Are your sales presentations down? Do you find yourself in a long selling cycle? Do you wear out your welcome in your customer's home?

If your sales need a boost, it may be time to look at your sales process and your customers' needs.

Old school sales training taught a 10- to 20-step graduated sales process. Many of these approaches date back to the '60s and '70s, maybe earlier. Think of your own life and how you use your time, and what follows will make good sense.

Most of today's households have two adults who are working full time. In addition, those same adults have children and are busy scurrying between work, day care, sports, and other after-school activities. Given all this hustle and bustle, few families even sit down and have dinner together on a regular basis. Yet we expect them to drop everything and spend three hours or more with us. It's no wonder we're wearing out our welcome. Our customers are busy people and want to spend what quality time they have with their families.

We need to refine our process to allow our customers to do just that.

Needs Analysis Many older sales models discuss the warm-up as one of the first steps. This consisted of bantering with customers for 20 to 30 minutes in an attempt to build a common bond, trust, and rapport. Today, customers expect and want to get straight down to business.

By conducting a professional needs analysis, your salespeople can get down to business while still developing trust and rapport. Performing a needs analysis establishes trust and professionalism while showing a genuine concern for your customer's wants and time.

During the analysis, your salespeople should be asking questions that will help determine how to best solve the customer's problem and how to present and close on that solution. Asking good questions will set your salespeople apart from 90% of your competitors, who go into a sales call fixated on their own agenda rather than that of the customer. Asking questions, listening, and writing down answers tells the prospect that you're a professional who is looking to help them.

What's the Story? The next step should be to give a concise company story. Your salespeople can use a presentation book, a laptop, or point-of-sale material. I've found a presentation book allows the salesperson to stay on track while making the company story interactive. You want to design your presentation book to answer questions and build the customer's trust in your company and salesperson.

Add a professional quality to the measuring and design of the project, and involve your customer throughout the process. Here's where your salespeople build the dream. Now more than ever, you must continue to ask good questions. Involve customers by having them use the measuring tape and write down dimensions. Point out how different aspects of the project will look, and ask for feedback. As your salespeople measure and design, introduce assumptive closing techniques to have your customers assume ownership.

From Credible to Incredible Next, have your salespeople give a product demonstration. Make it fun and interactive. Your salespeople should be enthusiastic and knowledgeable. An incredible product demonstration will eliminate your competition and raise your customer's emotional level. When your salespeople's enthusiasm becomes contagious, you raise the level of your product from a want to a need while building value.

Revamp your selling process. Get to business faster. Work for your customer. All this allows your salespeople to spend more time in the final stage — closing the sale. —Jim McCarthy is sales manager for Maine Window & Sunroom, in Kennebunk, Maine.

Does your company have a business practice or installation technique to share with the industry? Call Jim Cory at 215.923.9810 or e-mail