(this is an excerpt from Sales Genuis 2) Are you recognising and acting on buying signals?

When I was a brand-new sales person, I discovered there was so much to learn – I had to imbibe and absorb information about new systems, processes, product information, company culture and, of course, how to sell.

I picked up the straightforward stuff pretty easily – I discovered that by working hard and following processes and structures that had been proven over time by others, I could succeed and do really well. So I learned, I practised, I improved.

However, one of the things that I found the hardest, was to recognise when a prospect was giving buying signals. Buying signals are hints that the customer is thinking of buying. They are often not that obvious, can easily be mistaken for something else, or are just difficult to spot when there are so many other things going on. But the reason they are so important is that when you see a buying signal, then the customer is, in effect, waiting for the salesperson to ask them to buy.

However, all of this was no good to me, because I couldn’t work it out. I knew the theory – because it had been given to me through lots of classes and teaching, but once confronted with real life prospects in real life situations, the theory suddenly faded into the background. Closing signals were often too subtle, too difficult for me to pin down and, even more frustratingly, it felt like other salespeople recognised them faster and better than me. Customers came in all shapes and sizes and so did their behaviour – some people were really straightforward to deal with, whilst others were infinitely complex.

So on top of everything else, in order to sell, I discovered that I needed to be a bit of a detective too!

So how did I learn to recognise buying signals? Well, customers do give clues – both verbal and non-verbal. Once I worked out how to spot these clues and (importantly) identify what they meant, then the whole mysterious subject of buying signals became a lot easier for me to decipher. It also meant I started to find it easier to close, but more of that later.

I realised that if I could read the information customers gave me and act accordingly, the chances were, that I would start to close more deals and it would feel easier and more authentic than it did before. However, customers are only human and I also discovered that, even when I was presenting them with the best solution in existence for their particular challenge or goal, they might give me mixed signals if they were under pressure, I was stopping them meeting a deadline, they were having a terrible day, or if they had painful and distracting [insert malaise of choice].

Although I had had formal training, it was only through years of working in direct sales that I finally understood how to read buying signals. For the longest time, I didn’t get it and then, one day, I came out of a meeting and I realised that I had spotted and acted on a range of buying signals from that client – all completely subconsciously! I had closed the deal and it had been straightforward, because I had known when to close.

That was a wonderful day!

So let me share with you what I have learned about buying signals over my 35 years in sales.

Firstly, there is a difference between mild expressions of interest and definite expressions of intention to buy (which is the bit where buying signals show up).

While buyers are still in the ‘consideration stage’ of the purchase, they will still be evaluating their options. So it stands to reason that their statements of interest are vague, non-committal and even a bit abstract. They might say things like:

“someone mentioned that”

“if you give me the brochure, I’ll look it over”

“seems like it could be a possibility”

“that’s interesting”

So what are the stages a prospect goes through before they buy and where do these different buying signals show up?

There is a recognised journey that all buyers go through. Different people may give the different stages different names, but in general terms, all buyers go through these stages:

1.     Everything is fine. In other words, they don’t need you.

2.     There are some problems. Hardly anyone is in Stage One anyway, so most customers are here – that’s because things can change so suddenly in our modern world. So they may have anything from something that is a bit annoying to a major crisis that could close the business down. In this stage, they will be searching for something to answer their question or solve their problem. The amount of energy they put into finding this solution will vary according to the urgency and the importance of the problem.

3.     Goals – customers will need to work out what they are trying to achieve or overcome. Once they know this, they will try and work out if your offering can help.

4.     Solutions – they are serious about buying at this stage and this is where you will probably see the buying signals as you present your solution to them.

If you think you have a buying signal in any of the earlier stages it could actually just be a mild expression of interest, so you need to be aware of which stage of the buyer’s journey you are in. It is only in the last stage that you will get real buying signals indicating genuine interest.

There are two main types of buying signals -verbal and non-verbal. I will explore them in turn


These are the words customers speak. I would suggest you try and concentrate on these first, as they tend to be easier to spot. Examples of very clear buying signals might be:

“Yes, I want to go ahead with that”

“OK, when can we get started?”

