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  • Brett Zalaski

3 Tips To Decoding Your #SportsBiz Sales Manager

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Lisa Mitchell, among a lot of other things (seriously, check out her's awesome), is a body language expert (she's a Certified Forensic Interviewer!). She has trained hundreds of executives and absolutely captivated the sales reps and managers at the ALSD Conference this past year. Her insights can absolutely be used on potential clients, but I've had a ton of reps write in about their relationships with their managers...and it made way too much sense when Lisa pitched this article idea. Please check out more of her information below!

Ask anybody what their top 3 superpowers would be if they could have any superpower in the world, and chances are that “being able to read people’s minds” would make the list. Not knowing what other people are thinking, especially what they think about you, causes more anxiety and frustration than almost anything else for most people.

This is especially true for sales professionals when trying to figure out what your manager thinks about you on a daily basis.

Mind reading, like flying or being invisible, isn’t a feature that’s available to humans...yet. Luckily, non verbal science has given us some really helpful hacks that we can use to help decode what other people think about us by understanding what their body language and non verbal cues are telling us. It’s not mind reading, but, when it’s done well, it’s the next best thing.

As a Communications Expert that specializes in body language training, and a Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI), I’ve honed my ability to read people almost instantly and I want to share 3 tips that can help you decode your sales manager and how they feel about what you’re bringing to them.

But, before I do, I must warn you: once you know/see this powerful information, you can’t un-see tread carefully if you don’t want to know what everyone is always thinking about you!

Decoding Tip #1: Watch The Eyes

When you’re talking to, or in a meeting with, your manager, watch where their eyes are going while you move through the conversation. You never just stare eyeball to eyeball with someone while your talking (unless you’ve declared a staring contest). Your eyes, and theirs, make a natural pattern based on how you feel towards the person and what your intentions are.

For a more formal relationship, or if they are delivering bad news, their eyes will make an eye-eye-forehead pattern when they look at you, bouncing between the eyes and then up the face to the forehead. This is called a Power Gaze. It may indicate that your manager doesn’t feel highly connected to you, is still working to build trust with you, or they may be addressing something of a more serious nature or negative feedback with you.

For conversations with a manager you have a more friendly relationship with, or while sharing positive news, their eyes will make an eye-eye-mouth pattern when they look at you, bouncing between both eyes and then moving down the face to the mouth. This is called a Social Gaze and you would expect to see this from your manager if they feel they have a positive relationship with you, feel at ease with you, or are sharing good news or positive feedback.

Decoding Tip #2: Look For The Lean

When your manager is really engaged with what you’re saying, or wanting to hear more, they most likely will close the space between you both and indicate interest by leaning in towards you. This can be a subtle shift forward or could be more obvious and include putting their arms or hands on the desk or table between you as they move towards you. This is a signal of high engagement and will encourage you to continue or share more.

Conversely, if you’re sharing information, or making a request, and you notice your manager lean back in their chair, push back from the table, or turn their torso away from you, this is an indicator that they are feeling resistance towards your idea or aren’t loving what they are hearing from you. Moving back, or turning away, is a cue of distancing and they are trying to create physical space between them and an idea, a thought they don’t like, or aren’t comfortable with you or the thought.

Additional cues like crossing their arms, blocking their eyes or mouth with their hands, or dropping eye contact are also considered negative non verbal cues and can help you know when you should tread carefully or present stronger support for your ideas.

Decoding Tip #3: Read The Feet

People’s legs and feet are the most honest part of their bodies and can tell you a lot about where they want to be. When engaged in a conversation with your manager, pay attention to where their feet are pointed while you talk. If they are pointing towards you directly, that is a signal that they are engaged with what you’re saying, want to continue the conversation, or aren’t interested in being interrupted or inviting anyone else into the conversation. If their feet are pointed away from you, especially if pointed toward the door/exit, it’s a signal that they are wanting to discontinue the conversation, or may have somewhere else they need to be.

Pro-tip: If you’re in a networking or social situation with your manager or clients, and you notice their feet are pointed towards the food or the bar while you’re talking, tell them you’re enjoying the conversation and ask them if they’d like to continue talking as you head to the bar, or to grab a plate. You’ll look like the most clued in person in the room by meeting their need or desire without them having to express it!

By paying attention to the non verbal cues that your manager is sending, and accurately reading their body language, you’ll have a much more accurate feel on where you stand, where you’re headed, and even what to avoid when interacting with them. A manager that feels that you are clued in to them and what they are feeling will trust you more and will enjoy interacting with you every chance they get. As a sports sales professional, having a favorable relationship with your manager can only help to develop your career and increase your sales success.

To connect with Lisa, please email her at, or connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter!

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