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How to Use Sales Mirroring to Build Stronger Customer Relationships

Mirroring in sales: a rep with a megaphone stands in front of a mirror, someone on the other side mirrors his body position.
Mirroring in sales is ultimately about having organic, authentic communication with your customer. [Skyword]

Curiosity and active listening are key to building a deep understanding of your customer and creating a sense of trust.

It’s not always easy to establish a connection with someone you’ve just met. Even for the most seasoned sales pro, it takes intention and practice to build rapport. You also need to be curious about the people you meet and pay close attention to them. When you listen and pick up on cues, you can create a sense of trust.

If you’re wondering how that works, you’re in the right place. We’ll dive into the basics of sales mirroring and learn how to build trust with customers.

What you’ll learn:

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What is sales mirroring?

Mirroring in sales involves matching or reflecting a customer’s verbal and physical cues to create a sense of connection and build rapport. You use sales mirroring to help a prospective client feel comfortable during a conversation. It sometimes happens naturally but often requires active listening.

How does sales mirroring work?

This technique is based on the science behind the mirroring effect — subconsciously or consciously imitating another person’s actions or speech to put them at ease. You might pick up some of the gestures or words they use or make the same facial expression. Mirroring often happens easily once you’ve already cultivated some customer intimacy, but it’s also possible with new prospects. When done well, mirroring can help you connect with people and land sales by being a receptive and adaptive conversationalist instead of selling like a salesperson.

Mirroring in sales doesn’t require an in-person meeting. Instead, it’s about adapting to the situation and creating emotional context, which you can do face to face, on a video call, or even over the phone on a cold call. Here are some of the key elements:

  • Matching their body language and facial expressions: Body language can reveal a lot about a person’s general demeanor or comfort level in the moment. This is especially important for in-person or face-to-face meetings where you can clearly see and respond to a prospect.
  • Matching their tone or energy level: This is something you can do in-person, over video or phone, or even via email. The goal is to avoid creating a jarring experience for the prospect. Energy levels can signal that a person has had a long or hard day, while tone helps steer you toward a more formal or casual approach.
  • Adjusting what you say to use their lingo or speech patterns: This can also be accomplished across any channel of communication, and can help create a sense of familiarity and camaraderie.

By doing this, you create an emotional context that allows space for the other person to relax and open up. You may find yourself curious or fired up in response to the prospect in return. This is good because it means you’re attuned and engaged. Effective sales mirroring creates a conversation that feels balanced.

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Why mirroring in sales is important

In a sales conversation, it’s vital for the other person to feel understood. You may have a sales quota to hit, but you’re making it more difficult for yourself if the people you’re talking with aren’t comfortable with you. You have to earn their trust via credibility first.

Your communication style, your actions, and your choice of words matter — and the best form of communication is listening.

Sales is a natural progression of someone needing something and your company being able to provide it. Often, we’re just restating a prospect’s statement, but I try to put it in a softer and easier-to-understand proposition for the person I’m speaking with. If you go in with a rehearsed pitch and never go off script, then you aren’t listening to what the other person actually needs (and hopes) to hear from you. Mirroring is applicable at every stage of the sales cycle, from discovery calls to closing appointments, and a valuable tool for having the best conversations possible.

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Sales mirroring techniques and best practices

Here are some common sales-mirroring techniques to try in person, on the phone, or over video call:

