How to Establish Executive Presence in Negotiations

May 28, 2019

IBA, as the premier business brokerage firm in the Pacific Northwest, is firmly established as a respected professional service firm in the legal, accounting, banking, mergers & acquisitions, real estate, and financial planning communities.  Periodically, we will post guest blogs from professionals with knowledge to share for the good of owners of privately held companies & family owned businesses.  The following blog has been provided by Margo Myers of Margo Myers Communications (

How to Establish Executive Presence in Negotiations

Strong negotiating skills are vital when either selling or buying a business, and your body language can impact how you’re perceived during negotiations. Your body language is linked to a strong executive presence and will determine whether you come across as confident, competent and even likeable. Here’s what to be aware of when going into a negotiation:

How do you ‘show up’?

Be aware of how you enter the room. What does your body language project? If you’re in a leadership role, people pay closer attention to you. They take their cues from you. Make sure you’re standing tall, shoulders back, relaxed arms, and with a smile on your face. That posture projects confidence.

According to Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy, people are initially judged on warmth and competence. Guess which one is more important? It’s warmth! Warmth signals that you are trustworthy, while competence relates to your skills. Before your ideas will be accepted, people must know they can trust you. Project warmth through your smile and open body language. That means no crossed arms or closed fists.

Every conversation is two conversations – the verbal and the non-verbal.

It’s important to know that in every conversation, we’re analyzing both what the other is saying, as well as what their body language is projecting. Body language is more important than the spoken word, according to expert Nick Morgan. For your message to be at its most effective, your body language needs to support your words. For example, if I tell you, “It’s a great deal!” but I’m shaking my head, “no,” you won’t believe me. Body language and words must be aligned.

Powerful people take up more space.

People in authority take up more space than others. They use larger gestures. They spread their arms wider. Powerful people, or those in charge, take up more conversation time, use longer pauses, and control the tempo of the conversation.

One of my favorite things to do at a networking event is to observe groups and identify the person with the most authority. You can usually tell. They let others come to them, and project confidence through how they stand. They’re relaxed and use ‘open’ body language.

Make eye contact, but not ‘too much.’

Making eye contact signifies you are trustworthy, so you want to make sure you look other people in the eye. The optimum amount of eye contact is no more than 60%. More than that can seem downright intimidating or threatening. Look at the ‘inverted triangle’ of the eyes and nose area. Looking at someone’s forehead or ‘over their head’ can seem arrogant, while looking at their mouth can seem too intimate.

If the negotiating partner won’t look you in the eye, it can signal lack of confidence or the fact they’re being less than truthful. You’ll want to pick up other signals of body language to decide which one is true.

Mirroring body language.

People in agreement with each other tend to mirror each other. One leads, and the other usually follows within a matter of seconds. Mirroring, or matching body language such as sitting in a similar position or holding your arms the same way, can build agreement. It’s often more powerful because it’s unconscious. It means you’re both striving to build rapport. Be aware that it can also be used to manipulate a false sense of agreement. If you’re mirroring another person to build agreement, use it in a subtle manner.

The first step is to be aware of your body language during the negotiating process. How are you holding your body? How do others perceive you? Then you can begin to take steps to develop a confident executive presence that’s going to increase your ability to be effective in any communication.

If you have questions relating to the content of this article, Margo Myers, PCC, CHIC and President of Margo Myers Communications, would welcome inquiries. Margo Myers can be reached at (206) 604-4535, or 

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.