Interpersonal Skills: How to Use Sales Psychology to Create Longer,
Lasting Sales-Winning Relationships
by Gregory Stebbins
A participant in one of my recent seminars asked me, “Can I rearrange my
client’s office during a sales presentation?”
The sales person had gone to an initial meeting where the chairs in the office
were about eight feet from the customer’s desk. He wanted to know if it was OK
to just pick up one of the chairs and move it next to the desk and start his
How would you have answered this question? Believe it or not, your answer could
have huge implications on this meeting’s success.
Everything in a customer’s office tells you a story about him or her—from the
way the space is arranged to the items that have been collected and displayed.
Archeologists can dig up ancient cities and create a pretty accurate description
of the inhabitants’ lifestyle just from the arrangement of the ruins and pottery
fragments. As sales professionals we must do the same thing with the artifacts
surrounding our customers, so we can communicate better and develop longer
lasting relationships with them.
Here’s how you can promote a desirable impression and create sales-winning
relationships by understanding space and the hidden message in things.
How to Promote a Desirable Impression By Understanding Space
In 1966, when anthropologist Edward T. Hall described set measurable distances
between people as they interact he defined four distances:
• Intimate distance – 6” to 18”, for embracing, touching or whispering
• Personal distance – 1.5 feet to 4 feet, for interactions among good friends
• Social Distance – 5 feet to 12 feet, for interactions among acquaintances
• Public Distance – more than 12 feet, for public speaking
How does this relate to your sales process?
Think about one of your customers. Divide her office into concentric circles,
starting from where she sits. The distance between the circles is about the
width of her desk. Anything close to the person—usually within arm’s reach—is
the most important part of her office. This space generally contains her most
precious, most valuable items. It is filled with clues that reveal to the
trained sales professional a wealth of information about the customer and her
needs and motivations.
As for the office the salesperson asked about rearranging, the chairs were set
at the “social distance,” which the customer was communicating as appropriate
for interactions among acquaintances (or in this case, sales people). For the
sales person to pick up his chair and move into the next circle—personal
distance—would have meant that he was declaring that the two of them were
From the customer’s point of view this may or may not have been true. The
customer could have reacted positively and allowed it. Or she could have reacted
negatively and asked the sales person to leave. In any case, changing to another
distance is likely to cause tension and would not promote a desirable
A better strategy would be to ask permission to move the chair closer to the
desk. Or, he could say that he had difficulty hearing the prospective customer
clearly and then asked permission to move the chair.
How to Create Sales-Wining Relationships by Understanding the Hidden Message
Analyzing your clients or prospects’ rooms will tell you their motivations and
behavioral styles. By paying close attention and analyzing the hidden message in
things, you will know how to best serve your customer.
If his desk is meticulous, it indicates a high degree of close tolerance,
sometimes called analytical. Or his desk could be very messy indicating an
engaging personal or social trait, sometimes called influencing. These are all
clues to guide you in making a presentation that will have the greatest appeal
and impact on your customer.
The books on the bookcase will tell you what is currently or has been important
to him. Trophies, plaques and diplomas all tell you that he is motivated by
recognition. While pictures of tropical isles indicate an idealistic approach to
life and business. All of this information will guide you in presenting your
case so the customer really “grasps” it.
Knowing how to analyze and use keys to the customer’s psyche is what
separates the ordinary sales representatives from the sales professionals.
Here’s the point: By understanding sales psychology and enhancing your
interpersonal skills you will make more sales. I guarantee it—and this is not
just an idle claim. With more than 30 years of in-the-trenches sales experience
and a Doctorate in Psychology, I’ve applied a wealth of knowledge, know how, and
high impact techniques (like those described here) to help over 20,000 sales
professionals improve their sales careers.
So, please take my advice. Take a moment to scope out your prospective
customer’s office. It’s vital to developing longer lasting client relationships.
The information about the person’s motivations and behavior is always available
to you. Are you available to the information?
Sales Psychology Expert Gregory Stebbins has helped over 20,000 sales
professionals become the point of differentiation while their competitors
struggle with how to differentiate their product and service. In his book
PeopleSavvy for Sales Professionals, he unveils for the first time his simple
but groundbreaking plan to win your customers’ trust and business forever. Get
your free sneak preview at