No doubt if you’ve been in sales for any length of time you’ve been told that it’s important to smile when selling. You should even smile when talking to buyers on the phone, we hear, because your facial expression changes your tone of voice.

But smiling actually has a much deeper impact. It’s not just about seeming agreeable, or showing confidence in your product, or not looking like a grump. As behavioral and psychological research demonstrates, there are good, non-obvious reasons to smile when you’re with buyers.

Smiling at a person triggers psycho-physiological effects in them that are pretty much automatic. There are two of these effects, and they act together to improve your buyer’s state of mind. And when people are in a good state of mind, they’re more willing to listen favorably to you.

The dual benefits of smiling

What are the effects?

  1. Mirroring. Studies show that human beings tend to mirror the behavior they see in others. Thus, when you smile at buyers – even if neither of you has said anything particularly funny – they are moved to reciprocate.
  2. Expression triggering emotion. Psychologists have found that causation between facial expressions and inner emotions runs both ways. It’s not just that a pleasant feeling causes somebody to smile. It’s also that when a person smiles, it tends to create a pleasant feeling in the person.

So when you smile at the buyer, two things happen, both of them good: The buyer mirrors your smile by smiling him- or herself, and that smile alters the buyer’s inner emotional state for the better.

And you want buyers to be in a good emotional state when you present to them. Trying to sell to someone who’s in a bad mood – who’s nervous, upset, irritated, or afraid – is really spitting into the wind. These moods change buyers’ judgments, and even their perceptions.

There’s actually one other aspect to consider: the effect on your own mental state. When you smile or laugh, you feel better too. The smile triggers positive emotions, including optimism and confidence. And optimistic, confident salespeople win more and bigger sales.


See more on the topic in “The Science of Selling,” Chap. 4, Selling to Your Buyers’ Emotions, by David Hoffeld.

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