Ever so often the prospective customer gives out a clear, unequivocal “buying signal,” sometimes we see them and occasionally we don’t.

It’s a common complaint from Sales Managers and Sales Directors when they’ve returned from accompanied visits, “My guys just don’t seem to see the buying signals.”  Perhaps we should focus a little more on this regular occurrence and determine if we can learn anything from it.  Personally I wonder if buying signals are actually much easier to spot when you’re not so close to the deal.  Surely it doesn’t matter quite as much as when it directly affects not only your income but possibly also whether or not you’ve still got a job.  Now please don’t get me wrong on this, I’m not for one minute suggesting that Sales Managers and Directors don’t care, of course they do.  It’s just often a little more personal when you’re the salesperson and it’s your opportunity. So in simple terms I’m suggesting that on some occasions the salesperson is almost, “to close to the trees to see the wood.”

When you are completely focused on a customer’s application, keeping the rapport, fully understanding their requirements, etc, etc then perhaps it’s inevitably going to be a struggle to spot every tiny signal that comes up.  Of course maybe we’ve actually stumbled across the biggest problem here, for it could be that too many of us are so focused on the technical aspects of the sale that we’ve just lost a little sight of how to actually bring the matter to a conclusion.

I’m certainly on record of constantly preaching the need to ask significantly more questions, more open questions and indeed better follow up questions.  In recent times I’ve found myself also reminding sales people to think a little more about how they respond to the questions they’re asked, for many buying signals start out as questions.  For example; “When can we have one?” “How long is the delivery time?” “How much is it?” “Where does the training take place?” “Is it possible to…?” “Can you install over the weekend?” “What is the cost of software upgrades?” Questions like these tend to “illuminate” the buyers interest for those of us who are looking out for it.  Unfortunately many salespeople simply answer the question and move on, the opportunity to close being at best delayed or at worst lost altogether.

Buying signals are not always customer’ questions, they can of course come in many different shapes and forms.  Take another example, when a prospect raises an objection you may well see it as “No, because….” If that was the case you would invariably try and deal with the “because”, in order to satisfy the prospects concern.  A considerably much more positive way of looking at this is to see an objection as a “Yes, but…” Because all you have to do is handle the “but” and you have yourself an order. Take the following illustration; Salesman- “Can we proceed with the paperwork?”  Prospect-  “It seems a bit expensive.”    (Note: The prospect hasn’t said no).  Salesman- “I take your point, but what you have to bear in mind is….”  (Note: The salesman handles the objection and can then try and re-close).

So far we’ve reminded ourselves that signals indicating a possible interest in making a purchase can come from both particular types of questions and even certain objections, (or customer concerns as we prefer to call them).  Now let’s explore other possible buying signals.  Even changed body language…eyes lighting up, or perhaps the prospect sitting forward, can and do indicate real interest in taking things to the next stage.  Likewise taking the telephone call in the first place can be a very strong signal, let’s think about it why would someone be willing to have a ten minute conversation during a busy day if they didn’t have some interest in what you’re offering? This of course follows through to an even greater degree if the customer has agreed to see you. When someone takes an appt then please appreciate you really ought to do it justice as there’s a large chance that your products and services can help the customer with a current problem or with some of their future aims and objectives.

Negotiating by a customer should on most occasions be taken as a pretty strong signal.   Again let’s think this one through why on earth would a customer waste their time and effort in the negotiation process if they weren’t thinking very seriously about ownership?

Comments like “that sounds interesting,” or even “it seems a bit expensive,” as stated earlier can be very positive.  Never underestimate the interest from a prospect when they start down this path, for it really will be rare day when they literally try “to snatch your hand off.”  Just a few quietly spoken words such as “that sounds interesting,” are often as enthusiastic as your customer is going to get – make the most of it because it doesn’t get much better.

Lastly I’d like to focus on yet another type of buying signal and although time means we can’t explore absolutely all possible combinations or examples, this last one should serve you very well.  This being a classic example of where far too many of us have a negative reaction when we really shouldn’t.  Instead of welcoming it, we react badly.  We resent not being able to continue at the pace we’ve set, we don’t like change, we miss the signal.  So what exactly am I getting at, well think about the following scenario.  You’ve met the buyer, you’ve gotten on particularly well and you’ve now got a very good idea of the opportunity. And what does the prospect do, he ups and invites someone else to be involved, he invites a colleague to come into the meeting. This can frustrate you, for you’ve now got to go through the whole thing again, and you may not have the same rapport with this new person.  Yes, I can see how you might feel just a little frustrated.  Again I feel we must think this one through, for why would a buyer get up and go and persuade someone else to join you unless they thought what you had to say was going to be of real interest to their organisation.

Buying signals are all around us, perhaps we need to use our senses a bit better to pick up on them, listen and observe a touch more.  We might even surprise ourselves if we “step back,” albeit only enough to be able to appreciate the full picture.