There has always been a discussion regarding whether the overall impression that a salesperson leaves to the buyer, can play part in the customer’s decision to buy or not.  In the past 25-30 years, the concept of sales charisma has gained considerable interest also in the academic field, as significant research has been done about its’ effects on the performance outcomes of salespeople.

The term charisma stems from the Greek word χάρισμα, which means the gift of grace.  If we apply charisma to a sales context, then according to Pauser, Wagner and Ebster is defined as “the articulation of communication messages that enhance a salesperson’s appeal”.  The American scholar, Bernard Bass, found that there is strong correlation between actual sales and the charismatic behaviour of a salesperson, and I think that the same can be verified from our personal experience as buyers, as most probably we have interacted with salespeople that we thought that they were charismatic.

With regards to charisma, it can be displayed both verbally and nonverbally, but according to literature, it tends to be better reflected in non-verbal communication rather than verbal.  Facial expressions, body movement, eye-contact, appearance, and voice characteristics are considered non-verbal behaviours.  For salespeople, researchers suggest that initial impressions persist to such an extent that as Professor of communication Judee Burgoon points out, may set a “template through which all subsequent information is filtered and assimilated”.    

Salespeople that are considered charismatic are much more able to manifest favourable impressions to others during interactions, without even saying a word.    Positivity, credibility, even competency, power, and status, may be signaled to the buyer through nonverbal cues of the salesperson like smiling, nodding, fluency, postural relaxation, articulation, voice tone, and direct eye gaze.  After all, people buy from people they like. 

Revealing the characteristics that could foresee the performance of the salesforce, which could lead to a positive response from the customer, is of particular interest to sales leaders.  The definition of charisma may imply that is innate, but in contemporary conceptualisations, is considered a quality that can be learned through training.  Therefore, it is important to practice these behaviours in sales training sessions through role plays or even video feedback.

On the other hand, as with most of things in life, sales charisma should be handled with care.  Despite the widespread availability of best-selling books and training methods that promise to transform salespeople into sales superstars, mostly based in empirical and anecdotal evidence, in academic research there are several cases that the results concerning charisma and nonverbal communications in sales context were considered modest to say the least. 

In conclusion, as sales leaders, we need to constantly remind ourselves that verbal channels, are equally or more important depending on different sales cases compared to the non-verbal ones.   Nevertheless, we should also have in mind that “what one says” may communicate less than “how one says it”.