Credit: Barry Blitt

A myth in home improvement selling is that closing is about saying a certain thing at a certain time or constructing a story that compels your prospect to make a sudden positive decision. Memorize enough closes and you'll get the sale.

Actually, a successful close is the culmination of a process, not a story or anecdote the salesperson falls back on when encountering objections.

NEEDS FIRST The first decision homeowners make is whether to spend time with the salesperson. Prospects agree to do that not because the salesperson is well-dressed or glib but because the sales rep wants to define what the homeowner needs (often different from what they want) and why. So you've “closed” when the prospect perceives that your company has something they need, and you've “closed” again when they agree to spend time with you.

Selling yourself means asking questions to determine needs and establishing that you have a valid interest in the prospect and what they want or need. Each step aims to show prospects what they need and a practical way to get it by offering options or solutions and asking which they prefer and why. Isolate their preferences — material, color, function, design — by questioning, and find the product that benefits them the most.

NATURAL CONCLUSION The skilled salesperson must be able to think and feel like a prospect. Sell that way, and you avoid the non-sequitur responses (“Leave us a card and we'll get back to you”) intended to end the sales call early. Those responses say that the prospect hasn't been given the information they need to make the decisions that lead to a close.

If you have given prospects that information, and they've made those decisions, what you say at the end may be nominal. If, instead, you resort to gimmicks, some may buy, many won't, and many may cancel.

—Dave Yoho is president of the oldest, largest and most successful consulting group serving the home improvement industry.; 703.591.2490.