Ever watch Sesame Street with your kids? I'm particularly fond of one sketch between Bert and Ernie. It opens with Ernie walking up to Bert's door, talking to himself about borrowing a lawn mower. Actually, he's talking himself out of being able to borrow the lawn mower by telling himself all the logical reasons why Bert probably won't lend it to him. When he knocks on the door (and before Bert can say a word), he yells, “Keep your stupid old lawn mower! I don't want it anyway!”

NEGATIVE REALITY Some salespeople do that also. They talk themselves right out of the sale by mentally listing all the reasons why the prospect won't buy. They've already concluded that this prospect isn't a buyer, so they do “presentation lite,” and shoot him a quick price. He politely refuses. Prophecy fulfilled.

Without a full presentation, we can't possibly provide all the necessary information and answer the prospect's specific buying questions, also known as objections. When the prospect becomes interested in our solution to his problem, he asks: How will it look? What colors does it come in? When can we have it? How much does it cost?

These are the signs we're looking for to confirm that our presentation went well and that we can proceed to closing the sale. Without a full presentation, we make it difficult, if not impossible, for the prospect to buy. It's like trying to start a fire without kindling and paper.

DO THE WHOLE DEAL The customer doesn't change his mind; he simply makes a new decision based on additional information. Your prospect doesn't need this information if he's not really interested in your products or services. The only way for him to get it and to feel comfortable enough to move forward is through a step-by-step sales presentation.

So, the next time you find that you're talking yourself out of the sale, take a deep breath, get a picture of your past successes, and do you and your company proud with your complete presentation.

—Chuck Anton is a sales and marketing consultant who specializes in the home improvement industry. You can reach him at www.chuckanton.com.