Your salesperson closes at 15%, maybe less, and you'd like him to be somewhere in the 25% to 30% range. How do you, as a sales manager, get him there?

“The first thing is to go along on a few appointments and evaluate him,” says Aaron Magden, vice president of sales for Maryland window company Window Nation. “Go over the flaws and work with him to improve. I would also send him out with different sales reps so he could see other people's sales pitches,” Magden says.

IT'S NOT THE LEAD, IT'S YOU Veteran industry sales coach Phil Rea, president of R2R Associates, a marketing and sales consulting firm in Virginia, says that salespeople seeking greater success could do two things that would help them immediately improve.

The first is to take responsibility for the situation. “Every sale you get or don't get is your fault,” Rea says. “Don't look to blame someone or something.” The second is to identify the client's needs. Don't, Rea says, “assume that you know what they are.”

Magden points out that the most obvious way for low closers to up their score is to be more organized and to pay more attention to details. For instance, to increase a close rate, you'd need to know how many appointments you're running and how much business you're closing now. Good salespeople track their appointments and follow up. But if even well-organized reps are closing below average, Magden says it's likely for three reasons: “They don't get commitments, they fail to create urgency, and they don't use and follow a home analysis survey.”

Don Darragh, vice president of sales for Energy Swing Windows, in Murrysville, Pa., agrees that creating urgency is a necessary pre-condition for selling a home renovation job. Prospects sometimes want to believe they can afford not to decide. The skillful salesperson shows otherwise by pointing out that existing windows are leaking air or that replacing those windows five years from now will cost more money. Find facts, Darragh says, that will make homeowners take the product and the sales call more seriously.

I JUST NEED YOUR OK More than anything, Rea says, salespeople could up their close rate simply by asking for the sale. “The vast majority of salespeople simply ask clients: ‘What do you think?' They don't ask for the business,” he says, for fear of rejection. Close rates automatically go up when you give prospects “the opportunity to sign” on every sales call.

Rea cites a salesperson in North Carolina who looks at the contract, puts out his hand, and asks the homeowner to shake on it, a method of closing that has proved to be highly successful.