Quick. Think of how many amazing handshakes you’ve gotten in your life.
Now think of how many terrible, awkward, cold fish, handshakes you’ve gotten.
If you’re like most people, chances are you’ll have a hard time remembering great handshakes, but an easy time remembering the bad ones.
It gets worse…
If you don’t know them personally, chances are better than average that you have pretty negative feelings about that wet noodle hand-shaker.
No matter what you talked about, no matter how many colleagues you have in common, a bad handshake seems to hang over someone’s head like a black cloud— threatening storms, lightning, or maybe even something more ominous..
Don’t be that agent.
Top Ten Handshake Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you have a better idea of how to leverage your handshake and greeting, here are the top ten handshake mistakes you need to avoid:
1. The Death Grip
This is when you squeeze someone’s hand as if you’re trying to crush a diamond. No matter what anyone told you, this is pretty much never a good idea. It makes people feel uncomfortable, on-edge, and view you as someone not to be trusted.
2. The Rag Doll
This is when start shaking hands, the keep shaking awkwardly for as long as humanly possible. Again, precisely NO ONE besides high school football players will be impressed by your power game.
3. The Hand Hugger
This is when you shake someone’s hand normally, then clasp both hands around theirs. This may look warm and disarming when politicians do it, but are you REALLY that close with your lead?
4. The Noodle
This is when you shake hands like you’ve just had a stroke and lost all fine motor control. A lifeless, limp handshake says exactly what you think it does about you.
5. The Bro Hug
If you know what this one is you’re probably cringing just reading about it. For those that don’t, a bro hug is when you go in for a handshake and then clap them on the back or worse, turn it into a half hug. Works great on the softball field, a sure way to creep out your clients on showings.
6. The Fist Bump Miss
Let’s face it. If you invited a professional over to your home for a pitch the last thing you would expect is a fist bump right? You might even think it’s a handshake at first, then… disaster strikes. Save the fist bumps for happy hour, but keep an eye out for clients that lean in for a fist bump themselves!
7. The Over-Pump
You should strive to shake hands for 3-4 seconds, max. Anything longer than that is just awkward. This can lead to the dreaded rag doll if both parties stick to their guns.
8. The Secret Club
I know everyone thought your secret club handshake was funny in college, but literally no one thinks it is now. Snapping, pointing, or any other handshake embellishments that look like they belong in a masonic temple have no place in a professional setting.
9. The Shoulder Touch
You may have seen politicians do this one before. It’s when you shake someone’s hand then touch their shoulder with your other hand. While it may look good on camera, it’s highly patronizing and can feel like an invasion of personal space for many people. In fact, that’s part of the reason politicians use this handshake. They are trying to subtly project dominance.
10. The Two Timer
This is when you reach in for a handshake and then end up shaking someone else’s hand. This is why saying someone’s name before you reach out for a handshake is so important. It immediately eliminates confusion and a potentially awkward moment.
Cultural differences: How to Shake Hands with Foreign clients
With the increasing globalization of the real estate market, chances are you’re going to have clients who have different cultural traditions than you do. Here’s quick cheat sheet from the always excellent Mental Floss on handshaking traditions from around the world.
Just know what sometimes people from other cultures come expecting western business traditions. That means that in most cases, trying foreign greeting customs might come across as patronizing or even offensive.
When in doubt, always address the oldest person in the group first, or when in doubt, the person you’ve already spoken to.
Here’s the thing. Unless they were purposefully snubbing you, the chances of that million dollar agent in your office having that dreaded bad handshake are pretty much zero…
What do they know that you don’t?
Simple. Somewhere along the way they learned a few simple, science backed rules to a great handshake.
In this article, we’ll give you a cheat sheet on shaking hands like a million dollar agent.
You’ll learn the basics of all great handshakes for agents, cultural differences every agent needs to know, and finally, handshakes mistakes to avoid.
How Million Dollar Agents Shake Hands
1. Take the Lead
Let’s face it. As Realtors we’re not selling a product, we’re selling our services, expertise, counsel, and yes, personality. That means that as an agent you must ALWAYS offer your hand first in every single situation you find yourself in.
