How to understand your prospect's communication style

There are many studies and theories on communication styles and behavioral styles, one area that we use is widely known as the VAK learning style; this uses the main sensory receivers, namely:

  • Visual (sight)

  • Auditory (sound)

  • Kinesthetic (touch)

These are called learning styles because studies over many years have indicated that we learn by utilizing one or more of these styles.

For example, if you were a visual learner, pictures, images, graphs, charts, and videos will dramatically increase your learning experience. If you are and auditory learner, then reading text, listening to audio, speaking and being engaged in extensive conversation will dramatically increase your learning experience. If you were a kinesthetic learner, working with your hands, being involved in group activities, using tools and equipment will dramatically increase your learning experience.

Some people may argue that these are preferences rather than styles, we are not in a position to debate this, we are only offering some tools and methods for you to consider that may help to increase your sales conversion rates.

So as well as being a learning style or preference, the characteristics of these people remain the same in how they communicate. This can give us an understanding then of how we can best communicate with them, talk on their terms, and take the conversation to a new level of understanding.

So how do we do this?

This is done by first establishing whether our prospect is;

  • Visual,

  • Auditory; or

  • Kinesthetic

How do we establish if our prospect is visual, auditory, or kinesthetic?

There are a number of ways to establish this, but the quick way is by asking the prospect a question (which they would have to think about for a moment) and then carefully observing the prospect’s eye movement just before they respond to your question. So you ask the prospect a question and in most cases their eye movement will tell you whether they are a visual person, auditory person or a kinaesthetic person.

As we said in most cases this will tell us, however some people are very good at disguising their body language, so you need to be aware of this also. There are other factors that affect people's eye movements, one is of course in the presence of substances (drugs, alcohol etc.), and we are not saying that your prospects are on something, far from it, we are merely saying that these would affect your interpretation of their eye movements. 

Obviously you would need to have eye contact with them in order to establish their eye movements, and of course you must not make it too obvious so that you are staring into your prospects eyes. Good eye contact is important in any business relationships and especially important when you are meeting your prospect, as good eye contact is a sign of confidence and sincerity.

So therefore it's expected certainly from your prospects perspective that you indeed will look them in the eye for most of the time. One area to consider with eye contact is that in some cultures, in Asian cultures particularly, the extended eye contact is considered to be impolite.

So you would need to consider this aspect when dealing with prospects whose culture is not the same as yours. In western culture certainly across Europe, North America and Australia good eye contact is considered an important part of business meetings and presentations.


How to Establish Eye Movements

One of the easiest methods to establish whether our prospect is visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic is to ask them an open question (these begin with the words, why, how, what, when, tell me) which gets them thinking about their response, then carefully watch their eyes!

If they are a visual person (sight), while they are thinking their eyes would be moving upwards, as below;


If they are an auditory person (sound), while they are thinking their eyes would be moving to one side or the other, as below;


If they are a kinaesthetic person (touch), while they are thinking their eyes would be moving downwards, as below;


There are further interpretations on the movement eyes if they move left or right during this process, however, this gets us into a rather more complex area. For the purposes of understanding the prospect’s style of communication we will keep it simple in terms of, upward, horizontal (to either side) and downward eye movements as shown above.

Appealing to the communication style of the prospect

Once we understand our prospects preferred style of communication from their eye movement, this then can open up a wealth of information on how we can best communicate with them. For example;

Visual type prospects: are interested in pictures, images, graphs, charts and videos so in your sales presentation make sure you have plenty of these to keep your prospect interested.

Auditory type prospects: are interested in reading text, listening to audio, speaking and being engaged in extensive conversation so in your sales presentation make sure you do plenty of this to keep your prospect interested. Auditory prospects like hearing, speaking a lot and reading long (sometimes complex) documentation

Kinaesthetic type prospects: are interested in using their hands, picking up and handling products, holding marketing materials (brochures, product sheets, portfolios etc) so in your sales presentation make sure you have plenty of these to keep your prospect interested.

As well as this there are also words that appeal to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic people, these words are called predicates. So in the conversation you might use some of the following words in your sentences with your prospects;

Visual (sight): words like;

See, look, bright, clear, picture, foggy, view, clear, focused, dawn, reveal, illuminate, imagine, hazy, an eyeful, short sighted, sight for sore eyes, take a peek, tunnel vision, bird’s eye view, naked eye, paint a picture.

Auditory (sound): words like;

Hear, tell, sound, resonate, listen, silence, deaf, squeak, hush, roar, melody, make music, harmonize, tune in/out, rings a bell, quiet as a mouse, voiced an opinion, clear as a bell, give me your ear, loud and clear, purrs like a kitten, on another note.

Kinaesthetic (touch): words like;

Grasp, feel, hard, concrete, scrape, solid, touch, get hold of, catch on, tap into, pull some strings, sharp as a tack, smooth operator, make contact, throw out, firm foundation, get a handle on, get in touch with, hand in hand, hang in there.

Apply all this to the S.A.S.C.O. selling approach and you will be a world beater!

So we hope from this you are understanding that by doing just a little bit more research on the above subject this maybe could increase your conversion rate, and ultimately improve your business (and maybe even your life). Practice this to become better at this process, practice on your partner and friends (but don't tell them what you're up to until after they have completed the eye test!).

There is a wealth of information on this subject on YouTube, also search for predicates on Google as there are hundreds of words that you can check out and use. As I said earlier, also with just a little more understanding of body language (watch the video below) this can help you understand and communicate with your prospects that much better.

This may just be the difference between winning more business or walking away empty handed. Try this, once you grasp this process a little bit better it will help you to understand people, and your prospects, on a whole new different level, and it’s fun too!

Check out a guy called Allan Pease who is a world wide authority on Body Language, see him on YouTube and subscribe to his channel. Watch his video below as he adds a lot of humor into his work!

Footnote: The quick eye movement test is only a guide which is good for about 70% of the time. The more questions you ask that gets a person thinking (and you get the same direction of eye movement) the more chance of understanding if they are a V, A, or K person!


John Duffield

I am a Creative Information Marketer first and foremost, providing businesses with tips, ideas and resources to help them grow their business. I create many tools, Apps and digital products which are used by over 1,000 business all over the world. I enjoy creating resources for business that are ultimately used as part of their ongoing metrics.