Selling - How to Recognise Buying Signals
I’ve been selling for a living for 23 years now and the more I do it, the more I get used to it. Helping people to make their choices can be gratifying work, and if you’re reasonably good at it, which generally just means having a good manner, you’ll always be in demand, because companies are always looking for people to sell their goods and services.
Knowing how to spot customers’ buying signals, is a great asset to sales staff, and it’s simply a case of tuning into your customers’ emotions.
These are the same emotions that we might all have when we’re parting with our hard-earned cash - so we don’t need to be mind readers or psychologists, or even to have extraordinary social skills to recognise ‘buying signals’ - we simply need to empathise, or, to put it in the vernacular - put ourselves in the customers’ shoes. This is important, because people don’t always say what they’re thinking. For example, if they complain about prices, it doesn’t mean they won’t buy; you can’t go home yet.
Buying signals often come in the form of simple mundane questions like:
How much is that one?
Do you have one in blue?
Do you deliver?
How soon can you deliver?
How long does the job take?
Do you offer finance?
Is there a backup service?
Does that price include vat?
How long is it guaranteed for?
Is that your best price?
Do you need a deposit?
Your customer might turn to a friend or family member and ask for their approval:
What d'ya' think?
Would that match the carpet?
Will we get it in the car?
Your credit card or mine?
These simple questions are all typical buying signals, which reveal that the customer is seriously considering ownership of the product:
‘Will it go in the car?’ Why would they ask that sort of question if they weren’t planning to take the product away with them?
‘Is that your best price?’ Ironically, this isn't always a challenge - and a truthful ‘yes’ is a good answer to the question, depending upon how much autonomy you have, because it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your integrity as a salesperson - and integrity is the greatest asset a salesperson can have, when building a long-term career. Often your customers just need reassurance that their enthusiasm for the goods won’t override prudence. When you hear this one, there’s a good chance that you have a sale already.
An experienced salesperson is listening for these simple, basic and positive signals all the time.
Just think - if your prospective customer has taken the trouble to come to your establishment, or asked for an appointment for you to go to them, in the first instance, that is in itself a strong buying signal. Few people have time to waste on something they're not interested in, in a world where time is so valuable.
You can also get buying signals from your customers’ body language.
Body language isn’t brain surgery - (although that doesn't necessarily mean that all brain surgeons are good with body language). Most of us respond to it subconsciously - maybe that’s why we don't always recognise it. If your customers smile a lot, they’re either suffering from wind, or you’re making a good impression - and the old, ‘first you must sell yourself’ maxim is working well. On the other hand, if you see too much of a person’s back, i.e. no eye contact, it probably means he or she has seen too much of your face already, and we (most of us) get the message.
People who are interested in a product tend to start handling it as if they already own it. Fondling an item indicates a desire for ownership. Conversely, if a customer discards an item, as they would a smelly old sock - that would suggest a lack of enthusiasm for the product. These are obvious signs. Nevertheless, people who are new to this line of work might not recognise them as such.
A customer deep in thought, or who keeps returning to one particular item, is also showing typical non-verbal buying signals. Lighting up a cigarette was once a good sign that a customer had a settled mind, and although, in the UK, that has changed due to recent legislation, there are similar habits that might indicate a mind that has settled on buying, and is beginning to wind down and relax. They may change the subject, crack a joke, offer tea or coffee, or ask what kind of day you’ve had.
Be ready for questions like, "Do you deliver?" Or, "Does that price include vat?" Few people discuss vat, until they have to pay it - otherwise it’s just small talk, because, like the weather, there’s not much we can do about it. “Is there a delivery charge?” How would that concern someone who isn’t going to have to pay such a charge? “How long does the offer stand?” Who cares, if they’re not interested in the offer? Yet, these are all buying signals.
The customer might seem preoccupied, and repeat a question like, "How much was that one again?" This often indicates that the customer is ready to buy, and at the stage of choosing a specific model or type. Dig a bit deeper, i.e. ask some more questions; you might be able to advise them.
"We're going on holiday in a fortnight. Can we have it installed before we go away?" This is the ultimate buying signal. Your customer has given you a leg up here; it's an opportunity for you to get the order form out and start to close the sale, because now you can say, "When would you like it delivered? I can put special delivery instructions onto the order form." Now you’re filling out the order form, and your customer has saved you the trouble of asking for the sale.
Of course, buying signals don’t always guarantee a sale; the customer might need more time to think it over - or he or she might need to consult with a family member or colleague, but you should learn to recognise and duly respond to all these positive signs if you intend to make a living at selling things.
Be helpful; be cheerful - and good luck, (unless you’re one of my competitors).
© Copyright David B. McBain 2012. All rights reserved.
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