Why? Because unless you’re hiring a junior agent, in every situation with another human being in your career you will be pitching someone.
You’re pitching that buyer you got from Zillow, you’re pitching that cold lead your former college roommate sent you, you’re pitching and you are sure as heck pitching each and every homeowner you meet!
Saying hello to a local store owner? That’s a micro pitch. “SEND ME LEADS!”
This applies to both getting up first and extending your hand if seated, and offering a hand at any and every opportunity.
Don’t believe me? Shadow a top agent in your office for a day and see how many times they shake someone’s hand.
2. Never Let Them Feel You Sweat
Okay, picture that bad handshake again… It’s wet right? Slimy? You need to avoid wet hands at all costs. It can kill a first impression and make that lead run for the hills.
Here’s how to (discreetly) avoid, the clammy handshake of unhired agents. Find a neutrally scented antiperspirant and apply it to your hands each morning, or before listing presentations, etc.
Spray a handkerchief with neutrally scented antiperspirant and keep it in your pocket at all times. When you need to shake someone’s hand, grab it discreetly, then reach in for the shake.
Still not working? If you’re one of the small number of people who suffer from excess sweating (hyperhidrosis) your doctor can prescribe more powerful antiperspirants. If that doesn’t work or you just want to avoid sweating altogether, you can have botox injected into your hands. It’s not pleasant, but might be better than losing clients over a wet handshake.
3. Make Eye Contact… Briefly
Here’s a great tip on eye contact from the always excellent Yesware Blog. It may sound a little weird, but you’ll probably find yourself doing this naturally with people you’re friends with:
While you should always make eye contact with the other person while shaking hands. Don’t overdo it!
According to body language experts Allan and Barbara Pease, you should only make eye contact for two or three seconds when you’re first meeting someone. This gives them a chance to do what their lizard brain wants them to. Look you over to see that you’re not a threat!
4. Once You Start Shaking, Follow Their Lead
Okay, this one is going to sound counterintuitive, but trust me, it works like a charm:
Once you take that initiative and reach out your hand, you need to then allow your lead to feel comfortable enough to feel like they’re in control of the situation. That means following their cue for when to stop shaking, body language, and the direction of the conversation.
Allowing your lead to feel like they’re in control is actually one of the key strategies that former FBI hostage negotiator and bestselling author Chris Voss uses for negotiations. Here’s Chris in The Week;
“It works on two levels. One, it tends to create a more collaborative environment, which means you’re going to make a better deal. And, two, if the other side is trying to gain control to cheat you, it lets them drop their guard, so that you can get the upper hand.”
5. Your Parents Were Right
When I was 12 or so, my father sat me down and gave me some valuable life advice.
Along with keep your word, and always try to help others, was this: always give a firm handshake.
It didn’t really make sense to me at the time, but today science has proven that a firm handshake is key to a successful job interview. In a recent study at the University of Iowa, professor Greg Stewart found that interviewers overwhelmingly rated candidates with firm handshakes better.
Here’s Greg on the importance of handshaking:
“We probably don’t consciously remember a person’s handshake or whether it was good or bad. But the handshake is one of the first nonverbal clues we get about the person’s overall personality, and that impression is what we remember.”
Want to hear something cool? Another study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that interviewers rated women with firm handshakes even higher than men.
6. Practice Makes Perfect
Okay, this might sound a little bit silly, but trust me, it works.
In order to master anything, you need to practice.
Why should a great handshake be any different? Practice your professional handshake on friends or family members and have them rate you. You may be surprised at the feedback they give you…
7. Remember to Use the Most Beautiful Sound in the World
Psychologists the world over have agreed that there is one sound, and one sound only, that people agree is the most beautiful. Their own name.
In order to make the best possible impression on your prospective client, combine the tips above while saying their name as soon as possible, preferably as soon as or before you start shaking hands.
In fact, if you watch pros shake hands with someone for the first time, they almost always use the person’s name before even saying hello. “Stacy, how are you!” is much more effective than “Hi how are you Stacy?”
Over to You
Have a great handshaking or etiquette tip we missed? Send us an email or let us know in the comments.