I’ve always enjoyed healthy debate as a route to learning.  Having to defend an opinion or point of view makes a person stronger and plays a huge role in developing a deeper understanding of a topic.  There are few people in my life that have challenged me as frequently as Rick Gonzalez, making him a person that I continually rely on when I need to get past a superficial understanding on just about any topic imaginable.  While serving together in the Combat Hunter Program our conversations often led to new insights or new ways to reach students.  Because he has since gone on to open CrossFit Carlsbad in Carlsbad, CA our conversations now focus more on the challenges of starting and running a small business.  He recently offered up his thoughts on developing the relationships needed to grow your business to stability and success that I wanted to pass on to readers here.

Listen to Their Body Language – Not Your Voice

written by: Rick Gonzalez

For the past 3 years I have spent my time as a Marine teaching other Marines how to proactively identify threats in a combat environment.  Through the use of body language and other environmental cues, Marines would have more data gained from the world around them to make fast and frugal decisions.  When I separated from the Marine Corps, I assumed those skills were not transferable to a world of business.  I was wrong.

As the co-owner of a small gym, with about 40+ members and a handful of trainers it is important to learn how to communicate effectively.  Over the years, and in the past, when asked what it is that I do, I would speak for hours on a single topic.  When someone is passionate about what they do, they will not stop talking about it.  In business, this can be a detriment to time and money.  The people that walk through our doors want the most information in the least amount of time.  Passion can sometimes bite you in the butt.

I learned very early on after being in business to develop an “elevator pitch.”  To discuss what it is we do, and why everyone should do it, within the trip of an elevator.  Many interactions with people occur this way.  How many times have you worn a shirt or a particular article of clothing and someone stopped to comment? How long does that interaction usually last?  A quick quip and two strangers remain anonymous to each other.

As someone who wants to promote themselves or what they do, this is an important aspect of “making the sale.”  If you were to stop here and apply this advice you would make a very good walking billboard.  The problem with billboards is that people are overloaded with them, so they can quickly dismiss the information as just another piece of advertisement.

I apply this same rule to my website.  If my website were just a static page with information, it would be nothing more than a billboard.  What is it missing? Human interaction.

How can we provide information, develop good personal interaction while staying efficient?  In my business, the occasional walk-in will check the place out.  I have less than 5 minutes to describe what we do, before I have to refocus my attention back to the gym.  If I can apply the same rules of reading body language to my interactions with clients, perhaps I can develop a better relationship.  If nothing else, I can guess who will be coming back to sign up and who will not.

Here are a few lessons I have learned:

  1. Learn their names.  I have made the mistake of meeting people without remembering their names.  This can make for awkward future encounters.  Learn their name early, and say it often.  Pay attention to their body language when you say someone’s name.  You can literally see their interest pique.  Their head will turn slightly and they may have a slight lean.  You may even catch a quick smile.
  2. Learn their interests.  Ask what they do, or what they do for fun.  People love talking about themselves.  This is a good thing.  You will notice that when people are speaking about themselves or about things they enjoy doing they usually open up.  Usually when someone walks through our doors they are coming in “closed” and slightly “defensive.”  It’s human nature to be in a more protective posture around people you don’t know.  See if this posture changes when they speak about what they do, or what they enjoy.
  3. Speak to your audience.  Speak in their language, but don’t assume.  Some people want technical jargon, others want emotional stories.  Most people need both.  Don’t assume that just because a young mother with kids walks in, they don’t understand or want the technical jargon.  I have made the mistake of speaking to a young lady very simply, only to find out later she had her PhD. in a medical related field.  When you learn what people do, or their interests, this can help in your interactions.
  4. Smile.  A big smile, a handshake and saying someone’s name makes you look open, and friendly.  Even when you are having a bad day, and are feeling stressed, always make people feel welcomed.  We have had people come into our gym saying, that other gym, they were jerks.  We know the other gym owners in the area, and we can say that probably isn’t the case.  One bad day can change someone’s perspective of your facility.  You need your place to become a 3rd home for these people.

As our facility grows, I will learn more about what it takes to bring people into our community.  As for right now, applying some basic rules of body language has helped develop our ability to interact with potential clients.