In the game of poker, there is a great benefit in trying to hide your cards from your opponents. This doesn’t just mean keeping them face down, but also not allowing your opponents to have the slightest hint about what your cards might be.
It sounds very easy, but it really isn’t. Poker players say that everyone has a “tell”, an involuntary motion or action that they perform when they are lying – a behavioral cue. A poker player may pretend that they have the best hand possible and bet within the game in a way that suggests this is true – but every time they talk, they scratch their left ear.
When the other players realize that the left-ear-scratching is an indication that the player might not be telling the whole truth, their ability to deceive is radically reduced.
While sales tactics should never include lying, everyone is subject to tells and other quirks when in the middle of a discussion, and these can be your gateway to closing a sale.
Sales tactics when communicating with words
Some tells are visible even when you can’t see people. You can talk to a prospect for a long time in person or on a call, or even by email or text. Some may tell you to listen for certain inflections in the voice. But, these may vary widely depending on the first language of the speaker.
For example, in US English, the voice may rise at the end of a sentence to indicate it is a question – but in the UK, the voice drops at the end of a sentence when it is a question.
What is more important is to be aware of what the other person is saying, be it with their voice or with their typing.
You are looking for interest in your product or services. If the conversation has started off with little interaction, where the prospect is just kicking the tires and doesn’t really seem interested, you should sit up and pay attention when they start relaying their problems to you.
They might tell you what it is they are trying to solve, or that they have a supplier already but they aren’t very responsive. Perhaps they’ll start asking a lot of questions about one particular product, or just drop in a comment about what their wife thinks about something.
These are all insights into how they feel about things and they are an opportunity to go deeper. Would you talk about your family to someone you didn’t trust or didn’t want to do business with? Would you go to the trouble of identifying all your problems if you weren’t looking for a solution?
Behavioral cues of your lead to indicate interest
It can be a lot easier to identify levels of interest when you can see the people you are interacting with. This can be in-person or via video call, although video calls are likely to be harder to establish true behaviors as the person will be focusing on the device they are using.
The clearest form of body language is to look at how open and receptive to you the prospect is. If they maintain eye contact, sit with their legs straight and their arms away from their body, there’s a good chance they are interested.
If they look away or seem distracted, cross their legs, or fold their arms across their chest, they are in a disinterested or defensive state. They will need a lot of work to build interest and trust, possibly more than you can afford to.
If they lean in towards you, nod their head, or even reach out and touch you, this is a good sign. It shows interest, and that they are in agreement with what you are saying. However, if they shake their head, move or lean away from you, or spend a lot of time arguing with you (or just huffing and puffing), it’s likely you’re going to have a hard job convincing them to buy.
The psychology of sales tactics
The principle behind these actions is psychological, and these behaviors are often unnoticed by those performing them.
Leaning in, nodding in agreement, and adopting an open posture are all things that signify interest. These physical actions bring the prospect closer to you and make them open to physical attack from you – yes, you read that right!
While a salesperson is not going to attack a prospect, human physiology is always ready to defend the body or run away. By getting close and moving the legs and arms out of the way of the other person’s body, it is a subliminal signal of trust.
The opposite is true, too. Moving away gives a better chance of escaping, shaking the head is subliminally saying, “No, I don’t want that…or like you…”, while crossing arms or legs creates a physical barrier to keep the salesperson away.
To get even deeper into the mind of the buyer, pleasure causes the pupils of the eye to dilate. If their pupils get larger while you are talking (and there’s been no dramatic change in the lighting) then it’s a good sign they are getting ready to buy!
Using your own behavioral cues
While the buyer will make these motions unaware of their actions, they’ll also be subconsciously aware of how you are moving too. If you lean in, they’ll think you’re interested in them. If you nod and smile, you’ll appear more trustworthy. And, if you cross your legs, they’ll perceive the physical barrier you’ve made, and be less likely to agree with you.
There are many other things you can look for, and you’ll find that just as the poker players know, everyone has a tell. There will be one thing that every client does that will let you know you’ve made the sale, even before they confirm it with their mouth.
Each tell will be different, but it won’t take you long to find them if you keep your eyes open. And as soon as you see it, you can relax – your job has been done, and the sale has been made, even if the client doesn’t know it yet!