I recently received some feedback from a talk I gave a few months ago at the Wisconsin Automobile and Truck Dealers Assoc. in Madison that I think might interest you.

The seminar on closing and handling objections was slated to be three hours in length. I had trouble cutting things short because of the participation of the group. They were great. As any speaker knows, the reward is in finishing your seminar on time, to a group of smiling faces and that, too, was mine.

The real reward, however, came some days later when a Wisconsin dealer called the WATDA out of the blue and told them that one of his rookie sales consultants came back from the seminar and sold three cars the very next day, something he had never done before. "I just thought you'd like to know," he said.

As with many of us who have spent part of our careers on the sales floor, I was exposed to a "strong closer" early in my sales career. His name was Don Hensen. One day I was unable to find a sales manager to assist me in closing a sale, so I asked Don if he would give me a hand. I think he liked me, "the new kid," and he readily agreed.

The only sentences I remember him saying still shape my sales attitude today: "It's your money, folks; you do what you want. If you like the car well enough to own it, buy it! If not, that's okay, we'll still be friends." A nice sentiment, to be sure, but, as Don so eloquently pointed out, this isn't rocket science. This isn't life and death. It's not the end of my world if that customer doesn't buy.

Therein lies the single most important attribute of a strong closer: strength doesn't come from pressure, rather from a distinct lack of pressure.

You see, what makes a strong closer strong is the fact that closing doesn't only occur during the close. Closing begins when you first greet the prospective customer. Now, it's not like you're casting a spell or anything, but you are making an impact on your customers the moment you meet them.

Whether that impact is positive or negative is your choice. We spend the majority of our time with a customer at the beginning of the sales process, rather than during the closing segment. This time spent early on earns us the right to ask for the sale later.

Unfortunately, many sales consultants spend a disproportionate of their time in the close, generally because not enough time was spent building rapport and interviewing. When that occurs, not only do you reduce the chances you'll close the sale, you often do so at the expense of gross profit, too. If you didn't build rapport, chances are pretty good you didn't build value.

During my years in the automobile industry, I've had the opportunity to develop a very important theorem, which I call the Happy Customer Theorem, or the HCT. The HCT states that, the happier your client, the more profit he/she will pay. I don't mean to be trite, but isn't it true that your happiest customers almost always pay the most profit? Of course!

The important part here, though, is why? If you examine your sales transactions with those happy customers, you'll find that you probably didn't skip any steps. You did a good job interviewing the people, you were sure to land them on the correct vehicle (because you knew what they needed from the information you gleaned during the interview), you did a good walk-around presentation, a good demonstration and maybe even a service walk, too.

That's why they are happy customers. It's not because you got lucky.

Jon Quade is president of AutoMotivators Inc., You can reach Jon and AutoMotivators at 800-701-7767, or at www.automotiv8.com.