You've been in the house what seems like all night. All buying parties are present and are showing signs of impatience. You've given them a price. They quietly balked. Now what? Whatever you do, don't get pushy or condescending. If you do, it's over.

“I'm always diplomatic,” says Tommy Steele, veteran home improvement salesman and trainer, “If they're mad at me, they're going to have a hard time spending money,” Steele says. “If they're mad at somebody else, that's my lucky day.”

If customers don't sign, Steele attempts to close two or three times — “tactfully.” Financing and an early slot in the installation schedule are prime incentives.

RAPPORT INSURANCE Tom Farmer, general sales manager for American Home Craft, in Sacramento, Calif., points out that you can go further only if rapport exists. To the prospect, it's the difference between pushy and persistent. “Pushy entails your own agenda,” he says, “versus what's in the interest of homeowners.” But, Farmer says, minus rapport, prospects are likely to be frustrated by what they perceive as a canned pitch.

“If you address their concerns and objections before you make another offer, that's not pushy,” he says. Rapport is the centerpiece of a good presentation, according to Farmer, and “if you've done a good presentation, [prospects] should know that they don't have to say yes.” It gives you latitude to negotiate with fence-sitters. Say the objection is that given the size of the purchase, the prospect needs to talk it over with family members. In response, Farmer might ask: “How much do you spend on food each week? A hundred and fifty dollars? Do you consult your brother before you buy it?”

OTHER THAN THE MONEY… Randy Shepherd, co-owner of Renewal by Andersen of Colorado, in Denver, agrees that without trust there's not much room to move at the end. His company's consultative selling system is all about building trust. Two years ago, Renewal by Andersen of Colorado commissioned a local market researcher to ask 100 past customers why they had bought from the company. Trust came up first, Shepherd says. Product was seventh. Price was ranked “about 13.”

Shepherd says the company's sales process focuses on “overwhelming the customer with value,” and seeks to elicit a positive response on two questions: “Are you definitely doing the project?” and, “Is this the window you want?” At that point, reps encountering resistance are free to negotiate a payment schedule that's affordable to the prospect, or go to a partial project, with the price guaranteed for the next two years. “We'll have three to five attempts to close,” Shepherd says. “But they aren't power closes.”

THE BUYER/SELLER DANCE At ImproveIt Home Remodeling, a window and sunroom company in Columbus, Ohio, “we don't have a rule that says: five closes and you're done,” says president Brian Leader. “We believe there are only two real closes: procrastination and affordability. We need to establish that people can afford it, then sell affordability.”

Sales reps are familiar with all sorts of stalls that are essentially a way to say no without having to actually say it.

“If they say: ‘Well, Tom, we're going to call you,' and I have really good rapport with them, I'll say: ‘OK, when you do, ask for Mr. Blue,'” Farmer says. “And they'll say: ‘Mr. Blue?' And I'll say: ‘Yeah, I'll be the one holding my breath. I've been in this business a long time, and I think you know whether or not this is something you can afford. If it doesn't fit your budget, we'll shake hands and part as friends.'”