When it comes to closing the deal, try to do it on the first call.

I recently ran across a column I wrote years ago about the selling process many contractors still use today: survey gathering on the first call and presenting the solution on the second.

I called this age-old process "double-dip selling." I suggested instead that contractors could use a portable computer to run the load calculations, select the equipment and develop the payback schedule. Not much has changed in the way contractors sell their jobs. But the technology is now there to make it easy for salespeople to perform surveys, gather information needed and put it into a computer program that can give owners everything they need to know, including the price. Let's look at where we are now.

First, assume that there will be jobs that require two visits to close the deal. These jobs are complex and require some thought and engineering. Or perhaps you need the extra time to decide how to sell it. But the majority of calls do not require the extra time of the double-dip approach.

I advocate closing sales as often as possible on the first call. You should figure heat loss and gain on every job to ensure that the proper equipment will be installed. Survey the premises with the owners. Having them with you gives you an opportunity to ask questions and get to know them.

After you have surveyed their home or office, return to a comfortable place, such as the kitchen, to input the material gathered into the computer. Explain what you are doing. With this step, you are creating a difference between you and the other salespeople who may have visited before.

Once the data is in the computer and the process of producing information is under way, start your presentation. Tell a little bit about yourself and your company. If you are using a presentation folder, this is where you should bring it out. By the time you have finished your presentation, the information will be ready and you can start to solve their problems.

Because the computer has been programmed to present the product, the load calculations, the payback information and the pricing, you are prepared to close the sale. Why go back to the office, perform the same tasks and come back to present and close? I don't see the need.

Whenever you leave a prospect, you offer a chance for someone to enter and close the job before you return.