At some point in the sales dance, you have to present yourself. A presentation portfolio, done well, can help bring the meeting to a positive close.

Look professional. You're not well served by photocopies and Polaroids. Once you determine content, purchase a portfolio case in a size that best represents your material and allows you to add more pages.

Tell a story. Set up the book in a sequence that explains who you are, shows what you've done, presents your credentials, explains your process and systems, and ends by asking for a commitment.

Make the story flow. Each page should transition into the one that follows. Presenting in this manner ensures you don't miss critical items and provides the image of continuity and stability that solid companies offer.

Protect your image. Your reputation also is conveyed in images. So use your digital camera for "before" pictures, but hire a professional photographer for the "after" photos.

Keep it tidy. Replace outdated pages, keep the acetate fingerprint-free, and replace the portfolio when it's overstuffed or the zipper quits.

Hang on to it. Don't leave your portfolio at a prospect's house. It's an investment to prepare a proper presentation portfolio. If you don't get the contract or aren't invited back, you may not see it again.

When you have your portfolio together, practice your presentation in front of friends. Expect questions and objections. If you anticipate these in the portfolio's sequence, you can be prepared to answer questions in a way that drives prospects to a close.

Stephen Wilson is a partner in Biz-comm Inc., a marketing/communications firm specializing in the needs of remodelers;