The one-call close, the two-step close, hard sell, soft sell, step selling, negotiation vs. one price, price-drop closing, high pressure, low pressure, bids, proposals, estimates ... What does it all mean?

Mostly misunderstood jargon. Selling is one of the least understood practices of communication, particularly within this industry. Many people misunderstand the selling process, seeing it as manipulation, chicanery, or worse.

MEETING OF MINDS Today's average customer is younger — by 10 to 12 years — than their counterpart of a decade ago. The baby boom generation, while still part of the prospect base, is now nearing 60. The newer Generation-X prospect is younger, better informed, and thriving in a dual-income household. Gen-Xers are Internet oriented and are often more savvy about home improvement projects than their forebears.

In addition, they are besieged by hundreds of exhortations each day to buy, try, consider, write or call for information without obligation. Yours may be one of them.

So when you meet this prospect face to face, it's important that you understand their values, and the way they think and feel. We call this “customer satisfaction selling.”

In the sale of home improvements, the concept can be described as a problem-solving discussion between a salesperson and a prospect that leads to a meeting of minds that deepens the dependence of each on the other.

WRONG TURN Despite your intuition, you may be doing things that fail this purpose. Presenting ideas before you do a “needs assessment,” quoting ballpark prices, believing that the large discount or “calling your manager for a drop” will compensate for an archaic sales presentation, giving prices over the phone or failing to ask for the order in a polite manner each create a malfunction in the selling process. The result? No sale. —Dave Yoho is president of the oldest and largest consulting group serving the home improvement industry. His company presents seminars on “Solving the Marketing Dilemma” and “How to Sell Value vs. Price.” 703.591.2490;