Communication is more than what you say

Dealing with people who are poor influencers is like eating cereal without milk. You can get the job done but it’s dry, unpleasant, and a crappy way to start your day. Really good influencers, on the other hand, are likeable, easy to be around and typically get what they want (including their customers buying more stuff from them). This article is about how to be the second.

Good influence is, of course, largely about good communication. But what makes ‘good’ or ‘elegant’ or ‘charismatic’ communication?

According to communication pioneer, Professor Albert Mehrabian, it starts with controlling the three fundamental modalities through which we experience communication – our:

  1. language patterns (the WORDS we use);
  2. paralinguistics (the TONALITY we use), and;
  3. body language (our GESTURES and ACTIONS).

…and it turns out that this is really frikken important to know when building sales presentations and market messages.

Have you ever been in conversation with someone who told you something that you immediately didn’t believe – even if the info seemed plausible? If you have, then it’s possible you were picking up on a “mismatch of communication modalities”. A mismatch occurs when one or all three of these three modalities aren’t communicating the same message.

This creates the most common mistake we help our clients with when designing their product pitch. Most business owners and salespeople focus all their attention on what they’re saying rather than how they’re saying it.

For example, if you were to SAY that you’re ‘certain’ about something, but used an uncertain TONALITY – most people are conditioned to notice that mismatch, and react by questioning how ‘certain’ you actually are.

I bet you can think of someone off the top of your head who commonly mismatches – right?

Turns out my wooden-spoon-wielding mother was right when I was a kid – “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”… WHACK!

And, then of course, there is  your body language…

If you SAY that you’ll behave in a certain way, then actually BEHAVE in another – which part of your communication do people believe about your intentions? This also extends to your gestures and actions when you’re in a conversation. If you SAY that you like my cooking but then spit it out into the bin, I’ll probably assume that you’re lying to my face. Rude.

So at this point, the next question to ask is…

So how do use this to improve my communication?

In another post, we talked about how persuasion in presentations is most easily achieved by using a narrative. Rather than a clinical breakdown of features and benefits, storytelling resonates better with your customer because it allows their mind to create their own context of value. (See also: How Top Influencers Use Storytelling)

One of the most important factors of designing a perfect narrative or sales pitch is for it to remove all “unconscious distractions”. After all, the purpose of your presentation is to allow your customer to focus on the idea that you’re presenting – and mismatching is horribly distracting.

On the other hand, when you learn to build your presentation on sales pitch using carefully chosen words / tonality that best reflects those words / actions and gestures that best reflect the tonality and words…

…we describe your presentation as ‘congruent’.

‘Congruence’ in sales and marketing is the measure of how well the three elements of communication are aligned in your pitch. Congruence is  also the secret science behind all charismatic and engaging pitches that sell.

(RELATED: Need a presentation or sales pitch training for your high-value products and services? Check out the ‘Million Dollar Sales Pitch’ Video Masterclass and learn to design and deliver a perfectly structured pitch that creates instant positive response from your customers in any industry niche.)


Let’s say one of the benefits of your product is that very few people know about it yet (and that’s advantageous). In this case, the information itself is scarce and therefore has a perceived value. When you talk about this benefit, do you use a tonality of scarcity? And what about the body language that communicates scarcity?

How about when you’re describing the results that your customer will get by engaging your service? You might be saying that you’re certain your solution will be good for your client… but is your tonality and body language communicating the same thing?

If your communication is not ‘congruent’ (a.k.a. ‘mismatching’ or ‘disconnected’), it will consistently create that unconscious distraction for your audience.

Communicating with congruence (language, tonality and body language are aligned), is vital for creating certainty and minimising doubt.

When we work with our clients to develop powerful scripts, we recommend this exercise:

ONE: Read through your script, presentation or elevator pitch.

TWO: Underline six or seven points that are most important for the customer to receive.

THREE: Practice delivering these points with total congruence using the below example as a how-to guide.

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The below are single lines take from different clients’ presentations. Notice that the underline identifies the tonality, and the bold identifies the words to be emphasised with the congruent tonality:

ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY: “…and I’m absolutely certain that by working together this year, we’ll make a massive impact on the team.”

This might be accompanied by a fist punching into an open palm, reinforcing the ‘absolute certainty’ that the deliverer has.

REASONABLE PERSON: “… so assuming that this is a good fit, how much do you think is a reasonable budget to set aside for this?”

This might be accompanied by a slight tilting of the head, and taking on a lower volume and gentler vocal timber (supportive, caring etc).

ESCALATION: “… and this is just the first stage. Once we prove this concept, then we can reinvest and make this thing really move.”

This might be accompanied by eyes widening and the first index finger being lifted (to indicate “first”), then pointing down (to indicate “this concept”), then two hands parallel moving away from your body (to indicate “really move”).

SCARCITY: “…from what I can see, we have six months – at most – before the big players get involved and the market catches up.”

This might be accompanied by leaning in, squinting very slightly, lifting an eyebrow and lowering your voice to a whisper (to indicate that the information is almost ‘secret’).



If you’d like to know if you’re creating congruence well, just measure how often your customer “wants to think about it” or “discuss it with a partner“. These are classic signs of your customer having unconscious doubts about trusting you. If these are showing up often, go back and focus on the congruence component of your pitch and watch how the responses you get change immediately.


Congruence is one of the critical factors that make a ‘Million Dollar Sales Pitch’. When designing a perfect presentation, new product pitch or sales presentation, it’s important to focus on all three of these elements of communication. An elegant script that creates predictable results isn’t just about carefully choosing each and every word correctly, but also being super aware of the tonality with which you deliver every word, and the precise body language that you use to compliment the other two.

Mehrabian discovered that there’s a hierarchy of importance when it comes to the three modes of communication:

  • Only 7% of the WORDS we use influence how a person receives a message;
  • Where 38% of the influence comes from the TONALITY or paralinguistics;
  • And 55%(!) of a person’s feelings or attitude toward what your communication is impacted by your BODY LANGUAGE.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

If there is a ‘mismatch’ between WHAT you say, HOW you’re saying it and/or HOW you gesture or behave – the receiver will always believe the higher influencing communication form. ie: If you SAY you’re really friendly, and you use a super friendly TONALITY, but you do it while kicking a puppy, people will still think you’re a dick.

Happy Friday.


(NOTE: Need a presentation or sales pitch training for your high-value products and services? Check out the ‘Million Dollar Sales Pitch’ Video Masterclass and learn to design and deliver a perfectly structured pitch that creates instant positive response from your customers in any industry niche.)


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Discover Coaching Coaching Programs are tailored to each individual and align tactical, strategic and visionary leadership styles to reach both Professional and Personal milestones. DC is fully certified for the use of both proprietary (Neuro Linguistic Programming, TimeLine Therapy ®, Straight Line System) and authored custom programs (How to Boil an Egg, Million Dollar Sales Pitch, Mass Persuasion – Complete Sales Mastery, Coaches Collection).

David Cervelli is a certified NLP Master Practitioner and Coach with the ABNLP and ABH.

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