What are the images that come to mind when I say the word “salesperson”? How many of you would be quick to paint a negative picture by using unfavorable stereotypes such as “used car,” “slick,” “fast talker” or (worse) “liar”? If so, you better be careful because your negative perception may be affecting your sales effectiveness.

A few years ago, I accompanied a salesperson on a sales call and watched her conduct one the best sales presentations I’ve ever seen. She was impressive in the fact that she established rapport, gained trust, asked powerful questions, understood the customer’s needs and presented her solution in a way that spoke directly to those needs. Sadly, she never asked for the sale and we left empty handed. As we got back in the car, I complimented her on the many things she did well and then asked her why she didn’t ask for the order. “Well,” she said, “I didn’t want to be pushy.”

This is not an uncommon feeling for many salespeople who possess a negative image of sales. They are afraid to ask for the sale because they fear that by doing so they will be seen as a “salesperson” and subsequently compromise the trust and rapport they worked so hard to develop. In their best efforts to distance themselves from their own negative perceptions, they leave the sales call empty handed and open the door for their competition.

If you can relate to this, it’s important that you try to reshape your beliefs and develop the mindset necessary to overcome this reality. You must come to terms with your need to ask for the sale and put the prospect in a position where they can enjoy the benefits of doing business with you. Unlike the peddler you envisioned, the professional salesperson works hard to ensure that the following conditions are met prior to their making any attempts to close the prospect:

• The prospect must want, need and be able to use what you are selling.

• The prospect must trust you, like you and believe in you and your company.

• The prospect must understand the full nature and scope of your offer. This includes the terms of your contract and payment schedule, for example.

With these conditions met, the sales professional has no reason to think they are being “pushy” by asking the prospect to choose them for their project. What if the shoe was on the other foot and you were in the process of evaluating a product or service you wanted and needed? Let’s assume you really liked and trusted the salesperson and believed he or she had your best interest in mind? You wouldn’t be offended if they asked you to choose them, would you?

Understanding you might want to stick your toe in the water before jumping into the pool, you might also want to take the prospect’s temperature before moving on to the closing stage. Here is what I propose:

Let’s assume you just finished a sales presentation that spoke directly to the needs, concerns and perceptions of your prospect. It’s now time to see if they believe in you and your company. The best way to get the answer to this question is to ask the following: “Mr. and Mrs. Prospect, based on what I’ve shown you so far, how confident are you in our ability to handle this project for you?”

A positive answer to this question affirms their belief in you and your company and gives you the green light to proceed to the closing stage.

 Successful salespeople are never uncomfortable with their need to ask for the sale. They work hard to follow a process that paves the way for the prospect to want, trust and believe in them and their company. With these conditions met, the sales professional understands that it’s in the best interest of their prospect to put them in a position where they can enjoy the benefit of doing business with their company.