How Closing Signals Can Help You Close More Sales

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

This is the third in a series of discussions with Zig Ziglar* on the subject of closing the sale. Each part of this series covers a specific, ready-to-use closing topic for improved closing performance. In this segment Zig will discuss the importance of identifying and responding to a buyer’s nonverbal signals. Many closing opportunities are missed by salespeople who are only concerned with what the customer says while ignoring what he or she expresses nonverbally. Zig Ziglar, the author of several audio-cassette programs, books and video cassettes, utilizes a unique formula for reading and responding to a prospect’s buying signals.

PSP: What are some of the signals that we need to watch out for during the closing process?

Zig Ziglar: From a teaching point of view, I am not as well qualified as some other trainers. However, as a salesperson I seem to have that instinctive feeling as to when to close. Now I clearly understand that I get that feeling based on certain signals which my prospect is communicating. In my seminars, I talk about the CHEF method. Each one of these letters stands for a specific closing signal.

PSP: The “C “stands for…

Zig Ziglar: The prospect’s chin or cheek. Let’s say that the prospect sits there and in response to your presentation gently strokes his cheek or his chin. He is sending a signal of gratification or satisfaction. The “H” stands for the prospect’s hands. If your prospect’s hands open up, especially when they are opened skyward, that’s a positive closing signal. Also, if the prospect rubs his hands, either palm to palm or palm to the back of his hand, that’s a sign that he or she is already assuming the ownership of what you’re selling.

PSP: Now we come to the “E “

Zig Ziglar: “E” stands for eyes. When those pupils begin to dilate, when those little crows feet on those of us who are old enough to have them begin to relax, or if a twinkle appears, you will see one of those buying signs that say “I like this idea.” Of course, the “F” stands for friendly. When the customer starts kidding you, then you know that the ice has been broken. They may say things like “Charley, you know that Robin Hood robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, but here you are, you rascal, you are trying to take from the poor so you can get rich.”

PSP: Are there other closing signals in addition to the CHEF method that you have observed?

Zig Ziglar: Well, another sign is when your prospects return to a point you’ve covered earlier. For instance, you may hear a prospect saying: “Tell me more about the warranty. What were some of the items you said it would cover?” Or in another case you may see a prospect gently stroking the upholstery of that new automobile while he is saying: “I don’t know, $16,000 for that car seems awful high.” Yet his nonverbal message clearly says that he wants it. Or a real estate salesperson may hear a prospect say: “Man, it’s 30 minutes from here to downtown,” yet he and his wife walk back to the living room window to take one more look at that view.

PSP: So you are saying that this would be an ideal time for a trial close.

Zig Ziglar: Absolutely.

PSP: We’ve discussed closing techniques, closing attitudes and closing signals. Why is it that so many salespeople believe that closing techniques alone are the answer to everything?

Zig Ziglar: There are some who think that they don’t need any techniques. They feel that they’ve got the right product at the right price and they assume that if they believe in it strongly enough, the customer will buy automatically. Others go to the other extreme and think that if they simply use the right technique, that everybody is going to buy. A lot of salespeople look for those magic words and magic techniques, and even though they think that these procedures will help sell anybody anything, the magic doesn’t work in real life. That’s good because otherwise we’d all be subjected to mass manipulation.

PSP: So what’ s your answer for achieving more closes?

Zig Ziglar: I think the word we want to use here is balance. Put some confidence in techniques and procedures put some confidence in having the right attitudes and values. As I said in my book, Secrets of Closing the Sale, the right person selling the right product to the right person with the right intention, using the right words with the right voice inflection is absolutely guaranteed a successful career. That doesn’t mean he or she is guaranteed making every sale to everybody.

PSP: Are you saying that a closing technique alone is just one slice of the pie?

Zig Ziglar: That’s correct. It’s an important slice though. I see it this way: when you get a prospect, you are on first base; when you get the appointment, you are on second; when you make the presentation, you are on third. And so far, all you’ve done is spend time and money and use the prospect’s time and money. The bottom line is that until you get that other slice of the pie, you haven’t helped anybody do anything. It’s only when you close that you really do any good.

PSP: Thank you.


1. A prospect’s nonverbal expressions are often more powerful than words. Research shows that feelings and attitudes are communicated to only 7 percent with words, 38 percent with tone of voice and 55 percent nonverbally. (Dr. Albert Mehrabian, UCLA)

2. When a prospect’s nonverbal signals contradict his spoken words, it’s safe to trust the nonverbal signal more than the prospect’s words.

3. If a prospect goes back to a point covered earlier, he is really saying: “Back up my buying decision.”

4. Become a Master Closer by using the CHEF method for identifying closing signals. C = Chin or Cheek, H = Hands, E = Eyes, F = Friendly. Respond to these closing signals with trial closes and you will increase your closing ratio.

*Zig Ziglar is president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation in Carrollton, Texas.