How words, body language and expressions can help you win or lose new business


This is a guest post from Arden Clise, etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal and an expert on business etiquette.

My neighbor recently had their fence replaced. As I watched it being built from my office window, I noticed the people they hired to replace it were doing really quality work. The fence looked very sturdy, had great lines and everything lined up perfectly.

One day, as I was walking my dog, I saw someone working on the fence. So, I decided to compliment him on the work. As I approached, I said, “You sure do good work!” He kept his back to me and didn’t respond. I got closer and stated, “The fence looks really nice.” He turned his head, while keeping his back to me, and mumbled, “Thanks.” I was a little surprised by his aloofness. I then said, “I’m a neighbor and I’ve been admiring the work you’re doing, do you have a business card?” He replied, “No, it’s my son’s business,” while he kept his back to me.

I was amazed. Here I was a potential customer and he showed absolutely no interest in me or my business. Everything about his body language, his demeanor, his words said, “Go away.” In my disbelief I stood there a few seconds longer and he finally said, “I don’t have a business card.” I then walked away and thought, wow, he just lost a potential customer and all I was asking for was a business card.

What went wrong here? Let’s start with body language. Whether we know it or not, our body language speaks volumes about who we are and how we feel. In fact, our body language says more about us then our words do. Everything about this man’s body language said, “I’m not interested.” He kept his back to me, he didn’t give me eye contact and his facial expression was serious and unapproachable. If he wanted my business, he should have turned around, smiled and looked me in the eye.

Let’s talk about his words. What could he have said to convey he was interested in me and my business? He should have stopped what he was doing and thanked me for the compliment. He could have asked me where I live in the neighborhood or asked me about my dog. When I asked for a business card he could have said, “Actually, since it’s my son’s business, I don’t have a card, but let me get you one of his cards.” Or better yet, he could have said “It’s my son’s business, let me get him and have you meet him.”

Are you training your staff on how to interact with customers? Do they know how important it is to drop everything for a customer and get them answers? Are they aware of the importance of having open, friendly body language? If not, you may be losing customers.

Don’t build a fence that gets in the way of growing your business.

About Arden
Arden Clise is an etiquette consultant, speaker and business etiquette columnist for the Puget Sound Business Journal. Founder of Clise Etiquette, Arden helps companies increase their profitability and improve their company image by giving employees the skills they need to be confident, courteous and successful.

Arden offers contemporary business etiquette seminars and individual consulting. An engaging speaker, Arden presents at corporations, organizations, professional associations and colleges.

Arden can be reached at or 206-708-1670.