Years ago, I first heard the expression, "You don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle." I didn't think too much about it at the time, but I began to notice how many good restaurants cooked their steaks near the entrance.

I also noticed in fine restaurants that certain dishes are prepared at the table. Why? It's part of selling and showmanship. Incidentally, those dishes prepared at your table are usually the higher-priced ones on the menu. The idea of letting others in the room see the food being prepared is a subtle way to sell more of it.

You should sell customer "benefits," not product "features." This has to be something most salespeople have heard a million times, but many do not understand its importance in closing a sale. Selling has not changed much over the years. People need to be convinced that the product they are buying is worth the money spent. Your job is to find out what customers want and justify the price you intend to charge.

Never mention the price before customers request it. The key to making a successful sale is to get prospects involved in the process by using as many of their senses as you can without talking about the price. The price question should be an indication that they are ready to buy.

Features are normally given to us in manufacturer-supplied specification sheets. Each feature must be examined to determine whether it is something that will fit into your presentation and give you an advantage over the competition. Is this feature unique? Why? Then you must convert this feature into something that is meaningful to the consumer.

The fun side of selling

Half the fun of selling is turning features into benefits that create positive images in prospects' minds. The secret to being successful is ample preparation and timing. Benefits that are meaningless to buyers are not worth mentioning.

Finding out what is meaningful requires asking questions that will reveal the buying motives of prospects. Using this approach will mean no two presentations on a product will ever be the same.

You need to have a menu of benefits from which you can develop a presentation tailored to the motives of your prospects. You also need to have proof to verify what you're saying. That's why in all my sales classes I talk about using a presentation book. The book lists all the features and the benefits of the products you sell. It is from this book you will be able to design a proposal custom-tailored for this prospect.

Take the time to go over every product you are selling to discover the features that are different or unique. Concentrate on those features first and write down several associated consumer benefits.

Then go over the other features and create a benefit package for each product. Keep in an adjoining section the proof for each statement. A well-designed presentation book allows an easy way to make every presentation special for customers.

There are several keys to closing sales calls, but none are more important than getting prospects involved in the selling process. The easiest way to get them involved is by establishing why they want to buy and what they're looking for in the product you are selling.

Then, talk about the benefits of your product that match their desires. If you can do this using all six senses, you will make the sale. Keeping it fun and productive is what makes selling an enjoyable lifetime vocation.