The 21.5 early warning signals that the prospect is ready to buy.
Question: When is the prospect ready to buy?
Answer: He or she will tell you if you just pay attention (aka listen).
The link between the presentation and the close of the sale are buying signals. Recognizing the signals to buy is one of the nuance areas in the science of selling. I don’t believe that selling is an art, I believe that selling is a science. There are nuances to the process.
When you get a buying signal, the science is you taking action. The nuance is your ability to recognize the signal. If you listen to the buyer, he or she will give you the signals. One of the problems is that salespeople don’t listen very well.
Buying signal quiz: The biggest buying signal is a
(A) Body signal or body language.
(B) A question asked by the buyer.
(C) An objection.
Is it (A) body language? NO! That is a manipulative piece of crap!
Is it (C) an objection? Sometimes. The buyer is asking for information in addition to what you said, or different from what you said.
The answer is (B) a question. You may just be thinking of them as questions that the buyer is asking… but that’s a big listening mistake! An objection means you haven’t sold me yet. But a question indicates genuine buyer interest. Your job is to listen beyond the question. Your job is to listen for the motive. Motive is a short word. Short for motivation. Get it now?
When you hear the question, that’s your signal to begin to ask for the sale or know that the sale is imminent if you answer in a way that reduces risk or creates some kind of green light to enable them (you) to move forward.
As a professional salesperson, your job is to recognize the question, the buying signal and then convert it to a sale. Recognizing it is the hard part.
Here are the “how to recognize” ground rules
- Here’s a rule of thumb: Any question asked by the prospect must be considered a buying signal!
- Here’s a rule of dumb: Preventing the question from being asked by talking too much, thereby preventing you from uncovering vital elements to make the sale.
Your job is to ask customers and prospects in order to give them an opportunity to think, respond, and ask you. Questions beget questions.
- Here is a rule of dumb dumb: avoiding the question by being sales cute. EXAMPLE: “Ahhhh how much is this?” “Well, how much do you want to pay?” Or even ignoring the question, which is what they taught you in old, manipulative sales school by saying if they really want to ask that question they will ask it again. Give me a break!
Don’t try and make the prospect feel bad while you use your arrogance and actually go past the sale.
- Here is the rule of dumb da dum dumb: Answering the question and not asking for the sale. That would be called a big big big mistake.
So, here are the 21.5 buying signals and questions to look for:
- Questions about availability or time. Are these in stock? How often do you receive new shipments? Now let me explain something to you. There is a principle in selling, which is the principle of leaning forward. Questions make the prospect lean forward with interest to the answer that you provide. Now, when you understand these signals, you’re going to notice them all the time. Your job as a salesperson is to get the prospect to lean forward with interest. “What is your normal delivery time?” “What’s the warranty?” How much more of a buying signal could you want?
- Questions about delivery. “How soon can someone be here?” Well, when do you need it? “How much notice do I have to give you?” Answer their question, and at the same time ask them a question to begin confirmation of the sale.
- Questions about rates, price, or statements about affordability. This is a big one. “How much does this cost?” “What is the price?” “I don’t know if I can afford it.” What they are saying is “I want it!” The only question is how much? So the next part of that would be…
- Questions or statements about money. “How much money would I have to put down to get this?” Or even, “This costs too much.” Those are huge buying signals. When someone wants to know the price, or what the terms could be or even if they are objecting to it, it means that they are interested in it.
“Billy, pay attention!” That was your first listening lesson.
Probably delivered when you were too young to pay attention.
Fast forward 20 something years (or more) and you’re STILL not listening.
Your customer is telling you he or she is somewhere between “interested” and “ready” in your sales conversation, and you’re pressing to “overcome” some bogus objection because your focus is on “making the sale” rather than “helping the customer buy.”
- Asking positive questions about you or your business. You may not take them as positive, but they are. “How long have you been with the company?” is asking about you as a salesperson. Will you be here to serve me AFTER the sale. “How long has your company been in business?” They want to know about security, safety, and lower risk.
- Wanting something repeated. “What was it that you said before about financing?” “Tell me about that again.” If prospects want to know about it again, that means there is an interest. A buying interest. If you tell them about it again, then you ask them if they want to place the order now, or if they want to hear more stuff again.
- Statements about problems with previous vendors. That is huge! When prospects ask, “How long does it take to respond to a service call?” that indicates they have a service problem. Perfect time for you to ask, “Has service been problem?” “Tell me about it.” “What do type of service do you need?” “What kind of response do you need?” “So what you’re saying is, if our service is there for you when you need it we might be the best choice for you?” What you are doing here is asking for the sale, and not giving them any reason or opportunity for the prospect to say no! This type of question is a huge buying signal… you just need to be aware of it, and be prepared to answer it before you walk in the door.
- Questions about features or options. “What will it do?” “What will you do?” “Is this standard or optional?” “Is this my best option?” “Does this model come with that?” “Is this standard?” “Do I have to pay extra for this?” What these types of questions mean is that the customer is trying to picture ownership with your stuff attached to it. Your job is to recognize the signal, and be reassuring and prepared to confirm the prospect’s choice.
