You're inhaling the last string of fettuccine, mopping the last crust of bread through the marinara sauce. Your potential customer sits across from you, frowning. She has finished her meal and is looking as if her mood might be improved by the sight of chocolate. You haven't yet secured the sale. Do you spring for dessert? Of course!

If you were a sales rep for Empower Trainers & Consultants, in Overland Park, Kans., you would have been coached by chief executive Michael May to order the dessert (although he might not have told you what kind). According to May, a dessert course gives you more time, and an extra 20 minutes might make a tremendous difference. Dessert also lightens the atmosphere, humanizes the interaction, and is likely to make both you and your prospective client more comfortable. It's hard to take yourself too seriously when you're slurping a caramel sundae -- and it just might clinch the sale.

Copyright 1998 G+J USA Publishing