Selling can be a delicate process.
At one moment, you think that deal you’ve been working on for months is certain to close. But then, out of nowhere, it dies. You’re left with nothing to show for all your efforts.
Yes, losing is part of what it means to be a salesperson. But as a sales manager, part of your focus should be helping your reps lose as few opportunities as possible.
So if you really want to improve your win rate (and who doesn’t?) there’s one thing you have to understand first.
It’s not about you.
It’s about the buyer, their buying process, and their buying signals. And you’d be surprised how many organizations don’t get this right.
For instance, some sales leaders will try and get their entire team on board with a single selling style. Unfortunately, there’s a big gaping hole in that approach: certain buyers won’t respond to certain selling styles.
So you could be investing in an expensive training program, but it’s only helping your team connect with ten percent of the buyers out there!
This is why listening to each buying signal coming from your prospects is absolutely critical to effective sales motions. How your reps respond to each of these signals will determine how you approach the relationship or potential deal.
Here are some of the top buying signals your team should look out for when progressing opportunities:
- Closing sales windows
- Shifts in the conversation
- Red flags or signs of a bad fit
As you work with your reps on improving their selling skills, here are some tips to help them respond to these key signals when talking to a potential client.
1. Closing Sales Windows
Let’s start with one of the most subtle buying signals out there: the closing sales window.
There’s a limited window in which a potential client is willing to make a purchase decision.
Try to close too early, before you’ve earned the right to ask them for their business, and you’re going to get shut down real quick.
But if you’re too timid and try to close too late, their enthusiasm may die down, and you’ll miss the window.
This all comes down to something called the Impulse Curve. Take a look at the graphic below.
As a prospect moves forward in time (to the right), their likelihood to purchase your product keeps going up. This is where they’re learning about your features and starting to see the value of what you have to offer.
Eventually, they’ll hit the peak of the Impulse Curve. Typically, they’ll say something like “Wow! I can’t believe we aren’t using this right now!” This is the moment where they’re most likely to buy.
After that point, however, their enthusiasm will start to die down. Then, your reps are going to have a harder time getting them to make a purchase.
So the biggest buying signal in this case is that expression of intense enthusiasm. Once that occurs, your team will know that a prospect at the peak of that Impulse Curve.
At that point, the rep has to ask for their business. If they wait too long, they’ll miss their chance and that window will close.
2. Conversation Shifts
There are a lot of things that set exceptional sales reps apart from decent ones.
But one of the most important is this: exceptional sales reps understand that sales is more about listening than speaking.
Unfortunately, too many reps don’t listen to their prospects and customers. These are the folks that give salespeople a bad name.
Learning how to actively listen is the most important thing that a salesperson can do if they want to become better at interpreting buying signals.
If your reps aren’t listening to their prospects, you can’t detect important shifts in the conversation:
- They may clarify, nuance, or completely change their primary pain points
- They may reveal information that requires you to pivot your pitch
- They may switch from a receptive posture to a defensive one (or vice versa)
- They may go from wanting to gather information to high enthusiasm, which means they’re ready to buy
Remember: it’s not about your reps and what they want to say to the prospect. It’s about what will help the prospect progress toward a purchasing decision.
Nearly all prospects and customers will drop subtle buying signals over the course of the conversation. If you want your reps to know how to pick up on and react to them, you have to train them on how to listen.
3. Red Flags or Signs of a Bad Fit
As salespeople, we spend weeks, even months, trying to get a prospect on the line.
But one of the most lucrative things we can do is so counter-intuitive that most reps ignore it.
It’s knowing when to cut bait.
No matter how good your team is at research and qualification, there are going to be times where a rep ends up on the line with a bad-fit prospect. There could be any number of signals to indicate that this is the case:
- Pricing signals (e.g. organization size is too large or small, budget isn’t allocated, annual revenue doesn’t match your ideal customer size, etc.)
- Vertical confusion, where the qualifying thought the prospect was in one of your verticals, but it turns out they’re in a space where you can’t help them
- Confusion on the prospect’s top challenges and pain points that were missed in qualification
- The individual contact may see the value of your product, but can’t get organizational buy-in
If your reps can figure that out early in the call, there’s no reason they should stay on the line. In fact, it’s best for both you and the prospect if you don’t.
Plus, once your reps cut bait, they’re opening up time for people who are actually interested in your product or service. And that’s a more valuable use of everyone’s time.
4. Bad Timing
A prospect may be generally open to what a rep has to say, but if the rep catches them at a bad time, it could potentially ruin the deal.
A rep could cut bait with a prospect, thinking that they’re not a good fit, but it turns out that you just caught them at a bad time. In this case, a perfectly viable opportunity was lost.
Alternatively, they could push a prospect too hard when it’s clear that they aren’t ready to talk right then and there. This could turn them off to the point where they don’t want anything else to do with you.
If your reps listen to their prospects for these timing signals, and structure their responses based on when the prospect is going to be available and engaged, you’re going to see better results.
Coaching Your Reps to Identify these Buying Signals
Understanding buying signals in sales is a key component of increasing you and your team’s overall conversation intelligence.
It’s a skill that your reps can learn if they’re properly trained and coached on it:
- Train your reps on the types of buying signals
- Run mock calls to guide them in real-time on how to respond to them
- Record and listen to calls to see how skilled reps navigate these signals
- Sit in on calls with your reps and coach them on their performance
If you’re working on skills improvement across your entire team, trying to do all of this manually can be time consuming.
That’s where conversation intelligence technology can close the gap.
Check out this article that covers all the basics of CI technology. It should give you an idea of the kinds of tools that can help you improve your whole team’s performance by scaling your coaching efforts.