- Questions about productivity. Productivity is a little bit more subtle. They may ask questions like: (I will use a copy machine as an example because everyone uses one), “How many copies a day can it make?” “How often will it break down?” “Will it be easy for my employees to use?” “What is your service response time?” Price plus productivity equals cost. Productivity is a key ingredient in your differentiation. And your job as a salesperson is to get them from “price” to “cost.” Sometimes it may be a price issue, when it is really a cost issue. Your job is to get them to cost. HINT: you never want to be the lowest price.
- Questions about quality, guarantee, or warranty. “How long is this under warranty?” “How long will this last?” What the customer is saying to you is: I want to own this, but I want more reassurance.
- Questions about qualifications. “Now qualifications” take 3 different paths: One is your qualifications. The second is your company’s qualifications. The third is your product’s qualifications. ASK YOURSELF: Can all your people answer all customer’s questions on the phone? Can I call you directly if I had a problem? Do you have a special help desk? All of these things relate to some form of ownership in the prospects mind.
- Specific positive questions about the company. “What other products do you carry?” “How long have you been making this one?” “What happened to the last model?” “Do you have a new model coming out shortly?” Major Clue: Answer all questions briefly and immediately. Don’t whip out the catalog or a bunch of slides. Instead, say, “Mr. Jones, let me take you on a brief virtual tour of our factory or warehouse. Let me show you some of our other products and how they can help you.”
- Specific products or service questions. “How does the manual feed operate?” “Do you select the trainer or do I?” Make certain that your customer feels totally at ease about all elements of purchase and operation, including the equipment and the operation of your business. Put them at ease, but also ask for the sale.
Here is a sales action for you to take: Become question aware.
Here is another sales action for you to take: Listen with the intent to understand.
Every time you are asked a question. Ask yourself this question before you answer it…
Is the prospect telling me that he or she is ready to buy?
That requires thinking way beyond your sales pitch. It’s the nuance part of the presentation. It’s where the sale is.
Below is the last part of the list of 21.5 signs and signals that the customer MAY be ready to buy
- Specific questions about ownership of your product or service. “Would you provide supplies each month automatically?” “Would you come by each month and pick up my accounting?” “Suppose I like the temp, and want her to work for me full-time?” Those are the nitty-gritty questions of the buying process. The prospect is already owning it. You are being asked secondary (ownership) questions that say you are going too far. You should have asked for the sale a long time ago. These are questions that should come after you have completed the sale.
- Questions to confirm unstated decision or seeking support. “Is this the best way for me to go?” Or, “What do you recommend?” Could they be leaning any further forward without falling over? Your customer is looking at you for your expertise and advice. They are depending on you for your wisdom. When they ask, “What would you do?” and you don’t put ink on paper at that time, get out of there! You don’t belong there.
- Wanting to see a sample or demo again. “Could I see those fabric samples again?” “Tell me about the warranty again?” When prospects ask to see or hear anything again, that is when you write the order.
- Asking for a test or a sample. “Can I try this for a few days?” “Can you send me a sample?” The prospect is saying, if this works I will buy!
- Making buying noises. What’s a buying noise Jeffrey? The prospect saying, “Oh! I didn’t know that!” or “Oh really? that’s interesting!” or “You know, that’s in line with what we have been doing,” or “That is something that I have always wanted to try.”
- Asking about other satisfied customers. “Who else is using your product right now?” “Who are some of your current customers?” Here’s a clue: They don’t believe you, so they are asking questions about someone else like them so that they can have enough reassurance to buy. Customers don’t always believe the salesperson, because at some point in their life, a salesperson has lied to them.
- Asking for a reference. If they say, “Can I contact someone you did temp work for?” That is a specific question that says if you can provide this for me, I am buying. Or if they say, “Do you have a list of satisfied customers?” and you go, “Well no, but I do have this list of loyal customers. Would you like to see it?” that’s how you make the sale.
- Asking chicken questions. The buyer is always looking to lower the risk of ownership, but they start out with something like this, “Suppose I buy it and it doesn’t work, or it doesn’t fit, or it’s not the right size?” What they are saying is give me some more reassurance. What the customer is saying right now is don’t sell me anymore, rather, reassure me.
Ok, so there’s the 21. There is one more, and then the .5 of course. Ok, so the last one is SO BIG that it needs its own space so I purposefully did not number it.
The biggest buying signal of them all is the one most often never asked because you have employed the rule of dumb.
Giving away critical pricing information before it’s asked for, therefore precluding the biggest buying signal in salesHow much is it? This question is the single most powerful buying signal on the planet. If you tell your price at the beginning, or send your price list in your info-pack, you are taking away a huge tactical advantage in making the sale. The other “ask” that I did not put in this list but should be mentioned is when the buyer asks you, “What is the next step?” This is so blatant of a buying sign it’s not really right to consider it a signal. It’s more of a hit in the face with a shovel.
And finally, 21.5, your ability to convert any signal, sign or question into a sale. Every one of these buying signals or questions can be turned into a closing question that will lead to a faster sale, if you are paying attention, if you are listening with the intent to understand. With every pointed question, the prospect is saying, “I want to buy.” My question to you is, “How are you responding?”