Key learning outcomes:
- Recognise the verbal and non-verbal signs that indicate a potential buyer may proceed with a sale.
- Understand that signs of an imminent sale may be subtle.
- Acknowledge the benefits of listening carefully to the potential buyer and not focusing only on your sales pitch.
- Develop strategies for dealing with potential customers’ objections.
Too often the reason a salesperson is not successful is not because of a lack of opportunity but a lack of skill. One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is to keep selling after the potential buyer has made the decision to move forward. They miss what are known as “buying signals” and run the risk of talking themselves back out of the sale.
Buying signals can be subtle – you need to be alert to them throughout the sales process to ensure you are not missing opportunities. In this article we will take you through some of the common verbal and non-verbal signs that indicate your prospective buyer is getting ready to say “yes”.[wlm_ismember]
Great salespeople will tell you that there is much more value in what is not said than in what is. They watch for non-verbal clues that their potential customer may be about to give them their business. Following are some of the key signs to look for:
- The person moves forward and adopts a more open stance. For example, they have been sitting with their arms crossed, but open them and lean in towards you.
- They start nodding and making gestures that suggest they agree with you.
- They show enthusiasm and make a lot of eye contact. (Someone who is thinking of saying “no” is more likely to avoid making eye contact with you.)
- They show a more relaxed demeanour.
- They make movements that suggest commitment such as reaching for their wallet or a pen or taking a closer look at a contract or price list.
It would be easy to assume that all salespeople can pick up verbal signs that a potential customer is ready to buy. However, in many cases the salesperson can be too focused on what they have to say rather than listening effectively, so they simply miss the buying signals that are being put out. Remember in most cases a prospective buyer is unlikely to just come out and say “I am here to buy”, they will expect you to work for the sale and they will test you along the way to ensure they make the right choice. The following are some common verbal signs salespeople should look for when they are in a sales situation:
- The customer is asking detailed questions about the product or service – An example would be when they ask, “Does this one come in red?” or “Could I use this for a specific purpose?” These types of questions indicate that they are thinking about how the product or service will suit their specific need, and the salesperson should ask more open-ended questions to get further information. It is important to remember that not every buying signal indicates the customer is ready for you to close the deal; they may be seriously considering your offering but there is still some more work as a salesperson to do.
- Asking about services offered after purchase – When a customer starts asking about warranty periods and after-sales service, this is a sign that they are considering moving forward. Once again, it is not a “yes” but a sign that the customer is trying to satisfy themselves that they are making the right decision.
- Opening up a discussion regarding price – It is important to understand that this is not always a buying signal and it will depend at what point in the sales process the customer asks about the price. If it is the first thing that they ask, they may be in the very early stages of their decision-making or they may have already done all of their research. It is essential that the salesperson asks a question similar to this: “Putting the price aside for the moment, as I am sure we will be able to negotiate something we will both be happy with, are you ready to move forward?” By doing this the salesperson has indicated that they are happy to negotiate. They isolate the price as an issue and can determine if the person is ready to move forward. If the potential customer replies “yes”, the salesperson can start to negotiate. If the person says “no”, or they are unsure, this indicates that there is more work to do before the price is an issue.
- The customer asks you to clarify previous discussion points – This is a clear indication that they are thinking seriously about your product or service.
- They ask about the next step – For example, this could be a question about the payment method. Questions about how to pay are some of the strongest signs that the customer is ready to move forward.
- They have objection – Too often we see objections as obstacles rather than as opportunities. Customers who have made the decision NOT to buy from you do not bring up objections. When a customer raises an objection, it means they are seriously thinking about your product or service, but they are not ready to say yes … yet. Therefore, objections are one of the strongest buying signals you need to look for, and you then need to overcome them before moving onto the next stage of your sales presentation or pitch. Here are two ways that you can work to overcome objections:
- Feel, felt, found:
- I understand how you feel. (This validates the objection and shows understanding.)
- Others have felt the same. (This shows that you have been able to successfully overcome the objection in the past.)
- What we have found is … (This gives the customer the solution.)
- Does that solve that issue for you? (Always get confirmation that you have overcome the objection.)
- Isolate the objection:
- It is important to ensure that this objection is the only thing stopping the customer saying “yes”.
- “Putting the colour aside, how does the rest of the product suit you?” (This allows you to identify if colour is the only issue.) They may respond with:
- “It is perfect” (You can now deal with the colour.)
- “There are a couple of other issues.” (You have other objections other than the colour to overcome.)
Is it time to close?
It is important to remember that even a strong buying signal might not mean that it is time to close the deal. It is always a positive sign, but you do not want to push too hard, only to have the person pull back because they thought you were too aggressive. Great salespeople are able to pick the right moment. They are able to use each positive buying signal as a step forward in their sales process, confirming and using trial closing questions to move the customer closer to a sale. We have a large number of articles in the “Sales and Customer Service” section of the website that will help you fine-tune your closing and objection-handling skills.[/wlm_ismember]
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