  • Read body language before you mirror: Consider whether the other person is sitting in a relaxed and open position or appears closed off so that you know how best to meet them. Do they express themselves with their hands because they’re excited or because they seem nervous? Consider things like eye contact, handshakes, how close a person stands to you, or whether they go in for a hug — these all convey information.
  • Follow their cues: A person’s gestures, posture, facial expressions, bodily movements, and eye contact reveal a lot about how they’re approaching the conversation. Some common ways to mirror body language might include leaning forward if the prospect is leaning in, nodding your head if they are nodding theirs, or taking a sip of coffee or water after they do.
  • Only reflect behavior that supports a positive outcome: The end goal is to have an open conversation because you can’t truly know what the prospect needs or wants unless they feel comfortable telling you. Be ready to adjust. If their body language is closed or you’re on the phone, focus on the language or tone instead.
  • Listen without judgment: You’re in observation mode. Consider that every situation needs to be approached differently and that a person’s background, ethnicity, and gender informs their perspective.
  • Match tone and communication style: Some prospects only have a half hour and want to get right to business. Others are keen to share an anecdote, talk about the weather, or find some common ground before continuing. Stay open to either approach. It may be easy to match someone’s tone if they lead with a boisterous joke, but for someone quieter, consider how you can meet them where they are and draw them out. Sometimes, it’s as simple as asking an open-ended question, such as, “Tell me more about what you’re looking for or why you’re looking for a change.”
  • Validate what you hear: When a prospect shares pain points, it’s often a release for them. Hearing it properly and restating it back to them can give them affirmation and help you connect. If they say they’re not happy with a product or process, you can say, “It sounds to me like you’re frustrated with that” or “I think you’re looking for a different experience where you’ll get better support.”
  • Replicate language and word choices: Using the same language signals to your prospect that you’re listening. For example, if someone tells you they need better customer support, then you’ll want to share how your customer support will meet their needs. However, there’s a fine line between effective mirroring and mimicry. Your job is not to parrot word for word but to hear what they’re saying and address their needs. Some clients may use casual language, like “Thanks, mate,” which gives you permission to be casual in return. Others will stick to formal language, so then it’s better for you to be clear and concise too.
  • Don’t forget to smile: In a balanced conversation, mirroring goes both ways. It’s great to smile when your prospect seems happy. A smile from you also shows them that you’re glad to be talking.
  • Remember that sales is a service, and you’re there to help: While sales mirroring is a technique that may help you make a sale, the primary intention is for you to be more aware of your interactions. It helps you better understand the person and their needs and figure out if your product or service is a way for them to get what they want.

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The one ‘do’ (and several ‘don’ts’) of sales mirroring

In sales conversations, the main key is to just be yourself and listen attentively. If you do only that, mirroring will likely happen naturally.

But it is possible to think too hard about it. If you go in thinking, “If they cross their arms, then I cross my arms too,” it will feel false — and the other person will sense it. Recognize that body language and word choice are powerful. It’s better to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

There are also times you’ll want to pull back or stop mirroring entirely so that the interaction doesn’t steer straight into a misunderstanding. Here are some things not to do:

  • Don’t reflect negativity: If someone has a negative tone or attitude or seems agitated, it’s important not to play into it. Negativity tends to breed more negativity and doesn’t lead to productive outcomes. Instead, spot negativity in action and treat it as an opportunity to move the conversation in the direction you hoped it would go, but without being overly enthusiastic. For example, if the prospect is on a tirade about a recent experience, you shouldn’t join them in the hate fest. Instead, you could redirect by saying you hear them. Then ask a question: “What kind of expectations do you have for fixing that problem?” Empathy can work as a mirror in a moment of negativity, because you are meeting someone where they are.
  • Don’t mirror closed body language: Crossed arms, turning away from you, or avoiding eye contact are signs that the other person feels uncomfortable. Mirroring these actions will convey that you feel the same. Instead, think about how you want that person to feel and model that behavior. In psychology, this is called transference. So if someone’s arms are crossed, it becomes even more important to keep your stance open. In sales or in any type of leadership position, transference is powerful; your confidence and belief in what you’re selling has to be there.
  • Don’t continue if a prospect recognizes your tactic: Some people come to a sales conversation feeling jaded and look for signs that you’re manipulating them. If the mirroring feels forced, refocus on listening. Mirroring the wrong thing (such as crossing your legs when a prospect does so out of comfort) may undermine the conversation.

In these cases, take a step back and consider how you can lead the conversation and serve the other person at the same time. They may be talking with several other salespeople besides you, so consider what a difference it can make to give them time to express themselves. They’re potentially giving you their energy, effort, time, and money, so it’s to your advantage to accommodate them.

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Sales mirroring closes deals

Practice sales mirroring to get the most out of your sales calls and to build more authentic customer relationships. When done the right way, it’s a powerful technique that can help you reach your goals. That’s because mirroring in sales is ultimately about having organic, authentic communication with your customer. Your agenda isn’t a list of tactics, but instead having an intentional conversation with your prospect based on what they feel comfortable sharing with you. That way, you can show up as a trusted advisor, spot opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition.

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