Closing the sale isn't something that happens as you're winding up your presentation or after you've given prospects the price. It's an ongoing process that begins with your first contact with that prospect.

Imagine for a moment that you knew what your prospect was really thinking, what their planning strategies were, or even the extent of your competition. Now think about how much better your sales presentation would proceed. Much of this information is available with proper sales basics.

ASSESS NEEDS Start with the “walk-around,” also known as the “needs assessment.” Its purpose? To evaluate the project.

When did the prospect first consider the project? What prompted them to call you? What other options have they considered? How long have they owned the home? What other home improvement projects have they completed? What do they really know about products such as yours, and how closely have they examined the conditions that prompted their call?

Getting this information is largely a matter of good sales training. Having it enables you to present your products and services in a manner consistent with their values. If you haven't allotted a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes to the needs assessment, the delivery of your company story or product presentation won't address itself to your prospect's needs. This makes you a “generalist.” You want to be thought of as a “specialist.”

BUILD RAPPORT Now consider the issue of rapport. Rapport is a state of mind, and it starts with feelings. Prospects listen more to people who seem to be like them. This is not a call to be an actor, or to lie about your ethnicity or political or religious leanings. Rapport stems from gathering information and then presenting your product in a manner that makes others feel comfortable and compels them to listen more attentively to what you're saying.

Remember, closing the sale is the natural conclusion to the satisfactory completion of each step in a sound selling system. Don't miss the basics. —Dave Yoho is president of the oldest, largest, and most successful consulting group serving the home improvement industry;; 703.591.2490.