“Can I pay now?”

Even the VERY inexperienced me would have picked up on those! Unfortunately though, most customers don’t come right out with it and tell you they are ready to buy.

There are a whole range of other more subtle signals that I listen out for.

“How Much?”

A very common buying signal is when a prospect asks about the price. This is often an indication that they like what you have said and are now considering buying it. In order to make that decision, they need to weigh up the value of what you are offering against the cost of it.

Payment Methods

Closely related is when they ask questions about payment methods, for similar reasons.

Possessive Language

Another great buying signal is when the prospect begins to imagine themselves with the product or service. This is manifested by the use of possessive pronouns. I love it when I hear them use the words “I”, “me”, “we”, “my” or “our”. These are all possessive terms and when a prospect uses those words, they have mentally moved from wanting to find out more information, to a state where they can picture themselves using or benefitting from what I am selling. They may not realise they are doing it, but now I can spot it instantly. Examples of these types of statements are:

“How quickly would we be able to use it?”

“What are your delivery options?”

“How soon do you think we would see the benefits?”


Another buying signal involves questions about delivery, wrapping or any element to do with how they are going to physically receive the product or service. In a similar vein to asking about the price, these are indicators that the prospect is imagining how things would work with their current system or process, or what it would look like when it arrives.

“and what else…..?”

A really super buying signal is when the prospect asks questions about extras or upsells. For example, maybe I am selling a package of training. If the standard package is two weeks and the prospect asks me about the three or four-week packages, I can tell they might be interested in an even bigger sale. Or perhaps they ask about increasing the group size or having the premium version of the workbooks. Don’t mistake this as an objection to your initial discussion, rather it is the prospect tailoring your solution to suit them as well as possible.

“This would benefit me…”

If the customer has understood a benefit you have explained to them, or even worked out for themselves how your solution would benefit them, they are letting you know that this particular benefit is important to them. Reinforce what they say by being particularly positive.

Next Steps

When the customer asks “What do we do now?” or “What is the next step?” that is a very strong buying signal. They want to know the process because they are considering it very seriously.


The prospect might ask you to repeat things. If they want you to repeat key parts of your conversation, they may want to reaffirm something that particularly appealed to them or they want to reassure themselves that they are making the right decision by buying from you.

They change!

Sometimes, buyers become more talkative, or depending on their personality, go much quieter. This is because they are carefully considering whether to go ahead or not. Even if they want to work with you, the actual decision can be a bit stressful for them and often people react differently when under pressure.


Non-verbal skills relate pretty much exclusively to body language. I am now very quick at picking up cues from clients based on their body language which enable me to adapt my behaviour and, indeed, my own body language.

Examples of buying signals which manifest through body language include:

Leaning forward, nodding and smiling.

These behaviours are very positive signals and indicate that they are feeling good about you and about your solution. A nodding head is, in effect, saying “Yes, I would like to buy” If you have good eye contact with the prospect then this buying signal is really easy to spot.


If the prospect touches the product, sample or brochures – this is similar to them using possessive pronouns – they are imagining themselves using or benefitting from them.

Becoming more animated

Sometimes the buyer will realise that the time has come to make a decision. They may fidget, rub their hands, touch their face or lean away from you with arms across their body.

How to get better at recognising buying signals

I would strongly recommend that, after each sales conversation, you try to review each call and try to work out which buying signals were present. This will make you more aware when you come across a buying signal the next time.

In conclusion, remember:

  • It becomes easier to read body language with experience
  • Concentrate on verbal signals to begin with – they are easiest to read and respond to
  • Check out simple body language signals, like whether the person is smiling or whether they are leaning towards or away from you
  • Put yourself in the customers’ shoes – remember there might be something bothering them that they can’t or won’t tell you about, and it might override their natural expression of verbal and non-verbal signals.
  • If you genuinely are not picking up any signals at all, consider just asking for the sale. There is nothing to lose!

You can buy Sales Genius 2 on Amazon for £12.00 or I have some available for £10 (please text or call me on 07748994334)

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