Interested in closing your prospect tonight? Sure you are. And one of the most effective sales techniques for doing that is trial closing.

Trial closing means employing persuasive communication from start to finish. Instead of walking into the house, shooting the breeze, talking weather and sports, telling the prospects everything great about the product, then giving them a price and asking for their business, you're continually persuading your prospects to commit, and you're doing that from the moment you walk through the door.

More specifically, trial closing consists of asking the kinds of questions that engage customers' attention and getting them to agree with you. Those small agreements ultimately lead to the final agreement: the sale. Trial closing involves steadily asking for their commitment, as opposed to delivering information for two hours and trying suddenly to persuade them at the end.

WHAT IT ACCOMPLISHES Think about your presentation. You could go into the house and talk at the customer for an hour and a half without asking questions. That might actually get you a sale, if the prospect is a lay-down. But anyone can sell a lay-down, and there are fewer and fewer of them in this industry. The challenge is the prospect who is on the fence.

Trial closing helps the prospect justify a buying decision and build a case for the product in his or her mind. It makes it easier for them to come to a decision. On your end, trial closing provides instant feedback on how well your presentation is going. The aim is to create a rhythmic pattern of affirmative decision-making that will later allow you to assume the close.

Novices avoid the trial close because they're not prepared for objections. Say you ask the prospect if he or she thinks the windows you're showing are the best they've ever seen. No, says the prospect. Now what? Flummoxed. So rather than ask “Why not?” the novice salesperson takes the path of least resistance and rattles on about features and benefits, without seeking feedback. If you don't ask the questions and don't get the feedback, by the time you get to the price you're relying on hope — the hope that your presentation is working.

HOW IT WORKS Trial closing consists of asking questions along the way. But it's more than that. There's a way to do it well, and a way to totally blow it. Remember the last time you walked onto a car lot and a salesman shouted out: “If I find you a car you love, will you buy today?” That's like saying to the first-time date you hardly know: “Your place or mine?” And it usually produces the same reaction.

Trial closing starts with minor questions and small agreements, then builds to larger ones. Don't just sit down and start interrogating people. Instead ask, for instance: “Don't you think this color would look good in this room?” Or, “Would you say this is the home you intend to live in for the next decade?”

At the outset, use questions as an opportunity to create rapport, to engage.

Remember that your prospect probably wants an estimate, and not much else. So your first trial close, really, is turning their desire for an estimate into a willingness to hear your presentation.