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Buying Signals That a Prospect Is Ready to Buy - Or Not

Buying Signals That a Prospect Is Ready to Buy - Or Not

Liston Witherill
Liston Witherill
5 min read

No matter how well-constructed your sales process, you can’t make anyone buy from you. So how do you close more clients in a world where you can’t convince anyone to buy?

Look for buying signals. Because the clear answer is to look for clients who are the most likely to buy. That way you’ll spend time with the most interested, ready-to-buy prospects you can find. You can also let marketing do the heavy lift on all those who aren’t ready to buy. Easier said than done.

So how do you know which clients are most likely to buy? You shouldn’t ask them to rate the probability that they’ll buy from you. It’s completely weird and their answer wouldn’t be very accurate.

Instead, look for specific buying signals that demonstrate their interest.

Definition of Buying Signals

Buying signals are events or characteristics that convey the likelihood of a prospect buying from you. Buying signals can be positive or negative, and the more you observe, the better you’ll understand your chances of closing a sale.

Stay open-minded and attentive throughout the process, and your prospect will reveal buying signals to you.

Buying Signals to Look For

While it may seem impossible to generalize buying signals, every buying process has more in common than you might think. Here are some signs that your prospect is more likely to buy.

They’re in pain.

This is the number one, most important thing you can observe in the sale, period. We’re not looking for the kind of pain that comes from a twisted ankle or broken heart. This kind of pain happens when something is off in their world and they’d be a whole lot better off if it were fixed.

The more acutely they feel pain, and the more urgency it creates, the more likely they are to be ready to buy. This kind of pain comes from business problems and their effects.

Pay special attention to how well they can describe their pain as a key signal for how likely they are to buy. The more abstract the pain, the more difficult the sale.

They’re making considerable effort.

This can start with something as simple as a form you have on your website. The better your positioning strategy, the more likely that they’re on your site to buy from you or someone like you. Filling out a from takes effort – usually a few minutes of thought for them to complete. The more effort demonstrated, the more likely they are to commit to making a change, and the more likely it makes sense to execute your sales process.

Examples of effort include a willingness to bring decision makers into the sale, to answer your qualifying questions, to have meetings and take risks along the way, and to complete other various tasks you may ask of them.

They’re curious.

The more curiosity exhibited by your prospect, the more they’ve thought about the particulars of their situation and what they can do to fix it. Prospects that lack curiosity aren’t necessarily a bad fit, but more curiosity is a sign of buying motivation.

Some signs of curiosity include: if they’ve taken the time to research you, your market, your competitors, or just ask good questions and come prepared to meetings.

And a few more buying signals include…

They have some knowledge about your service. More knowledgeable clients are typically exhibiting both effort and curiosity. Both are good things. If you notice a client is especially knowledgeable, it could be a strong buying signal.

Your values and beliefs are aligned. Your company’s purpose is quite important, and your values and beliefs are an attraction mechanism long before a prospect decides to engage with you. There are ways to figure this out, starting with asking good questions.

Willingness to follow your lead. This one may sound like an odd power struggle thing, but it’s really not. Your sales process requires some effort from your client, so it’s a good sign if they comply. If not, you may be in for a difficult delivery process if they do decide to buy.

Negative Buying Signals to Watch Out For

Now that we’ve covered those positive signals that’ll show you a buyer is relatively motivated and ready to buy, let’s turn to some signals that may tell you the opposite.

They’re obsessed with price.

If, on your first call, a prospect asks about price right away, it’s a sign that 1) they’re not interested in a relationship, 2) they’re shopping, or 3) they’re motivated primarily by price. None are a good start.

This is not the makeup of a good client relationship. If a client asks about price and cares about nothing else, give them a range and invite them to discuss factors that will influence the final price. If they’re not willing to have a conversation, move on.

They don’t have previous buying experience.

Whenever you encounter a client that’s been burned by another provider, it may seem like a negative because you have to overcome the bad feelings they have. True, but at least they see value in working with a provider like you.

If they don’t have previous buying experience, you’ll not only have to teach them about you and your company, but how to both buy and use your services. You’ll have a longer path to educate them in the process.

They don’t have a problem, or it’s difficult for them to articulate.

There’s a much-debated sales topic: do buyers respond more to pain or gain? Spoiler: pain is much more influential for evolutionary reasons. If your buyer has no pain, or they have a hard time articulating what it is, they’re likely to be a lot less mature in the buying process, and certainly less motivated to make a change.

They lack authority, and lack access to authority.

You may begin a sale by speaking to someone who doesn’t have authority to make a decision, but you’ll eventually need access to a decision maker. Or at least you’ll need to speak with someone who’s only one step removed from a decision maker.

But if you’re talking to someone with no authority, and no access to authority, you’re unlikely to succeed (and neither will your prospect!). Explain why you need access, and move on if you can’t get it.


Buying signals are a great way to determine how likely a prospect is to make a purchase.

You can be casual about your buying signals, just paying closer attention now that you know what to look for. Or you can even create a scorecard that’ll help you assess the probability of a particular deal closing.

Either way, look for buying signals so that you know which deals to invest the most time in, and why.

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