Non-verbal cues: rubbing palms together signals positive expectation

What does your body communicate when your prospect says: “Your price is too high?” Think of your last sales call and try to remember specifics – your body angle, facial expressions, the position of your arms, hands and legs. Most salespeople show negative changes in their body posture when hearing objections.(This is the first in a series of posts about body language.)

When a client sees signals such as crossed arms and legs, head scratching, swaying from side to side, nose rubbing and fingers under the collar, your problems are intensified. The prospect may think: “Ah, now I’ve come to the weak spot!” Even though your verbal reply is flawless, your nonverbal expressions may communicate: “I’m uncomfortable about this,” or “I don’t know if I will be able to convince you to buy from me.”

Salespeople who communicate negative nonverbal signals after hearing the prospect’s objections fail to recognize that 99 percent of all customer objections are preceded by negative body language gestures. It is easy to understand why positive gestures on the part of the salesperson are absolutely necessary the moment he notices a customer’s objections. It is far better to deal with problems early on. As soon as the salesperson notices the first disapproving nonverbal signal, he should respond with open, concerned gestures in efforts to salvage the situation.


Rubbing the palms together is a way in which people non-verbally communicate positive expectation. The dice thrower rubs the dice between his palms as a sign that he expects to win, the master of ceremonies rubs his palms together and says to the audience, “We have long looked forward to hearing our next speaker.” The excited salesperson struts into the sales manager’s office, rubs his palms together and says excitedly, “We’ve just received a huge order, boss!” The waiter who comes to your table at the end of the evening quickly rubbing his palms together and asking, “Anything else, sir?” is non-verbally telling you that he is expecting a tip.

The speed at which a person rubs his palms together signals what he’s thinking and feeling. For example, you want to buy a home and go to see a real estate agent. After describing the property you are seeking, the agent rubs his palms together quickly and says, “I’ve got just the right place for you!” The agent has signaled that he expects the results to be to your benefit.

But how would you feel if he rubbed his palms together very slowly as he told you he had the ideal property? He would then appear to be cunning or devious and would give you the feeling that the expected results would be to his advantage rather than yours. Salespeople are taught that if they use the palm-run gesture when describing products or services to prospective buyers, they should be certain to use a fast hand action to avoid putting the buyer on the defensive.

When the buyer rubs his palms together and says to the salesperson, “Let’s see what you have to offer!” it is a signal that the buyer is expecting to be shown something good and is likely to make a purchase.

A word of warning: a person who is standing at a bus terminal in freezing winter conditions and who rubs his palms together briskly may not necessarily be doing this because he is expecting a bus. He does it because his hands are cold!

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2 thoughts on “Non-verbal cues: rubbing palms together signals positive expectation

  1. Pingback: Body language in sales: hands steepled – a positive or negative gesture | Fast Track Tools by Ken Revenaugh

  2. Pingback: More non-verbal cues to help you succeed in business | Fast Track Tools by Ken Revenaugh

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