Buying Signals

Buying Signals

March 19, 2013

Have you ever been oversold? Have you ever talked so much that you talked yourself in, and then out of the sale? Sales is not a process of convincing someone to buy. A sale is made because you probed so well, you learned what they want and then recommended a solution to their problems. When you are new to sales, you try to talk people into buying. When you are more experienced, you try to listen for openings, and then try to talk them into buying. But professional salespeople are so elegant, they “listen” people into buying. This not only means you effectively probe for needs and wants. It also suggests that you pay more attention to how the prospect reacts to what you say. Some of those reactions are cues from your prospect they have heard enough and want you to move to the next stage of the process. Sometimes these cues indicate they want to buy.
Kevin was referred to John by a mutual friend. The referral was so strong that the prospect opened up to John right away, and told him exactly what he needed. John listened to his prospect’s needs and then presented exactly what he wanted. John discussed the product like a master. He tailored every feature, and made them into benefits. He was on a roll. John kept talking, and talking and talking. After about an hour, the prospect looked down at this watch and excused himself. He had another appointment. He said, “I‘ll get back to you later. Was he a bad prospect? No, in fact he went out the next day and bought from a competitor. The truth is, John oversold him. He talked himself in, and then out of the sale. Chances are you are so concerned with what you are selling, that you fail to read people and also failing to notice their buying signals.
“As simple as this seems, 70 percent of your sales are lost because you don’t know when to close.”
You cannot make money unless you can close. You cannot close at the right time unless you can read your prospect’s buying signals. If you don’t know when to stop talking, you’ll sell by accident. Most sales are a complete accident. It occurs because you happen by chance to stop talking, and the prospect coincidentally is ready to buy. If you know how to listen, while also possessing some product knowledge, all you need is to stop talking.
As simple as this seems, 70 percent of your sales are lost because you don’t know when to close. Knowing when is more important than knowing how. If you have done a good job of gaining your prospect’s trust, he will usually close himself. Sometimes, you just have to be sharp enough to say, “What do you think” and then listen to what they say. It often will be, “Sounds Great.”
But if you try to talk your prospect into submission, you’ll find yourself manipulating. When you do that, you’ll gain short term sales and long term losses. Your customer will cancel a few days later. But the right way to close is to notice that the prospect will show you innocuous, but obvious cues indicating when they want to buy. If you miss any one of those cues, you’ll miss the sale.
Buying signals are a lot like moving through a submarine. You close the water-tight doors and then progress to the front of the boat. As your prospect displays buying signals, they are letting you know the watertight doors can close and you can move ahead. Rarely is a buying signal a sign that someone wants to sign the contract then and there. But it is a cue they want you to move ahead faster.
Here are some of the verbal and non-verbal cues that will indicate when you have said enough:
Head nod
This is one of the most basic of buying signals. Even beginners can recognize this cue. I was on the island of Madeira in Portugal recently, talking to attendees after my speech. One guy walked up to us and abruptly interrupted. He kept talking for what seemed like an hour. I looked over to my friend and noticed him nodding quickly up and down. The bore didn’t pick up on this signal. Each of us flashed the look of, “Are you as bored by this guy as I am?” We both smiled in agreement. When you see this cue, you should say, “I sense this is pretty familiar to you.” Or you can say, “Where have you heard this before.” Proud to display his knowledge, your prospect will tell you what he already knows. You can then move on to the next stage in the sales process.

Pupil dilation
Several university studies have tested the hormonal and physical response people have to nude photos of the opposite sex. Whether the viewer is male or female, their pupils will expand to the degree they are aroused. I don’t think a mortgage will evoke the same excitement as a picture of someone in their birthday suit. But people can’t hide their emotions if you know what to look for.
In Las Vegas high stakes poker, pros train themselves to avoid any emotion. They wear sunglasses so competitors can’t see their pupils dilate when they have a good hand. But there are other cues great poker players look for. According to British Body Language expert Desmond Morris, a player with a bad hand will look at his cards longer than if it’s a winner. This makes sense since the player is probably thinking about what he can draw or discard.
Aristotle Onassis, the late great Greek shipping tycoon, was known to wear sunglasses constantly during business meetings. After losing a pair of sunglasses, he postponed one sit down until he could buy another. Women are much better at spotting these cues. Although Americans in general are the worst among developed nations at spotting these nuances. Virtually every country’s trade representatives have out-negotiated American officials in commerce and arms talks. This is largely because Americans don’t yet understand what people say is not always what they mean. And they often mean more than what they are willing to say.
“I want to hold it”
Another buying signal is possessiveness. If your prospect keeps a brochure or sheet of paper close to the vest, or holds it as you talk, he is showing a subtle buying sign. But if he promptly gives it back to you, having barely glanced at it, he is signaling that your ideas aren’t worth looking at. If he slides your brochure across the table right back to you, you may want to retreat back to the probing stage. A Japanese businessman would feel deeply offended if you took his card and immediately stuck it into your pocket. You would honor him if you took a moment to read it with both hands, and then carefully placed it in your shirt or jacket pocket.
I once went on an appointment with an inexperienced rep. During the presentation stage, the prospect was given a product brochure. He immediately pulled it across the table, closer to his chair. He held it in his hand during the rest of the meeting. To my amazement, the salesperson continued to talk for the next 45 minutes. I saw the prospect go from moderate interest to apathy within the first five minutes. The sales rep didn’t have a clue. I watched the salesperson snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If you miss your chance to close, you may never get another.
The chin and nose rub
When your prospect is ready to buy, she will rub her chin. But this in only one cue showing an imminent decision. He may also scratch his head or rub his nose. Any one of these is a strong indication that your prospect is in deep thought. If you keep trying to sell, you could possibly irritate him. Stop talking, especially if your prospect has suddenly broken eye contact. Your prospect really wants you to say, “What do you think?” With any buying signal, trial close by saying, “Does this sound good to you? Do you like this idea?” If they don’t say, “Great,” bless your ability to recognize when to stop talking. You may have pushed the prospect off the “cliff of no return.”
Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D. is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at mortgage origination meetings around the world. Peak Performance Coaching (his one-on-one coaching program) promises to increase your business by 80 percent in eight weeks. To see if you are a candidate for this fast track system, click on and take a free evaluation test. He may be reached by phone at (800) 883-8787 or e-mail

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