Have you ever been oversold? Has a salesperson ever talked so much that he talked himself in and then out of the sale? If you answered "yes," you have been the victim of an amateur who thought he could talk you into buying by listening to his brilliance. Selling is not a process of convincing someone to buy. A sale is made when you have probed so well you learn what the prospect wants--and then recommend solutions to their problems.
When you are new to sales, you try to talk people into buying. When you are more experienced, you try to listen for openings and then try to talk them into buying. But professional salespeople are so elegant, they "listen" people into buying.
This not only means you effectively probe for needs and wants. It also suggests you pay more attention to how the prospect reacts to what you say. Some of those reactions are cues from your prospect they have heard enough and want you to move to the next stage of the process. Sometimes these cues indicate they want to buy.
Kevin was referred to John by a mutual friend. The referral was so strong the prospect opened up to John right away, and told him exactly what he needed. John listened to his prospect's needs and then presented exactly what he wanted.
John discussed the product like a master. He tailored every feature and made them into benefits. He was on a roll. John kept talking, and talking and talking. After about an hour, the prospect looked down at this watch and excused himself. He had another appointment. He said, "I'll get back to you later." Was he a bad prospect? No, in fact he went out the next day and bought from a competitor.
The truth is, John oversold him. He talked himself in and then out of the sale. Chances are you are so concerned with what you are selling that you fail to read people and also fail to notice their buying signals.
You can't make money unless you can close. You can't close at the right time unless you can read your prospect's buying signals. If you don't know when to stop talking, you'll sell by accident. Most sales are a complete accident. They occur because you happen by chance to stop talking, and the prospect coincidentally is ready to buy. If you know how to listen, while also possessing some product knowledge, all you need is to stop talking.
As simple as this seems, 70 percent of your sales are lost because you don't know when to close. Knowing when is more important than knowing how. If you have done a good job of gaining your prospect's trust, he will usually close himself. Sometimes, you just have to be sharp enough to ask "What do you think" and then listen to what they say. It often will be, "Sounds great."
But if you try to talk your prospect into submission, you'll find yourself manipulating. When you do that, you'll gain short-term sales and long-term losses. Your customer will ask for a refund a few days later. But the right way to close is to notice the prospect will show you innocuous but obvious cues indicating when he wants to buy. If you miss any one of those cues, you'll miss the sale.
Buying signals are a lot like moving through a submarine. You close the watertight doors as you move to the front of the boat. As your prospect displays buying signals, he is letting you know the watertight doors can close, and you can move ahead. Rarely is a buying signal a sign someone wants to sign the contact right then and there. But it is a cue they want you to move ahead faster.
Here are some of the verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate when you have said enough:
This is one of the most basic of buying signals. Even beginners can recognize this cue. I was recently on the island of Madeira in Portugal, talking to attendees after my speech. One guy walked up to the person I was talking to and me and abruptly interrupted our conversation. He kept talking for what seemed like an hour. I looked over to my friend and noticed him nodding quickly up and down.
The bore didn't pick up on this signal and just kept talking. Each of us flashed the look of, "Are you as bored by this guy as I am?" We both smiled in agreement. When you see this cue, you should say, "I sense this is pretty familiar to you." Or you can ask, "Where have you heard this before?" Proud to display his knowledge, your prospect will tell you what he already knows. You can then move on to the next stage in the sales process.
Several university studies have tested the hormonal and physical response people have to nude photos of the opposite sex. Whether the viewer is male or female, their pupils will expand to the degree that they are aroused by what the see. I don't think your product will evoke the same excitement as a picture of someone in their birthday suit. But people can't hide their emotions if you know what to look for.
In Las Vegas high-stakes poker, the pros train themselves to avoid showing any emotion at all. They wear sunglasses, so competitors can't see their pupils dilate when they have a good hand. But there are other cues great poker players look for. According to British body language expert Desmond Morris, a player with a bad hand will look at his cards longer if it's a winner. This makes sense because the player is probably thinking about what to draw or discard.
Aristotle Onassis, the late Greek shipping tycoon, was known to wear sunglasses constantly during business meetings. After losing a pair of sunglasses, he postponed one meeting until he could buy another. Women are much better at spotting these cues. Americans in general are the worst at spotting these nuances. Virtually every country's trade representatives have out-negotiated American officials in commerce and arms talks. This is largely because Americans don't yet understand what people say is not always what they mean. And they often mean more than what they are willing to say.
"I want to hold it"
Another buying signal is possessiveness. If your prospect keeps a brochure or sheet of paper close to the chest or holds it as you talk, he is showing a subtle buying sign. But if he promptly gives it back to you, having barely glanced at it, he is signaling your ideas aren't worth looking at.
