Tips for Identifying Clients’ Buying Signals

If I were an auto mechanic, I'd have to be prepared if I were to service the next job that came my way.

First, I'd need knowledge – a basic trait of any professional.

Next, I'd need the tools necessary to execute the repairs – tools that are in perfect condition and are stored in a place where they can be easily accessed.

The same kind of logic holds true for sales professionals in the kitchen and bath industry.With that in mind, the two most critical tools I'd like to focus on in this month's column are an understanding of trial closes and how to capitalize on the buying signals communicated by prospects.

I assure you that both of these tools are needed in order to seize every single sales opportunity. And both of them will have dramatic and positive benefits when they're properly used.

Because of their benefits, kitchen and bath sales professionals should store them away – and have them easily accessible, just like the tools of an auto mechanic.


Identifying a customer's buying signals, and using them to your advantage, is important to closing any sale.

Let me first clarify the term "to your advantage." It may sound self-serving, but, as a sales professional, the term "to your advantage" means creating benefits for both you and your prospect. It isn't tough to identify buying signals – and it shouldn't be difficult for you to have a ready response once you do identify one of them.

Here's an example of a typical consumer buying signal, and my suggestion for a response that will help you earn the sale.

Consumers today are inundated with marketing ploys, including ways to finance their purchase – in many cases with no down payment and an installment plan that delays the first payment for months. This is the same consumer who comes into your showroom and asks if you have financing available.

That question is a buying signal that indicates the consumer has interest in making a purchase. The good news at this point is that it's simply a question to be answered – not an objection to be overcome. If you don't offer financing, it may turn into an objection, and a reason for them to look for a source that does offering financing.

What should your response be?

I suggest your first response should be to answer the question, quite calmly, with a question of your own – for example, "Is financing important to you?"

Typical responses you can expect include these:

  • "I know some kitchen and bath design firms offer it, but we'll be going to our own bank instead."
  • "I have a CD [Certificate of Deposit] coming due in six months, and it would be of help if there were something available."
    I believe it's important in today's market to have some type of financing available to your clients. Once you establish that it's important to your prospect, your response that, yes, you offer it, gains enormous power.What follows are examples of other typical buying signals, posed as questions:
  • "Do you install?"
  • "Do you deliver?"
  • "Can you get the project completed by the holidays?"
  • "Will you personally oversee the work?"
  • "If I sell my home, will the warranty be of value to the new owners?"
  • "How long will the project take, and what we will have to do to prepare for it?"
  • "Can I call someone where you have done a similar project?"

If you were to log a week's worth of buying signals, it likely would surprise you how often the prospect is really saying, "I like you, your product and your design. I just need this question answered in order to move forward."
Therefore, my point is simple: When a buying signal is communicated to you, be prepared with an answer that will move the sales process forward.


Trial closes are extremely effective, but you must buy into a concept I believe is true: You start closing the sale at the instant you start the sale.
This means, of course, that all of your efforts are aimed at performing the activities necessary to take the prospect from your initial contact to the prospect agreeing to the sale.

What enables you to capitalize on opportunities is product knowledge, industry expertise, design ability, the use of showroom displays and the ability of the salesperson to control the process. What enables you to continually move forward are trial closes.

A trial close is a means of discovering what your relationship with a prospect is at any given point in the sales process – in other words, discovering whether or not you're on the right path with the prospect, and whether or not your communication is complete and understood by the prospect.


Three easy ways to start a trial close are with the words, "If I could..." "Just suppose..." and "Let me ask your opinion..." Let's explore each of these, and see how they can help you close a sale.

  • If I could. When appropriate, try this with a prospect: "If I could get these changes made by Friday, would you be able to meet Saturday morning to finalize the plans and place your order?" Or, "If I could create a schedule which would have your project done 10 days prior to the holidays, are you in a position to assure me we will go ahead with your project?" Or, "If I could design and include the products and needs we've discussed, and stay within your investment range, will you feel comfortable in making a decision to get your project scheduled and ordered?"
  • Just suppose. These two words often can easily substitute for "if I could." The difference is that "just suppose" gets the imagination working. For example: "Just suppose we agree on a final design this week. Would you be ready for us to start in four weeks?" Or, "Just suppose we work our way through the design process and overcome any budget challenges. How soon would it be convenient for us to start your project?"
  • Let me ask your opinion. I've found there's nothing like ascertaining the feelings of the prospect.

Remind yourself it's the emotional drivers like convenience, peer pressure and the like that ultimately motivate a prospect's decision. You can gauge the importance of these drivers, and move the sales process forward, by asking a prospect's opinion.

For example, try this: "I believe we've overcome the challenges we have identified. Is your opinion the same as mine?" Or, "Let me ask your opinion: Does what we've done here, and where we're going, feel right to you?"

Many times I've written that all sales tools don't work all of the time, but when you incorporate tools like the ones I've suggested here, you increase the probability of greatly raising your closing ratio.

Read past columns on Closing the Sale by Ralph Palmer, CKD, and send us your comments about this article and others, by logging onto Kitchen & Bath Design News' Web site,