The most effective salespeople are masters of communication. They know exactly what they are doing and are highly intuitive, adapting their style and approach based on the signals they are receiving.
But whether you’ve had any formal training or not, there are some easy to spot signs in any sales conversation that you should be looking out for.
Every sales conversation is about weighing up whether a prospect has a need, is interested in your product, has the budget for it and is going to be a good ‘fit’ for your company.
Great salespeople are pros at spotting when a conversation is going nowhere and will swiftly end it and try at another more suitable time. They will always have their eyes on the prize – closing the deal – and this should be your goal.
For a prospect, their goal at the beginning of a sales conversation will be unknown. It may be to talk at another time, or not at all, or it could be a yes to do business on the best terms they can get.
If a prospect has an interest in your product they will engage in conversation about it, but if they aren’t interested then you need to quickly find out if it’s worth pursuing them to try and change their mind (for example, if they’re not interested because they don’t have all the information they need or are misinformed).
The following signals can help you judge the conversation and decide what the best next steps may be.
1. Know who you’re talking to
You need to quickly establish who is opposite you and what kind of communication style they may respond most positively to. Adjust your style to the one that will give them what they need and want.
How you do that is to observe how they react to your opening statements and questions. Have a list of them ready to refer to (memorize it if you’re meeting in person, or have a list written down if you’re on the phone).
For example, you may monitor to see which of these statements is true:
- They need facts
- They are a people person
- Likes to talk about anything
- Likes to talk about him/herself
- Is a sceptic
- Is an optimist
- Has a need for information
- Has a need for acknowledgement
- Has a need for encouragement
Adjust your style of conversation to match your observations of the person you are talking to.
2. Think about body language
Prospects can give away so much in their body language if you’re paying attention and know what to look out for. Body language can even come in helpful for conversations conducted over the phone – both yours and a prospect’s.
Before you go in, take a deep breath and really focus. Make sure your body language is open – avoid crossing your arms or legs.
When you’re in front of the prospect, look at whether they have a closed or open stance. If their arms are crossed in front of their body then it’s a sign that they are closed and probably not letting anything you say go in. They are also likely to judge you and what you say.
If they laugh, this can either be genuine or fake. With a genuine laugh, a lot more muscles will be used and the whole face lights up.
When talking over the phone
Just because you’re not face-to-face, it doesn’t mean you can’t take any cues from a prospect’s body language. You can often hear emotions, including when someone is bored or distracted. Actively listen for any such signs.
Don’t forget about your own body language and how it can positively influence how you come across. Stand up for the call and smile!
3. Focus on topics
When you start a conversation, you need to adjust your small talk to match the person you’re talking to. Take their lead but always try to stay focused and not go too far off-topic and the reason for your conversation.
Top tip: Try and find some common ground. Talk about that, then swiftly get back to business.
Next, ask questions to try and find out which topics they are most interested in. If it fits the product or service you offer in some way, then continue the conversation. Stay focused and always pull them back towards the reason for the conversation if needed.
4. Are they distracted?
In the digital world we now live in, we’re surrounded by technology. People are constantly looking at their phone, tablet or a computer screen. Be aware of any signs that may suggest they’re not giving you their full attention and act on them.
If they are distracted then ask if now is a good time to talk and if it’s not, then acknowledge that positively and try to rearrange. There’s absolutely no point talking if they don’t want to listen. It’ll be a complete waste of time.
Ideally, you need to establish why they are distracted. Is it a genuine issue at that moment, or do they just not care about what you have to say? Being able to spot the difference is important and will come with experience. Your best response here will be to say something like “Perhaps now is not a good time to talk, would you like to reschedule?”.
5. Who’s talking more?
If the answer to this question is you, then it’s time to reassess your approach. Unless of course, they have asked you a question they want a full answer to. The more they talk, the better the outcome of your call is likely to be. When they’re talking, listen and continue asking questions to get them deeper into the subject matter.
If they, in turn, don’t ask any questions at all and come across as distracted, then they’re not ready for the next step. In contrast, they may be ready to go on to the next level if they ask for more details about any of the following:
- The product, particularly if it’s specifics – this is a good sign they are thinking about whether the product/service will fulfil their needs
- Warranties/guarantees – they want to find out if your product is good enough and reliable
- Delivery times – one of the biggest sales-ready signs there are. This signals they are already thinking about implementation
- Price – any money-related question is generally a very good sign. In most cases, this will be a sign that they are already considering whether they have the budget for it. But be cautious here, as it could also be to see how flexible you are with the pricing, without having a specific purchase intent
- References – they are considering you and want to make sure you are as good as you say you are
- Jackpot question – “what do we do next” is the biggest sign of a deal being closed
6. What objections do they have?
There can be some subtle differences between the objections you may hear from a prospect. If they’re trying to negotiate a better price, that’s not an objection. But if they feel your product is too expensive for the value and benefit it offers them, then you’ll need to tackle it in a different way.
If you hear any objections that show a lack of knowledge or misunderstanding about the product or service, then you need to address them. These are one of the easiest types of objections to manage.
For all the potential objections you may hear, plan your responses and check out our guide on the art of cold calling for more great advice.
Every sales conversation is full of subtle signals and cues that can help you decide what the most positive course of action may be. If you recognize what these signs are and look out for them, then they can help guide you, which in turn should see your success rate soar. It all comes back to timing in the end. Speaking to prospects at the right time with the right information and being fully prepared so any conversation goes smoothly and you can show a prospect you are listening and really understand them.