A few words about buying signals

September 29, 2015


n my senior year of high school, I met the new girl in town on the first day of school. Louisville, KY, seemed like a world away from Greensboro, NC, where I had spent all of my life to that point. And I was intrigued by the girl whose family had just moved from that exotic place. 

We chatted several times between classes. Although her favorite topic was her boyfriend in Louisville, my teenage brain missed the significance of that information, because Louisville seemed a million miles away. After turning me down a number of times, she finally agreed to go to a movie. As we walked to the theater, she stopped in front of a wedding shop, and “oohed” and “aahed” over the wedding gowns in the window, saying she was looking forward to marrying her boyfriend. 

That’s when I realized I didn’t have a chance. She couldn’t have been more obvious if she had said, “John, here’s a clue you can’t miss. I’m not interested in you. In fact, I’m planning to elope tomorrow.” 

Things turned out for the best. I don’t know if she ended up marrying the boyfriend back in Louisville, but I eventually met the real woman of my dreams, to whom I am happily married. 

Buying signals. If we pay attention, they will show us where we stand in the selling process. There are negative signals, like unmistakable “no” of the wedding shop incident. And there are positive signals. Some are more definite than others. Let’s take a closer look: 

1. Non-verbal signals. Your prospect may be prepared to move to the next step in the sales process if he or she …

• Nods frequently, agreeing with the points you are making. 

• Leans forward with an increasingly pleasant expression. 

• Holds his or her pen near the advertising agreement, as if ready to sign.

• Smiles while re-examining your sales materials, especially any suggested ads you are presenting.

• Maintains good eye contact, and is not distracted by a cellphone, e-mail, or non-related items on the desk. 

• Takes possession of the ads you are presenting, by positioning them on his or her side of the desk. 

• Calls for an associate to step into the room to hear your ideas. 

2. Verbal signals. A number of prospects won’t say, “I’m sold. Where do I sign?” But they will say other things that show they’re ready to make a commitment. Be ready to move quickly, if he or she …

• Asks about the agreement.

• Asks when the ad campaign can start.

• Asks about your billing procedures.

• Requests clarification of earlier sales point. For instance, “Tell me again how you can reach my target audience.”

• Requests a change in the ad copy you are presenting. 

• Indicates a willingness to close, by asking, “What’s the next step?” 

• Stops referring to the ads and starts referring to my ads. This is one of the strongest buying signals of all, because it shows that he or she already owns what you are selling. © John Foust 2015. All rights reserved.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information at john@johnfoust.com.

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