The Imitation Game

To succeed in sales it is vital to master the art of mirroring.

We are born with the ability to mimic and mirror and use it to learn, as a bonding tool and a way to show empathy – three key ingredients in sales.

In a series of experiments conducted by Emese Nagy in 2014 2-day-old infants were more likely to raise their index fingers after seeing their mothers do the same.

Our likeability brought about through bonding and empathy significantly increases the chances of making a sale. The challenge is how can we develop this with sales prospects over a short time period? This all begins with sales mirroring — subtly imitating the behaviors and communication styles of our prospects.

The Importance of Mirroring in Sales

We all have a natural predisposition to mirroring. In sales, mirroring is effectively a shortcut to familiarity. Rather than a long history of shared experiences giving rise to similar phrasing or gestures, salespeople can mimic these traits to create a sense of familiarity quickly. Mirroring increases trust between the salesperson and prospect because it blurs the line between business and personal interactions and potential customers are often more willing to work with someone they feel they can trust.

Research conducted by Harvard Business Review and summarised in the article ‘Want To Win Someone Over? Talk Like They Do’ concluded that ‘linguistic mirroring’ (adjusting your communication style to match that of your audience) is a highly effective way to increase your influence on others. *1

Sales Mirroring in Written Communication

Mirroring is as relevant in email communication as it is when speaking.*2

With it being harder than ever to reach sales prospects on their work phone due to remote or hybrid set-ups there is a much greater dependency on emails in the entire sales cycle from the first SDR outreach to an AE’s post demo communication.

Today emails, texts, and LinkedIn messages all have their own ‘Digital Body Language’ (a phrase coined by Erica Dhawan in her book of the same name) in the business world. Dhawan says ​​“We are tone deaf. We need to become tone deft in a digital world.


Most digital miscommunication happens because we don’t have access to the non-verbal cues, including tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. But we can read between the lines if we know what to look for and how to mirror it in a sales process.

Our word choice, response times, and even our punctuation and use (or non-use) of emojis or gifs should mirror and match the tone of the prospect to boost engagement and sales results.

There is not a single sales mirroring language to master. There are different languages, dependent on age, gender, culture, personality and even by messaging channel.

According to Dhawan “Women are more likely to use exclamation points to come across as friendly, warm and approachable whereas men are more likely to use them to signal urgency.”

We are not bound to one or two communication channels. Switching between channels is a good way to indicate a shift in urgency of a message. I closed a sale by virtue of switching to WhatsApp from email which made the sales process more relaxed and made it easier to mirror the communication style and pace of responses.


Here are some tips on how to become tone deft in sales messaging:

  1. Write the same language:

Pay close attention to the prospect’s written communication.

Do they use more complicated words, do they condense intricate thoughts into simple terms, or do they stick to basic ideas?

Do they use industry jargon?

Are they formal or casual in their messaging?

Attempt to match their written style, as well as the terms they use.


  1. Understand the prospect’s personality type: 

Does the customer want every detail about their purchase or are they more concerned with the bigger picture and vision?

Do they seem more interested in small talk or want to get straight down to business?

Are they analytical and focused on data when deciding about a potential purchase?

Are they a forex trader used to making snap risky decisions or are they working in cyber-security where they are more likely to be cautious and slower to commit?

Take a cue from your prospects, adjust the conversation accordingly to reflect how they want to absorb information and avoid just regurgitating the same sales pitch.


  1. Use shared simple language:

Prospects are more satisfied when salespeople engage with them using emails that are worded in a simpler shared language. A simpler and more direct communication with a sales prospect helps reach the goal of keeping them informed in a language that they can understand. Customers’ concerns should be addressed with a language that is not overly complex.

No matter their communication style, take a cue from your prospects, and avoid leaning into familiar sales pitch frameworks.

As Dhawan says “Writing clearly is the new empathy”.





(Featured image – Getty Images)

Share the Post: