What is Mirroring?

Master the art of mirroring

Salesperson Assists Woman Shopping For TV
Salesperson Assists Woman Shopping For TV. Gety Images - Westend61 - 597070801

Mirroring is a technique in which one person adopts the physical and verbal behaviors of another. If that sounds a little creepy, consider this: It's subtle when it's done properly and it can have subliminal effects. It can be an invaluable rapport-building tool in the sales industry. 

Mirroring In a General Sense

Mirroring tends to happen automatically between people who know each other well. Good friends will often use the same words or phrases and adopt the same gestures, particularly when they're together.

Spouses do it, too, and anyone with a toddler knows that small children are experts at mirroring. Just think of the last time your three-year-old burst out with one of your favorite epithets. This kind of unintentional mirroring happens frequently in families with kids adopting the behavior they see in their parents and older siblings.

Using Mirroring In Sales 

Mirroring can be a powerful tool in sales because it can lead your prospect into subconsciously believing that you're acting like him because you're his friend, or that you'd make a great friend because you're so much like him. Salespeople can use mirroring to quickly build rapport with their prospects.

But it's extremely important to be subtle. Mirroring only works if the prospect doesn't realize what you're doing and that you're doing it on purpose. If a prospect does pick up on what you're doing, he may think you're making fun of him.

This is particularly the case if you zoom in on something that's particularly unique to him, such as the way he speaks certain words. Overt mirroring can be insulting. It can turn you into a caricature of the other person, which is sure to offend him. 

This isn't to say that you can't or shouldn't seize on clues, particularly if you can do so before actually meeting with your prospect face to face.

If you notice an NRA bumper sticker on his car in the parking lot, it's OK to quickly change your screensaver to an NRA logo and adjust your laptop just a little so he can see it when he approaches your desk. Again, subtlety is key. 

Physical Mirroring 

Physical mirroring can be tricky, particularly if you're going to do it clandestinely and successfully. You can mirror a prospect's tone of voice, his rate of speech and his posture, such as leaning forward or sitting up straight. You can mimic his hand gestures and word choice. But avoid mirroring his accent or copying his unusual phrases. He's more likely to notice that and he may feel mocked and that you're not taking him seriously.

The Best Platform 

Mirroring is generally most useful during two-way conversations rather than in meetings or sales presentations that may involve other people. You don't have to throw it out the window in such situations, however. If you notice a prospect using a certain word or phrase during conversation, you might choose to throw it into your presentation for a subtle boost later.