If he slides your brochure across the table right back to you, you may want to retreat back to the probing stage. A Japanese businessman would feel deeply offended if you took his card and immediately stuck it into your pocket. You would honor him if you took a moment to read it with both hands, and then carefully placed it in your shirt or jacket pocket.
I once went on an appointment with an inexperienced rep. During the presentation stage, the prospect was given a product brochure. He immediately pulled it across the table, closer to his chair. He held it in his hand during the rest of the meeting. To my amazement, the salesperson continued to talk for the next 45 minutes. I saw the prospect go from moderate interest to apathy within the first five minutes. The sales rep didn't have a clue. I watched the salesperson snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If you miss your chance to close, you may never get another.
The chin and nose rub
When your prospect is ready to buy, she will rub her chin. But this in only one cue showing an imminent decision. He may also scratch his head or rub his nose. Any one of these is a strong indication your prospect is in deep thought. If you keep trying to sell, you could possibly irritate the prospect. Stop talking, especially if your prospect has suddenly broken eye contact. What your prospect really wants is for you to say, "What do you think?"
If you ever see a buying signal of any sort, the safest thing to do is trial close by saying, "Does this sound good to you? Do you like this idea?" If the prospect doesn't say, "Great," bless your ability to recognize when to stop talking. You may have pushed the prospect off the "cliff of no return" by talking too much.
The whistling teapot
Having watched hundreds of hours of video tape on prospect behavior, I have noticed many prospects will invariably lean forward in their chair or toward you while standing when they are ready to buy. The "whistling teapot" position is an indication that your prospect wants you to pull out the contract. If you see them suddenly move forward, they are indicating a change in behavior. That change is your buying signal cue.
I recently spoke at a Canadian sales conference in Edmonton, Alberta. I made the mistake of admitting I was the guest to the Canadian immigration officials. Unfortunately, the officials detained me for over hours the night I arrived, claiming I was taking jobs away from Canadians. Ironically, if I was a terrorist asking for asylum, they would have released me immediately.
They were only waiting for the next flight back to the U.S. to deport me. One official said my client could have found another speaker in Edmonton, to speak the next morning, although he didn't know anyone offhand.
About an hour earlier, these Gestapo officials allowed me to go out past immigration to tell my meeting planner host, who had been waiting to pick me up, he could come in to see me. I pleaded with the officials to let me stay in the country. I finally was able to convince the inspector a speaker on sales psychology, who was a past pro tennis player and the author of six books, would be hard to replace at midnight for a program the next morning in front of 600 attendees.
As I said this, the official leaned into the whistling teapot buying signal. I stopped talking and said, "What do you think?" The official immediately broke down and mentioned there was one area of the regulation that allowed a foreign speaker to perform for less than an hour over lunch, as long as it was a free speech. I said, "That's me." He smiled back.
The problem was my host meeting planner, who had been sitting quietly with me up to that point, decided he had taken enough crap from these immigration thugs and proceeded to give them a piece of his mind. The timing couldn't have been worse.
The meeting planner missed not only the buying signal, but also the even more obvious verbal cues as well. The official then leaned back into his chair, crossed his arms and legs, and told me again he was going to deport me. It took me another two hours to get the official back on my side.
The sitting tremor
A lot like the whistling teapot, the sitting tremor is also displayed by moving forward in their chair or leaning in toward you. Your prospect is signaling, "Stop talking already; let me buy." There is a difference. If your prospect sits forward in his chair the whole time, his back may just be sore. But if you suddenly see him move forward in his chair, you've got a commission check coming as long as you stop talking and trial close at the right time.
Verbal buying signals are more obvious. You have heard them over the telephone without even knowing it. You will also hear them in person, although they are accompanied by nonverbal cues as well. Verbal buying signals are statements such as "How much does this cost? Can I get this in blue? How quickly can I get delivery" and "What kind of guarantee does this come with?" All of these are obvious signals your prospect has heard enough and wants to start thinking about exchanging money for what he has listened to.
Like nonverbal cues, you should trial close when you see a verbal buying signal. I watched one salesperson spot a buying signal and then trial close. The prospect said, "Great, let's do it." She then startled me by saying to the prospect, "Are you sure?" The prospect then asked, "I don't know. Shouldn't I be?" And she was off to the races trying to recover a sale.
Sales is all about probing for needs, providing solutions that work, and then getting your client to implement your recommendations. Most of the time your prospective and current clients will show and tell you when they are ready to buy. If you miss those cues, you may miss the sale. Good luck and pay attention.