Buying signals: What they are, and what to be alert for

Buying signals are clues that the mood has shifted and the other person is now ready to agree . . . or at least to be open to what you propose.

To clarify, a “buying signal” doesn’t just mean readiness to purchase; it also includes readiness or openness to take interim steps along the way—such as to hear you out, to hear more, or to take the next step.

These buy signals may come as words, as facial expressions, even as body movements such as relaxing tension, leaning toward you or your product to see it better, and so forth.

Precisely what these buying signals consist of will depend to a large extent on the individual’s own mannerisms. Nonetheless, we all share certain subconscious signals. Here are some buy signals to get you started; in time you will develop a sixth-sense for when the mood has changed.

Change in manner or tone. The other person may become more informal and relaxed in the way they sit or speak.

Questions are often subtle buying signals. Watch for the switch from questions about the product (which are basically looking for reasons to say No), to questions that relate to practical things like where you are located, or when you can come in.

Some statements may be indirect buy signals. A Screen who says, “Our budget won’t allow anything like that this quarter,” is, consciously or not, likely telling you that you’ve won, and it’s now just a matter of finding the right time when some budget dollars will be opening up.

Curiosity is itself a buying signal. Be attuned for subtle clues. If you’re selling, for example, productivity improvement software for the office, the Screen might probe for reasons to say No. But the Screen might also be wanting to know more because he is very eager for a way of easing his own workload. Often, the difference will be perceptible in voice tone, energy, and enthusiasm — perhaps even in the kinds of questions. If the questions are somewhat technical, that may be a clue that they have already begun looking for something like you offer.

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Finding prospects: how to handle it if you find you need to raise your level of contact within the prospect organization.

Situation: you’re making a call on a prospect, and you initially think  you are making your sales call to the right person at the right level, but then you get the sense you have come in at too low a level (of budget or authority).

Indicators: Suppose you make your presentation and feel interest on the supposed decision maker’s part. But then you encounter a string of weak objections, one after another.

Remedy: Look through the objections to what is being said underneath. Perhaps the person is ultimately saying, “I can’t really make that decision,” or “I can’t make it alone,” “That’s beyond my spending authority.”

 

Sometimes decision makers suddenly find that they don’t have as much authority as they assumed they had. They start to make the call, then get signals or orders from above, saying in effect, “Better check with upstairs!”  Or perhaps your proposal surprised them by coming in above their purchasing limit.

Or perhaps they picked up on changing political undercurrents in the organization, and realize that it’s prudent to get higher-level sign-offs to cover themselves.

Remedy: If you find out fairly late in the sales cycle that your contact really does not have full Authority, Need, or Dollars, you need to make your contact at a higher level within that organization.

In raising your level of contact, you have two main choices:

First choice: You can withdraw from the call at this point, and attempt to re-establish your contact with the organization at a higher level.  In simple terms, fold your briefcase now, leave this person’s office, and go out and call their boss, or boss’ boss.

But if you leapfrog over your present contact, you may lose a business friend whose feelings are hurt that you went over his head.  It may turn out that although she’s not the Decision Maker, she may be a significant influencer of the final decision.

Or you may come back a few months from now, to find that the person you cut around is now sitting in the decision maker’s chair.

Second choice: It usually works out better to try to move upward to the appropriate level, while taking this person with you. That gives you the chance to make your case directly to the person with real decision-making authority here.  At the same time, that will give your present contact an opportunity to gain favorable exposure to a senior manager in a way that he might not otherwise have been able to arrange on his own.

To accomplish this shift, you might say,

“I agree with you, and I’d be very pleased to meet with Mr. Jackson. I’d like you to come with me when I make that call. Shall I set up an appointment with Mr. Jackson, or would you prefer to do it for us?”

If the present contact agrees to set up the appointment with the senior manager, set a time to check back with him to confirm the date. The knowledge that you will be checking back reduces the likelihood of procrastination.

However, if you do try back a couple of times with this contact, and each time find that he has still not made the call, step in and offer to make the call yourself.

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Sidebar:

Caution! Warning! Never Delegate the Sale!

When the sale moves up to a higher level within the organization, make sure that you move up with it.

You can count on your message being garbled if you let someone else try to do your selling for you. No matter how enthusiastic this other person is, the reality is that he does not know your product and its capabilities the way you do. He simply won’t be able to handle the senior manager’s questions and objections.

Besides, a lower-level manager will tend not to be very aggressive in following through, or in pushing for a Yes decision. After all, naturally enough, his main objective is to keep his job, not to make a sale for you.

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Sales objections: How to handle it if you hear an endless string of sales objections.

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5 savvy steps to take in responding to questions and objections

If you’re making a presentation, or even just sitting in a one-on-one meeting, and someone throws out a question, or even an objection, it seems only natural to respond directly to it.

But that’s not always the best approach, for a variety of reasons. First, you may not really understand the point they are raising (for that matter, the other person may not themselves really understand the issue they are raising). If you respond, more or less blindly, then you may fail to address the issue; worse, you may open up other issues.

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Consultative sales skills: Why and how to set the context

Consultative selling is selling by asking the questions that prompt the prospect to recognize needs for what you offer.

A key point:  In using a consultative sales approach, ask questions, but shape the meeting as a conversation, not an interrogation. Good consultative sales skills means projecting that you want to learn all you can about the situation, so you can help, NOT that you are there to cross-examine . . . and DEFINITELY NOT that you are seeking to learn their sensitive proprietary information.

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