What not to do to make the sale.

I often write about the things you should do in order to make a sale. This month, I'm going to write about the things that you don't want to do because they could cost you the order.

After a few years of selling, many people take some things for granted and are happy with a closing rate that isn't where it used to be. Many people just say the customers are tougher and more knowledgeable. The fact is customers haven't changed that much over the years; we have, and don't recognize it. Here are some things not to do:

Don't try to sell the ‘suspect'; sell the prospect

In order to sell anything, you have to talk to the decision makers and often we are mislead by the gatekeepers. It's their job to keep salespeople away. Selling involves prospecting, cold-calling and getting leads. Salespeople often spend tons of time presenting their story to the wrong people. The best way to establish whether you are talking to the right person is to ask.

Don't waste time

Selling requires you to spend a lot of time looking for new customers. When traveling to the next customer, save time by making phone calls - using a hands-free cell phone - or recording some thoughts about the client to follow up on later. Think about using your driving time to provide more "quality" time at home. But drive safely.

Don't sell the features of a product; sell the benefits

People buy to satisfy a need. All buyers have hidden reasons why they need something you are selling; it's up to you to discover that reason. To discover these motives requires you to ask questions and let the customers tell you their answers. Their answers will tell you why they want to buy.

Don't talk too much

You should spend about 40 percent of your time talking and 60 percent listening while selling. This includes a presentation. It is the hardest step to take in the selling process, but the rewards are very good. The secret is to ask questions that will help you discover what buyers really want and how you should proceed with the sale. Selling through questioning is what separates the average salesperson from the best.

Don't push buyers into making a decision

When you find yourself pushing for a sale, you're getting ahead of the buyer. Back off. Often we are trying to "sell" rather than helping the customer buy. Being a "buyers guide" is a better way of looking at your job. Pushing for the order is high-pressure selling and many customers begin to look for the reasons why you have to push.

Don't forget to ask for the order

Many studies have shown that most salespeople never ask for the order. They're too intimidated by objections. When people say "no," all they are asking is to know more information about your product and how it will help them. Give them their answers and make the sale.

Don't just make a sale - make a customer

The objective of selling is to create a trusting relationship that will allow you to sell your products and services. In their haste to make a "sale," many people overlook the advantage of creating a "customer" who may buy more in the future or recommend you to a friend. Create satisfied customers and you will increase your sales.

(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.)