A common piece of sales advice is 'Ask for the order.' Even when you think there’s no way the answer is yes, you’ve got nothing to lose by asking.
Every salesperson can tell you about a time when this worked: a prospect who seemed on-the-fence (or even completely disinterested) surprised them and said they’d buy.
But what if you knew far in advance whether asking for the order would pay off? Not only would you have a better sense of which deals were going to close, improving your forecast accuracy, you could also focus your time and energy on the right ones and stop pursuing long shots.
The answer lies in your prospect’s verbal responses. We analyzed 20,858 sales calls to find the subtle linguistic clues that will tell you which way prospects are leaning.
Here are our main findings. Once you know these tells you won’t need to 'ask for the order' just in case — you’ll be confident the prospect will say yes.
1. Talking About the Competition
Modern buyers typically research several options before making a final call, which means the question isn’t, 'Do I have competition?' but 'Who’s my competition?'
Turns out, discussing the other players competing for your prospect’s business is actually a strong indication of whether or not they’ll buy. It all comes down to timing.
If your prospect talks about the competition in the beginning or middle of the sales process (think connect, discovery, or first demo calls), there’s a 49% greater chance of closing than when the competition never comes up at all.
Three potential explanations: First, talking about the competition early on gives you the opportunity to shape your prospect’s decision criteria. Second, this conversation shows they’re willing to be transparent. The more open your prospect is, the easier it will be to surface and resolve their objections. Third, knowing who you’re up against allows you to tailor your messaging and highlight your product’s strengths versus your competitors.
What if the competition comes up later? Unfortunately, the reverse is true. You’re less likely to close than if you hadn’t talked about them. It’s possible your prospect has begun leaning toward an alternative vendor and wants to hear any last-minute arguments in your favor.
2. Voicing Doubts and Concerns
A gung-ho prospect is actually a bad thing. You’d probably assume the opposite: A prospect who’s planning to buy would use mostly positive language, while a reluctant one would express plenty of doubt.
However, the analysis shows that’s not the case. Lost deals have a 12.8% higher sentiment score. That means across the sales cycle, prospects who didn’t buy consistently used more positive language than those who did.
If the prospect is raising objections and concerns, that means they’re probably seriously considering a purchase. That bodes well for your chances of closing. The data also shows their negativity increases as the conversation gets closer to the final stage. Why? The buyer clearly trusts the salesperson enough to share their reservations.
Every potential customer has reasons not to buy. That’s why they’re still a potential customer. If you’re hearing nothing but glowing words from your prospect, they’re probably holding back — which means they’re not serious.
3. Saying 'Probably'
When gauging your prospect’s timeline, look out for the word 'probably.' It might seem like a weak statement, but we found it’s actually a strong indicator they’ll buy.
Not only is this word directly correlated to higher win rates, it also increases the likelihood you’ll close the deal when you’d forecast.
You might be seeing a pattern. As with negative statements, 'probably' indicates the buyer is actually thinking of buying. If they were leaning toward 'no,' they’d just tell you what you wanted to hear — a firm deadline.
4. Saying “We Need to Figure Out…”
It’s normal to still have a few loose ends by the point you’re discussing a timeline with your prospect. However, it’s not a good sign to hear 'we need to figure out (how to get this through Legal, how we’ll finance this, how many seats we’ll sign up for to start, etc.)'
There’s a negative correlation between this phrase and closing the deal when predicted. It’s possible prospects use it to warn you they’re not ready and you shouldn’t expect a decision in the near future. This statement may also be a sign there are several internal roadblocks to overcome.
Using these verbal cues to guide your sales strategy will help you predict whether you’ll win the deal. And if there’s a red flag, you may now have enough time to salvage the opportunity.