Is the Client Serious? Watch for the “Tell”

Gamblers call it “the tell.” It’s a bit of body language, usually unconscious, that reveals whether a player is pleased or worried about the cards he’s holding. A player can have the advantage over another if he can spot and correctly interpret that player’s tell.

A good salesman, like a good gambler, needs to watch for the tell. How often were you sure the client was going to hire you, and then you never heard from them again? How do you know if the client is in earnest or just trying to find a polite way to give you the brush? Pay attention to their body language. If the client appears to be engaged, is asking a lot of questions and providing detailed information, that’s a good sign. If she or he leans toward you when speaking or possibly touches your arm, they are starting to develop a relationship with you and establishing a foundation for trust. That doesn’t guarantee you’ve sealed the deal, but it’s an indication that you’ve got more than just your foot in the door.

On the other hand, if the client is fidgety, seems distracted, draws back from the conversation, makes little jokes or offhand remarks, or sounds self-defensive, those are not good signs. It means they are uncomfortable with the situation and are not prepared to make a decision. That’s your cue to suggest to the client that perhaps they need some time to “think it over.” If you feel there is some genuine interest, you can leave the door open by offering to follow up at a later date.

No matter what the client may say, these telltale signs will provide the feedback you need to determine if you’ve got a prospect or a dud.


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