The Basic Steps of Selling

It never hurts to brush up on the fundamentals. Reacquaint yourself with these building blocks of successful selling.

By Barry Farber

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Recently, somebody asked about my early sales experience. When Iwas new to sales, one company gave me a card with questionsreminding me of what to do before, during and after a sale.Here's a list of questions similar to the ones on that card totake you through the sales cycle:

During the introduction, did you:

  • Learn about the company, the person you're calling on andthe industry he or she is in before the meeting?
  • Observe the prospect's office, décor, awards andpictures on his or her desk to find something you both have incommon?
  • Find out anything about the prospect's personal interests,hobbies or family?
  • Bridge to the business topic smoothly?
  • Listen 80 percent of the time and talk only 20 percent of thetime?
  • Ask the customer questions about his or her goals, challenges,and personal and business philosophies?

When qualifying, did you ask:

  • "Is there anybody else besides yourself who might beinvolved in the decision-making process?"
  • "What does a vendor need to do to earn yourbusiness?"
  • "If you could change anything about your presentvendor's product or service, what would it be?"

And did you also:

  • Determine how and why the prospect made the decision topurchase his or her present product or service?
  • Find out what his or her time frame is?
  • Discover whether funds have been allocated?
  • Uncover the prospect's specific needs?

When surveying, did you:

  • Ask a lot of open-ended questions?
  • Find out who, what, where, why, when, how and howmuch?
  • Have the prospect go into depth by
    using phrases such as "Tell me about . . .","Describe for me . . ." and "Can you elaborate on .. ."?
  • Ask the broad questions first, then get more specific touncover key needs?
  • Ask about your prospect's roles, what's important tohim or her, what his or her hot buttons are, and how industrytrends or situations are affecting the prospect?

When handling objections, did you:

  • Listen to the entire objection?
  • Pause before responding, remain calm and not getdefensive?
  • Answer the objection with a question to find out morespecifically what the objection was?
  • Restate the objection to make sure you both agreed?
  • Answer the objection?

During the presentation or demonstration, didyou:

  • Re-establish rapport?
  • Ask if anything had changed since your last meeting?
  • Precommit the prospect? Example: "If I can show you howthis can make a difference in what we talked about, can we go aheadwith this?"
  • Prioritize the prospect's needs?
  • Talk about the benefits of your product or service to thecustomer?
  • Link the benefits to the prospect's needs?
  • Verify each need before moving on?
  • Summarize the prospect's needs and how your product orservice meets those needs?
  • Involve the customer in the presentation?

When closing, did you:

  • Ask for the order?
  • Ask "What's our next step?"
  • Get the customer to identify all possible problems that mightbe solved by your product or service?
  • Get the customer to identify the value of solving theidentified problems?
  • Get agreement that the proposed solution provided the valuesidentified?

For customer maintenance and follow-up, didyou:

  • Send a thank-you letter for the appointment, presentation ororder?
  • Earn the right to ask for reference letters andreferrals?
  • Maintain communications for future consideration?
  • Establish a schedule for follow-up calls and customervisits?

Of course, don't just ask these questions by rote. It'snot a script that could, or should, be followed for every sale, butit gives you a great structure to keep in mind. Refer to itwhenever you're puzzled by why you didn't make a sale.Maybe there's something you forgot to do that you should haveremembered!

Barry Farber

Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at, or email him at


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