the right touch can instantly create a bond with your client.
Research in the hospitality industry shows:
Being touched increased the tips that customers leave their servers…
Customers who weren’t touched left an average tip of 12%.
Tips increased to 14% from those who were touched on the shoulders.
And to 17% from those touched twice on the hand.
We can be a touch-phobic society so stick to the safe zones of shoulders and arms.
- Leading a client through the salon – gently guide her with a slight touch to the arm.
- As you pop a towel around on her shoulders make her feel taken care of and secure by smoothing it down over her shoulders.
- A handshake, a peck on the cheek (if you know each other well) or the lightest pat on the arm as she leaves reinforces the bond.
It’s not what you say but what you do
So if you’ve ever caught yourself listening to a client with crossed arms, jutting chin and a pursed mouth.
Or sneaking a quick look at your watch or phone during a consultation.
Remember: You are saying rather a lot more than you think.