The difference between "sale" and "no sale" can often be a question of assumption versus reality.

Every once in awhile, we all seem to hit a brick wall. No matter how hard we try, we just can't seem to close the sale. Before panic sets in, think about -even list-the customer objections that prevented the sale.

As you compile the list, be sure to distinguish whether these are the objections you actually heard from the customer, or if they are simply your assumptions as to why she didn't buy. There is a difference. And it's usually the difference between "sale" and "no sale."

Rather than uncovering the real barrier to the sale making assumptions about the objection can become a detrimental process that spreads like a virus and ultimately infects every sales effort. Assumptions are not based on the customer's truth but rather on your theory of the truth. Sometimes these assumptions kick in when there is considerable pressure to sell what's marked down or in stock. Other times, we're just too busy to give the customer the time she deserves. In subtle ways we try to hurry her to make a decision and, unwittingly, hurry her right out the door.

Salespeople often fall into this trap when trying to create solutions for the customer by selling what they want to sell, instead of listening to-and determining- what the customer really wants. Sometimes, it's as subtle as assuming a problem from a previous customer applies and the same solution will work for the customer who now stands before you. This situation creeps up on us when we fail to invest the time to go beyond what may be obvious. Take the time to explore the customer's specific objectives or concerns.

Thinking that you know this customer, you logically provide her with service that you perceive to be important, without actually considering the customer's particular needs. The next time you catch yourself assuming the objection -how the customer makes a buying decision, what she knows or what she wants to hear -follow the three suggestions I outline below.

Identify the knowledge gap

The "knowledge gap" is the space between what people know and what they don't know. Instead of assuming that they know something, try determining what information they need to learn in order to fill in this gap and ensure clear communication. You work in this business everyday. What may seem obvious or common to you is news to them. Remember floor covering is something a customer usually doesn't buy that often.

Use probing questions up front to uncover what's needed to fill in the blanks. For example, try this line of questioning: "Just so I don't sound repetitive, how familiar are you with...?" Even when customers say, "I'll know it when I see it," they rarely do. Choose a general topic about a new product or service to break the ice and find out what they're really looking for.

Be curious

Ask lots of questions! Does she have children? How many? How old? Any pets? Does she plan to move? Is noise an issue? What's on her floor now? Why does she want to change it? Because you're in the business of providing solutions, invest the time necessary to uncover your prospect's specific needs or objections, as opposed to providing common solutions that you assume may fit.

For example, the words "frustrated," "satisfied," "affordable," reliable" and "quality" can be interpreted in a variety of ways and often carry different meanings for each individual. When you hear a customer make a comment like, "I want an affordable, quality job," use that as an opportunity to explore deeper into what she is really saying. Questions such as "What does affordable look like to you?" allow you to clarify what you've heard, or go more in depth into a topic so you can suggest a custom solution that's a perfect fit for the client.

Just the facts, please

Make each customer feel that he or she is truly being listened to and understood. Respond to what you heard during the conversation by using a clarifier. Rephrase, in your own words, what they said to ensure that you not only heard but also fully understood them. Then, confirm the next course of action.

By using this technique, you begin to eliminate the communication barriers and proceed to gaining the customer's trust. Only when you have achieved that trust, can you begin to open the door to the sale.

Eliminating the common-sense trap will prevent you from making faulty assumptions that cause breakdowns in communication and act as a barrier to more sales.