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This is part one of a two-part series. Part two will appear tomorrow.
Have you ever been oversold? Have you ever talked yourself in and then out of buying something? Sales is not a process of convincing someone to buy. A sale is made because you listened to needs – and then recommended a solution a prospect understood.
When you are new to financial advice, you try to talk people into buying. When you are more experienced, you listen for openings, and then present viable solutions. But the best advisors are so elegant, they “listen” people into buying. This not only means you effectively probe for needs and wants. It also says that you can read emotions while you engage. Some of those reactions are cues that the prospect has heard enough and wants 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 felt immediate rapport, and told John exactly what he needed. John then presented solutions. John 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 engaged a competitor. John oversold him. He talked himself in and then out of the sale. If you are too concerned with what you are presenting, you will fail to notice buying signals.
You can’t help your client unless you can close. You can’t close unless you can listen and read buying signals. If you don’t know when to stop talking, you’ll you will oversell. All you need is to stop talking.
As simple as this seems, 70% of your prospect interactions get stalled because you talk too much. Knowing when is just as important as your planning expertise. When you see a buying signal, you have to be sharp enough to trial close. This is simply getting an emotional temperature check to determine if they still like your solution. Sometimes, you just have to be sharp enough to ask, “Do you like this so far?” and then listen to what they say. It often will be, “Sounds great.”
But if you talk your prospect into submission, you will get a stall. This is a, “Let me think about it,” or, “I will get back to you on that.” The right way to close is to first notice nuanced yet subtle cues indicating when they want to buy. If you miss one of these, you’ll miss the opportunity to help your prospect.
Buying signals are a lot like moving through a submarine. You close the watertight doors and progress to the front of the boat. When your prospect displays buying signals, they are signaling that they want you to close a watertight door allowing you both to move ahead. Rarely does a buying signal indicate that someone wants to sign the contract then and there. But it is a cue they want you to move ahead faster.
Here are some of the verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate a prospect has accepted what you have presented and want you to move on to the next step.
This is one of the most basic. Even beginners can recognize this cue. I was on the island of Madeira in Portugal recently, talking to attendees after my speech. One attendee walked up and abruptly interrupted. He talked 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 the signal. Each 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 they already know. You can then move on to the next stage in the sales process.
Several academic studies have tested the hormonal and physical response people have to attractive photos. Whether the viewer is male or female, their pupils will expand to the degree they are aroused. A sexy financial plan won’t evoke the same excitement as someone in their birthday suit. But people can’t hide their emotions. You only need to know what to look for.
In Las Vegas high stakes poker, pros train themselves to avoid any emotion. 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 than if it’s a winner. This makes sense since the player is probably thinking longer about what to draw or discard.
Aristotle Onassis, the late great Greek shipping tycoon, wore sunglasses during business meetings. After losing his, Onassis postponed one meeting until he could buy another. Women are much better at spotting these cues. Although Americans in general are the worst among developed nations at spotting body language 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 communicate more non-verbally 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 or holds it as you talk, they are showing a subtle buying sign. But if they promptly give it back to you, having barely glanced at it, they are signaling that your ideas aren’t worth looking at. If they slide your brochure across the table right back to you, retreat to the probing stage.
A Japanese businessperson would feel deeply offended if you took their card and immediately stuck it into your pocket. You would honor them 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 rep continued to talk for the next 45 minutes. I saw the prospect go from moderate interest to apathy within five minutes. The rep didn’t have a clue. I watched the salesperson lose a clear opportunity to help this person If you miss a buying signal, you may never see 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. they may also scratch their head or rub their nose. Any one of these is a strong indication that your prospect is in deep thought. If you keep trying to sell, you could irritate.
Stop talking, especially if your prospect has suddenly broken eye contact. Your prospect wants you to stop talking and engage with a trial close. Trial close by saying, “Does this sound good to you? Do you like this idea?” If they don’t say, “Great,” Get them to talk about what they don’t understand or agree with.
I would love to send you a free video of “Buying Signals.” Write me at [email protected] or call 714-368-3650. I will send the video after we spend a few minutes talking about your goals for increasing business this year.
Dr. Kerry Johnson is “America’s Business Psychologist.” He is the best-selling author of 17 books including the recently released, How to Recruit, Hire and Retain Great People. He is also a frequent speaker at financial conferences around the world. Peak Performance Coaching, his one-on-one coaching program, promises to increase your business by 80% in 8 weeks. To see if you are a candidate for this fast-track system, click on www.KerryJohnson.com/coaching and take a free evaluation test. You will learn about your strengths and what is holding you back. Or call, 714-368-3650 for more information.
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