Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Standing Tall for a successful 2011- The power of posture expansiveness

Express enthusiasm, give a good firm handshake, exchange a business card (see the tables below) ask questions and take in pristine copies of literature.

These are just a handful of the most common tips for new salespeople in face to face meetings.

Yet the power of Body language and non verbal communication have important psychological parts to play also.

The specialists tell us that how you hold yourself affects how you view yourself
A salesperson’s posture may also be a deciding factor for whether they land a coveted sale ( or the job) – even when the buyer on the other side of the desk is in a more powerful role.

New research from the Kellogg School of Management at North-western University, USA, reveals that posture plays an important role in determining whether people act as though they are really in charge.

The research finds that
“posture expansiveness,”

or positioning oneself in a way that opens up the body and takes up space, activates a sense of power that produces behavioural changes in a person independent of their actual rank or hierarchical role in an organization.

More importantly, these new findings demonstrate that posture may be more significant to a person’s psychological manifestations of power than their title or rank alone.

In view of the increasing power of buyers this is important for sales professionals to study particularly in interactions such as negotiations and presenting sales offerings.

Professor Adam Galinsky ( scroll down to see Adam Galinsky's feedback to this blog) and Kellogg PhD candidate Li Huang, along with Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Deborah Gruenfeld and Stanford PhD candidate Lucia Guillory, this research is the first to directly compare the effect on behaviour of having a high-power role versus being in a high-power posture.

The paper is titled “Powerful Postures Versus Powerful Roles: Which Is the Proximate Correlate of Thought and Behaviour?” and appears in the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science.

Although not expected by the research team, they consistently found across the three studies that posture mattered more than hierarchical role – it had a strong effect in making a person think and act in a more powerful way.

In a meeting , for example, a salesperson’s posture will not only convey confidence and leadership but the salesperson will actually think and act more powerfully.

“Going into the research we figured role would make a big difference, but shockingly the effect of posture dominated the effect of role in each and every study,” Huang noted as reported on the Psychological Science website article.

When hierarchical role and physical posture diverge, posture seems to be more important in determining how people act and think.”

To test their theory, Adam Galinsky, Huang and co-authors conducted three experiments to explore the effects of body posture versus role on power-related behaviours.

The first two experiments demonstrated that when individuals were placed in high- or low-power roles while adopting expansive (i.e. open) or constricted (i.e. closed) body postures, only posture activated power-related behaviours.

In the expansive posture condition, participants were asked to place one arm on the armrest of a chair and the other arm on the back of a nearby chair; they were also told to cross their legs so the ankle of one leg rested on the thigh of the other leg and stretched beyond the leg of the chair. Conversely, in the constricted posture condition, participants were asked to place their hands under their thighs, drop their shoulders and place their legs together.

During various tasks such as a word completion exercise and a blackjack game, participants with open body postures were thinking about more power-related words and generally took more action than those with closed body postures. Although people in a high-power role reported feeling more powerful than did those in a low-power role, the manipulation of role power had little effect on action.

These findings demonstrate that role and posture independently affect participants’ sense of power, but posture is more responsible for activating power-related behaviours.
In a third experiment, the researchers demonstrated that posture also has a greater effect on action than recalling an experience of being in a high- or low-power role. Participants verbally recorded a time when they were in a high- or low-powered position while adopting either expansive or constricted body postures, and were then asked whether they would take action in three different scenarios.

Participants in the expansive body posture condition took action more often than those with constricted postures, regardless of whether they recalled a time of being in a high- or low-powered role.

When I emailed Professor Galinsky to check whether the research study findings were directly relevant to selling / buying interaction he succinctly replied.

Hi Hugh,

Very relevant!

Our research has clear implications for salespeople, even when they can’t be seen by others.

For example, having call center individuals sit in chairs that put them into an expansive/high-power posture should make them more assertive and confident, better able to see the big picture, will would likely lead to increased sales.

The effects may be even more powerful when one sells face-to-face. Not only will standing with an expansive posture make you feel more powerful but others will see you as powerful and confident.


Thursday 20th January 2011

Click for Association for Psychological Science site

Click for free executive summary of the Buyers Views of salespeople research study

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