In every selling class I offer I spend time talking about the value of good personality traits in a selling situation. Two traits that continually come up are patience and perseverance. They may not seem important but I would be willing to say that more sales are lost because the sales person lacks these skills than the skill of closing.

Let me give you an example. Let's say you are selling a replacement unit and the customer says they want to get a couple other prices. What would be your response? "OK! I think you should but do me a favor and give me a last look?" or would you say, "I understand your desire to make sure you get the right price for this job; I would also. But let me go over some of the questions you may have and perhaps we can reassure you of the job we'll do. If you're still not sure, then you should seek other opinions."

This always seems pushy, sort of high pressure, but the fact is all you are really doing is reducing the possibility of buyer remorse. Your job as a salesperson is to make sure that the value product or service offered is higher than the price quoted. This is selling but it is a very difficult point to make salespeople understand. We want the customer to always feel comfortable while making a decision to buy, but the fact is that many buyers will never reach that comfort zone you want them to feel.

Talk less, listen more

Patience is needed to let the customer make comments and to think about what they are going to say. Remember, a good salesperson talks about 60% of the time and a great salesperson talks less than 50% of the time. In order to hear the response, you have to keep quiet. To do this you also must have great probing questions and a plan to lead the buyer to a position where they will make a decision to purchase.

I have seen so many salespeople back off from questions that needed to be pursued and answered. The only questions you have probably thought of involved pricing. "Your price seems too high" or "This is more than we had agreed to spend" are typical. These are reasonable questions from the customer that deserve an answer but this is where the sale begins.

Nothing happens until you hear the reason why the customer is not going to buy. It is then and only then that you know what needs to be done to close the sale. If you could start out the sale by asking, "What are the things you fear most about this purchase and what is your budget?" and if the customer answers truthfully, your closing rate would double.

In order to make the customer feel more comfortable, we have to be patient. However, if we don't persevere and find the answers to these questions, then there will not be a sale.

When customers want to get more prices, what are they really saying? "The price you have given me may be all right or even great, but I want to be sure." The reason they want to get more prices is they feel that they can do better. You have not set the value high enough in their mind to satisfy spending the dollars you requested. When price comes up, the ball is always in your court. You can attempt to answer the question and close the sale or you can agree with the prospect and let the next person close the sale.

Price is always asked to qualify the money to be spent; never to end a sale. But it's amazing how many salespeople stop going into the question of pricing. I believe that many salespeople can't justify the prices they need to be profitable and therefore fold at the question of pricing.

This brings us to a very big question in the art of selling: Do you believe in everything you tell a customer?

How can you persevere when you don't believe that what you are saying is the truth? The reason most salespeople comply when asked to reduce the price is that they believe there is enough profit even when the price is lowered. A large part of the problem comes from management and its attitude on pricing. I have met a large number of people who feel that jobs are closed based on pricing. What they fail to see is that being able to sell and overcome this objection will result in more profits than all the better buys they can get from their suppliers. Yet the beat goes on and price still rules.

(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.)