Perhaps the single most written-about subject in selling is the closing. There are sales consultants who have seminars devoted to the subject. Yet I find that if you haven't presented the material fully and answered all the questions the prospects have, your chances of selling the product or service is slim.

Customers do want to buy things that will make them a profit and enhance their reputation. Yet there are consultants who continually say this is a myth. They say that customers don't want to be sold and do not want to have a relationship with their sales staff. Surveys do show that many prospects do not want to see salespeople and don't find them helpful. It's a fact that nobody wants to be sold something they can't afford or do not need, but that's not what salespeople do. In order to sell anything, you have to find the customer's need or desire. Once the discovery is made, then you must find an item that will meet that need and will make the prospect more money and enhance his or her reputation.

In the selling process there are seven basic questions that need to be asked or discovered:

1. What is the product the prospect is currently using?

2. Why are they using this product?

3. What results are they expecting from this product?

4. Are they satisfied with the results?

5. Who is the decision-maker for the purchase of this product?

6. What product do we have to fit this application?

7. How will it help the prospect accomplish his or her goals and/or save them money?

These questions and the answers to them allow you to make a presentation that will be meaningful to the buyer and certainly a productive sales call. The process takes time, but is very worthwhile. Often salespeople are gathering this type of information for several different products at the same time.

When you make a presentation after this kind of research there will be interest and questions from prospects to reassure them that if they make this change it will be for the right reasons. Keep in mind that there are many salespeople who do not do their homework and make presentations that contain information that may not be truthful.

When the questions begin, the indication is that the prospect wants to be a customer. It is where the sale begins and it is where you will discover how to close the sale. The questions asked must always be assumed to be bringing you one step closer to finalizing the sale.

The boxed closing is a method of using these questions toward a decision to make the purchase. Here's how it works: When the questions begin, answer the first question to the satisfaction of the prospect and go to a closing as soon as the buyer seems to understand.

An example of this would be if the prospect asked for a price. You would give the price without any explanation, and then pause. This is a called a pregnant pause, because it seems to last forever. Once you give a price, do not say anything until the prospect speaks. The next words spoken by the buyer will indicate where you need to go in order to obtain the order. Prospects often buy at this point and you're left with nothing to do except write it up.

On the other hand, if the prospect asks another question, you should begin the remainder of the boxed closing. Ask your customers if they have any other questions. Write them down and answer them all. Then find out if you've answered all of his or her questions. If so, begin to write up the order.

The boxed closing should create the image of a room in your mind. Think of yourself as being in one corner and the prospect in the other. After each question is answered, the room becomes smaller and smaller, until you are nose-to-nose and no questions remain. You simply say, "If there are no other questions, I can assume you see the value in using our product. Let's get started and make the change."

Remember, this works if you have done your homework and believe that your product will do what the customer wants.

(Dave Gleason has more than 40 years of experience in contracting, engineering and wholesaling. He has put these experiences into a comprehensive consultation and training company called Systematic Selling Inc., which offers customized sales seminars and workshops. Contact him at 1165 Antioch Campground Road, Gainesville, GA 30506; phone (800) 447-7355; fax (717) 698-6555.)