Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Selling smiles - 9 smiles for salespeople

"There is not a soul who does not have to beg alms of another, either a smile, a handshake, or a fond eye"

So said the politician and historian  Lord Acton 1834 - 1902.

Here are nine ways smiles can be used to our advantage as Salespeople by sending out messages about our 
trustworthiness, attractiveness,  sociability and more !
A smile makes you memorable 

Maybe he is not a Cavalier nor laughing
but he has a memorable smile.
One of the best selling gems of the the Wallace Collection
A friendly face might make you more memorable. Work at Duke University ( 2008) by Roberto Cabeleza and colleagues 'introduced' volunteers to a number of people by showing them a picture and telling them a name.

Using MRI , the researchers found that both learning and recalling the names associated with smiling faces preferentially  activated the orbito frontal cortex , an area of the brain involved in reward processing.

1. The Trustworthy smile

 One signal that suggests we are trustworthy is a smile. Genuine smiles send a message that decision makers and influencers can trust and cooperate with us.

 Salespeople who smile are likely to be rated higher in both generosity and extroversion and when people share with each other they tend to display genuine smiles  (1)(Mehu et al., 2007 ‘Smiles when Sharing’). 

Some economists reckon that smiles have a value. In one study by Scharlemann et al. (2001) The value of a smile game theory with a human face -participants were more likely to trust another person if they were smiling.  This might be relevant to those involved in a negotiation or brokering a deal. This study found that a smile increased people's willingness to trust by about 10%.  (2)

2. Smile for forgiveness - let's face the music

When people do bad things they often smile when they are caught. Is this to their benefit?

According to a study conducted by LaFrance and Hecht (1995), it can be. 

We treat people who've broken the rules with more leniency if they smile afterwards. It doesn't matter whether it's a false smile, a miserable smile or a real felt smile, they all work to make us want to give the transgressor a break.  (3) 
This seems to work because apparently we find people who smile after breaking the rules more trustworthy than those who don't.
Obviously it is better not to do ‘bad things’ in the first place but as they say– to err is human.
Often salespeople can be put in a position of dilemma for example when pressed for guarantees and commitments beyond their control. They might weaken and do the wrong thing like over promise etc.  Then a smile might help when trying to repair the situation.
3.  Recovery from social slip-ups smile ( 'False step' Smile - faux pas)
 Has a client's name slipped your mind say at an exhibition stand or networking gathering?  If you've tripped on a social banana skin , embarrassment can be your go-to emotion.
 The function of embarrassment is to get us out of tight social spots (Keltner and Buswell, 1997). The embarrassed smiles we display involve looking down and sometimes we emit a silly little laugh. This is designed to elicit fellow-feeling from other people so they think less of the slip and forgive us more quickly.  Embarrassment : its distinct form and its appeasement (4) 
So the embarrassed smile helps us get out of jail free(ish).
4. Summoning up a smile out of politeness
Sometimes we smile both because it's polite and so that we can avoid feeling bad afterwards. Like when someone enthuses about how they saved a small amount of money with a coupon they found down the back of the sofa. It hardly seems to warrant a smile but you muster one anyway because it's polite.
In one study people were asked to remain stony-faced after hearing someone else's good news (LaFrance, 1997). They felt bad afterwards and thought the other person would think worse of them as a result.
So we nod and smile politely because otherwise we'll regret it afterwards.
5. Water off a duck’s back smile

A courier company that smiles !
Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don't feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition interaction of body and mind).
N.B. : smiling at upsetting things may work but it doesn't look good to others. When Ansfield (2007) had participants viewing distressing videos, those who smiled felt better afterwards than those who didn't. But people who smiled at distressing images were judged less likeable by others.  (5)
6. Grinning for insight – wood from the trees smile
When we're nervous our attention tends to narrow. We stop noticing what's going on around the edges of a business situation and only see what's directly in our line of sight or thoughts. This is true in both a literal and a metaphorical sense: when nervous or stressed we're less likely to notice ideas that are at the edge of our consciousness. But to gain insight into a business problem, it's often precisely these peripheral ideas we need.
Signal a smile.
Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think more broadly. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees. Smile to see the forest ;Facially expressed positive emotions broaden cognition (6) 
So a smile really can help give us a burst of insight.
7. Hide what you really think
Psychologists used to think that a genuine smile never lies. Fake smiles involve only the mouth, while real smiles—called Duchenne smiles by psychologists—reach up to the eyes. Recent research, though, suggests that 80% of people can fake the crinkly eyes central to a Duchenne smile (see Duchenne: Key to a Genuine Smile?).
So smiles can be used to hide what we really think, but it's still not easy to fake a real smile because they have to be timed correctly. A key to a trustworthy smile is that it has a slow onset, i.e. it takes about half a second to spread across the face. One piece of research has found that in comparison to a fast onset smile (about a tenth of a second to spread), slow onset smiles are judged more trustworthy and authentic .
8.  The money smile
Power of the smile:Argos use a smiling arc in the logo
Earlier we saw in 1. above that economists have calculated the value of a smile, but can a smile make us real cash? Apparently the broad smile of a waitress can: Tidd and Lockard (1978) found smiling waitresses made more in tips (there's no study on waiters).  Monetary significance of the affiliative smile:  (7) A case for reciprocal altruism 
More generally people in service industries, like flight attendants or those in entertainment and hospitality are effectively paid to smile at customers. But, watch out, a constant mismatch between felt and displayed emotion—called emotional labour by psychologists—can be exhausting, possibly leading to job burnout.
A smile may make money, but it can also be draining.
9. Smile and (half) the world smiles with you
One of the simple social pleasures of life, which goes almost unnoticed because it's automatic, is when you smile at someone and they smile back.
Power of the smile:Amazon use a smiling whoosh in theirs
As you'll have noticed, though, not everyone does smile back. Hinsz and Tomhave (1991) wanted to see what proportion of people would respond to a smile aimed at them with their own smile. Their results suggest around 50% of people reciprocate. In comparison almost no one responds to a frown with their own frown. Smile and half the world smiles with you, frown and you frown alone. (8)
Smile for longevity
If none of these studies can elicit a smile from you then think on this: people who smile more may live longer.

 A study of pictures taken of baseball players in 1952 suggests those smiling outlived their non-smiling counterparts by seven years (Abel and Kruger, 2010).  (9) Smile intensity in Photographs predicts longevity

Of course with this knowledge about the power of the smile we should heed once more the wisdom of Lord Acton 
"Power tends to corrupt
and absolute power 
corrupts absolutely." :)

Related Links

(1)(Mehu et al., 2007 ‘Smiles when Sharing’).


 (3) Why smiles generate leniency

(4)  Embarrassment : its distinct form and its appeasement (

(5)  Smiling when distressed When a frown is a smile turned upside down

(6) Facially expressed positive emotions broaden cognition

(7) A case for reciprocal altruism

(8)  Smile and half the world smiles with you, frown and you frown alone ?

(9)  Smile intensity in Photographs predicts longevity

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