Selling is about building relationships. No sales? Maybe you failed to build one. They usually start amicably, with anticipation. Everyone wants to see what's next -- what's in it for them? So what causes a sales presentation to fail or prospects to change opinions of you or your company?

You have two tools to help you figure all that out: qualifying questions and trial closes. Qualifying questions tell you what prospects look for in a relationship; trial closes tell you if you're building one.

Qualifying questions

Right off, ask your prospect, What would help you choose our company? Or, do you have a budget? How long have you thought about your project? Have you tried contracting a project before?

Familiarity breeds contempt because, over time, people may begin to not like what they see or hear. A prospect assesses a salesperson and company and the value of the relationship from the moment the salesperson speaks. Speech, actions, and presentation materials are the only basis for judgments. So how do you determine if you're creating value? With trial closes.

Trial closes

These help you gauge how well you're doing before the close.

Are you creating a bond? There are a few questions you can ask to check:

How will you measure success in our transaction?

What will it take for you to be confident in our company and its services?

Are you confident in our ability to complete your project to your specifications?

Have we discussed anything about our company or the scope of work that concerns you?

If a prospect feels you aren't worth your price, that's a result of one of a number of problems. Price issues can result from poor sales presentations. They can occur anywhere from initial contact by office or field personnel through to the final presentation.

Poor or improper communication results in an unfavorable value judgment and a drop in perceived value, leaving the prospect two choices: To go elsewhere or to do nothing.

The only way someone can develop a perceived value is through a relationship. Ask the right questions to build one. --C.F. Moore, of Olive Branch, Miss., is a business consultant who contracts as a sales coach,