From the January 2003 issue of Startups

You've probably found yourself cornered by an annoying, perhaps even overbearing, salesperson a time or two. You've probably also vowed that, once your business is up and running, you won't let your customers lump you into the same category. But therein lies the rub: how do you get customers to say yes to your products or services without appearing pushy?

It may surprise you to find out that good salespeople don't need to pressure their customers to buy something they don't need or want. You may find it equally surprising that even those who have no experience, and who even may be a little fearful of asking people for their business, can become great salespeople.

How, you may ask? It's really quite simple--all it takes is a little research and a little practice. Oh, and don't forget to watch out for the Fearsome Five, the most common fears of new salespeople: the fear of rejection, cold calls, objections, embarrassment and closing the sale.

So how do you combat the Fearsome Five? Don't worry--you've got it covered, and you probably don't even realize it. All the weapons you need are right in your business plan. You've done your research, so you already know who your customers are, how your products benefit them, what sets your product apart from similar ones, and that your price is better than your competitors'. Now all you have to do is take that information and create your sales pitch.

Closing the Sale in 6 Easy Steps
Use these six steps to create a sales pitch that your customers can't refuse:

1. Introduce yourself. Shape your brief, but catchy, opening statement around your name, your company's name and what your company offers.

2. Describe your product. Expand on step one by telling, in more detail, what your product is and what it does. Bring a sample, if possible.

3. Explain the benefits. Your product can save your customers time and money and make their lives better. Don't be afraid to tell them how.

4. Ask for the sale. After steps one to three, your customers should have all the information they need to know in order to make a decision. So go ahead and ask a question that requires a buying decision, such as "How many candles would you like to buy?"

5. Counter objections. After step four, your customer may still be in doubt and raise questions. Be prepared and use this as an opportunity, not an obstacle. Before you make your first sales call, consider all the reasons a customer might say no and be prepared to politely counter their objections.

6. Close the sale. After countering any objection a customer may have, ask for the sale again. Because of the natural progression of your sales pitch, the customer won't see this as pushy.

After you've written and revised your sales pitch, practice it on whomever will listen: a mentor, a teacher, parents--even your dog--until you are perfectly comfortable with what you plan to say. Ask for feedback, and make changes if your audience doesn't like something or comes up with an objection that you hadn't considered.

Now that it's time to make your first sales call, look back at the Fearsome Five. Since you've done your research and practiced your pitch, they don't seem quite so scary anymore, do they?