Reading Your Prospect’s ‘Buy’ Signals

By Jeffrey Gitomer

“Billy, pay attention!” That was your first listening lesson. Probably delivered when you were too young to pay attention without a little prompting.

Fast forward twenty 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.”

No discussion about buying signals, however, will be effective only if you are LISTENING for the signals. Then you must be ready to respond once you hear them.

Here are some huge buying signals:

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 sales professional: “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 a problem?” “Tell me about it.” “What  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 every-
one 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 sales pro 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, guaran-tee, 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 three 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
prospect’s 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 im-
mediately. 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. 

About the author

Jeffrey Gitomer is author of The Little Red Book of Selling and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers.
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