Know When to Close: The Importance of the Buyer’s Shift

April 9, 2012


Sales training often concentrates on the beginning of the sales funnel, stressing activities such as marketing, prospecting and presenting. Some even get as far as drilling on handling objections. Too many salespeople are therefore only competent at finding people to sell and presenting, but cannot “seal the deal” when the moment of truth comes, costing both their commission and the firm’s lifeblood — revenue.

Both rushing into the close, as well as neglecting it when the buyer is ready to go forward, are major weaknesses in salespeople. There is a solution to this, and that is to train salespeople to learn to recognize the “buyer’s shift,” which is defined as the moment the prospect decides in his mind that he will buy. While some prospects have extremely good poker faces, most still display subtle hints, often four or five simultaneously, that can be used to launch into the close.

Non-verbal Signals

Since body language provides 55% of the closing signals, we will cover them this first. To sum up what the physical manifestations of the buyer’s shift look like: think “opening up” — the buyer moves from a defensive or uninterested countenance to welcoming of the salesperson and their message. It can catch a salesperson off guard when a grumpy client who has had his arms crossed for the past 10 minutes suddenly leans forward and smiles. With good sales training, the professional recognizes this as the buyer’s shift, stops what he is doing, and smoothly asks “Are you prepared to move forward if we can deliver this on Tuesday?” or any other suitable close.

Some of the main physical indicators of a buyer who is ready to buy include:

•a friendly, pleasant expression

• head nodding

• tilting the head to one side

• removing a jacket or loosening a tie

• relaxed body posture

• eyes widening or eyebrows raised

• leaning towards the salesperson

• flirting or prolonged eye contact (puppy eyes)

• suppressed excitement, as if he is dying to get started

Verbal Signals

Buyers seldom just come out and say “OK, I want to buy it.” Instead, if they give any spoken signals at all, they will be subtle. Here are some of the cues to practice looking out for in sales training:

• Owning statements. The prospect suddenly starts talking as if they already own the item. In a factory, a potential customer using an owning or “buyer attachment” statement might discuss where they would install the new widget-making machine you are trying to lease them

• Repeated questions. When a buyer is very interested, they will repeat questions about some feature of your offering to confirm it fills their need.

• Risk-mitigation questions. When a buyer seeks reassurance that they will be protected in some way, either with a guarantee or other indication of the safety of the purchasing decision, they are very close to saying, “yes” if their fears are assuaged.

• Outside recommendations. If a buyer mentions someone who has recommended you, they are close to buying as that indicates they took the recommendation seriously.

• Complaints about the competition. The buyer who speaks poorly about a competitor wants assurance that you are different; if you convince them of it, you can close the sale.

• Gets personal. When a prospect starts asking about where you are from or how long you have been with the company, this might indicate they are ready to buy the product — but first they need to buy YOU.

Sales training that includes recognizing the buyer’s shift and delivering an immediate closing question will pay off in larger commission checks and happier customers. After all, getting a customer to get involved in your offering will benefit them, right? So, make sure they do!