We often wear our sales process like a badge of honor. We knock on ten doors – nine of which are promptly closed in our faces – and savor that one time when the prospect says “OK, I’ve got ten minutes.” Then it’s all about isolating and communicating compelling benefits within that tight timeframe.

On average, for every three pitches, we close one. And that’s usually with the guy that, when our ten minutes are up, spends another hour or so asking questions.

So what’s really working here? Time and time again, it comes back to one thing: relationships. When we started out in the sales game, conventional wisdom claimed that three specific characteristics were needed in order to be successful: empathy, perseverance and ambition (i.e., defined goals). I never agreed. I believe that all salespeople need the potential to acquire these attributes, but what’s paramount is empowering these traits with a passion for your product or service. When you possess that passion and you begin to communicate to someone who has a need, it becomes clear you are serious, not only about your business, but the needs of your prospect.

And, once you sell with passion, commitment to success and a sincere belief in your product or service resonates not just through your words, but in your comportment and your energy.

So how can we improve our close ratio? A typical presentation or pitch begins with an overview of your company, service, product, staff and, naturally, some nice, colorful charts and graphs that make us look professional. As an afterthought, we leave the prospect with printed collateral: oftentimes client references, case studies, and relevant success stories that we like to leverage.

I suggest you try this approach: Flip the order. Rather then starting by telling how great your company is, how many years you’ve been in business, and why you can offer more benefits and features than the last guy, talk about some of the projects you’ve worked on, just like those case studies that we typically leave behind. But this time, let all your passion and enthusiasm and belief resonate. Be prepared to discuss two or three projects that the prospect can most closely associate with.

Then watch what happens. This technique will pique an interest in the prospect because you’re now engaged in a dialogue, not a presentation. The dialogue will evolve into a conversation which will lead to the beginning of a relationship. And that, my friend, is our goal. They’ll be plenty of time to talk about how long you’ve been in business and the particulars of the company and staff. Because once we’ve established that relationship, all those other factoids become supportive to the close, but not necessarily integral to it.

Anthony Quaranta is the president of Q Group, Hauppauge, N.Y.