Monthly Archives: November 2009

Proper Lead Classification

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

Before we can begin to improve our lead generation and lead handling practices, we need to understand the very basics. So our first step will be to understand how to properly classify or categorize leads. What do I mean by that you ask? Well as an industry, home remodeling contractors tend to do a poor job at comprehending the different phases of the buying cycle in which consumers may reside. Let us explore these categories.

The primary category is the A category. Consumers that fall in this segment of the shopping process are ready to pull the trigger on their next home improvement within the next thirty days, or maybe even sooner. It is not a matter of if, but with which company they will decide to move forward.

Consumers that fall in the next category, or the B category, acknowledge both a want and need for the home project, but they just don’t see how it would be affordable at the present time. These types of prospects are often very open to an estimate for planning purposes but are not very optimistic about the likelihood of making a purchase.

Finally, the last variety of lead type which falls in the C category, is a consumer that has never really given the home improvement much thought at all. After some enticement from your marketing efforts they do recognize some benefits of ownership, however they are really only willing to sit for an estimate because you are offering some type of special, or because you just so happen to be in the area estimating other projects.

Below is a link to a video where I discuss these categories in further detail during a presentation at the Starmark Window Conference in Atlantic City:

Now that we have a better understanding of these distinctly different categories of lead classification, we will be much more equipped to handle them appropriately. Keep your eyes peeled for next month’s tips as we examine these lead types more closely…

Inbound Leads vs. Outbound Leads

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

Want more outbound leads? Here’s what you may be doing wrong.

Think there’s no difference between inbound and outbound leads? Guess again. Inbound and outbound leads are right and left, he and she, top and bottom. All the difference that matters. Most companies that are successful at converting inbound leads—inquiries that result from media ads, the internet or mass mailings—are often terrible at converting outbound leads, that is, inquiries generated by canvassing, shows/events, store demonstrators or telemarketing. In many cases, to be good at one is to be bad, or really bad, at the other. Because companies tend to specialize in the thing they’re good at, and that they are accustom to handling.

Here’s how they’re different: Inbound leads, where the customer’s calling in response to your advertising, represent a customer at a different stage of the buying cycle. The inbound calls come from people who picked up the phone or logged on to a website because they’re actively shopping and intend to make a purchase in the near future. Outbound leads? Well, they weren’t necessarily thinking of windows or siding when they ran into your marketers at that strawberry festival or Sam’s Club or when someone knocked on their door one night. You sought them out. They’ve expressed an interest, but no way is it going to be the same degree of interest. And in fact, what often happens when a marketer generates a lead, in the field or over the phone, is that the consumer is taken off guard and schedules an appointment to look at your product without having given it much thought prior to that interaction. Treat those two types of inquiries the same and you’re throwing away marketing dollars and wasting your time.

Qualify, Don’t Crucify

There are a lot of scripts out there, good ones, for handling inbound callers. Where there aren’t so many is with outbound. Handling the outbound lead in such a way that the inquiry becomes a confirmed appointment, and the appointment a demo, is trickier. Many companies, for instance, see canvass or show/event leads converting to demos well below 50%, whereas their inbound calls convert to appointments at 75% or 80%.

That’s often due to a fundamental disconnect in the way an outbound lead is handled. If your confirmer is calling an inbound lead, he or she wants to know when the various parties that own the home can both be present, and whether or not they can set aside a minimum of 90 minutes so that your representative can fully and professionally show them the product in order that they can determine whether or not yours is the company and product that best meets their needs.

And that’s fine, for an inbound lead. But let’s say you put your confirmer on the line and had him or her explain all that to someone who answered the door when your canvasser knocked. Your canvasser at the door was Joe Friendly. “Hey,” he says, “how’re you doing? We just happened to be working in the neighborhood and wondered if you’d like somebody to come by and give you free estimate on…” The prospect says sure, what the heck, why not? It’s all very casual.

Until the phone rings. When the phone rings, suddenly there are all these very rigorous questions. Now your confirmer is insisting that both parties be there and that a minimum of 90 minutes be set aside. Your prospect smells a rat. Generally, the harder you try to confirm, the less likely it is that you will ever convert that lead to a demo. That prospect will be alienated by the inconsistency of your approach. Don’t be shocked if no one answers the door when your rep arrives with samples. The prospects are probably inside, hiding under the bed. All they did was say they might be interested in finding out something about windows or siding or roofing. And now they’re into something they probably can’t get out of without a lot of stress and aggrevation.

Soft Touch Dispels Suspicion

To set that outbound lead, you need to take a soft approach. Don’t establish rigid time frames. Tell them your representative will be in the neighborhood on such-and-such an evening and ask would it be okay if he or she stopped by at eight? Also ask if it’s likely that the two of them will be home for the entire evening, because your rep has a number of calls and may be running late. Don’t lay out all sorts of terms and conditions. It’s not appropriate. You know there’s some level of interest. Now it’s up to your salesperson to determine the extent of that interest and develop it to the point of urgency.

The selling process is also going to be different with an outbound lead. The prospect who called your office already has some idea of what the investment value of the project is. Your outbound prospect likely has little or no awareness of that. You need to emphasize the investment value of the project as well as the stability and integrity of your company. If they’re calling you, they already assume you’re reputable. Whereas if you’re contacting them, that needs to be established and confirmed. Offer a strong discount—15% or 20% is the sweet spot—in exchange for them allowing your company to showcase their home and your product.

Different Lead, Different Metric

When times were good the inbound leads flowed in and companies grew dependent on them and developed cultures and systems around them.
A recessionary climate means we have to get off our duffs and go out and knock on doors. But that’s just the beginning. In addition, it’s necessary to understand that the metrics that apply to inbound leads don’t apply to outbound. You’re not going to set the same number of appointments, or demo at the same rate, because the level of interest isn’t the same. But 50% of 100 inquiries is 50 confirmed appointments. Is that not worth something?

And what happens if the people aren’t home? If you set the lead the right way, it will probably be because they forgot the appointment or had to run out for some reason. Have your representative leave a Sorry We Missed You doorhanger, then call back. Say your rep arrives and only one of the parties is home? Measure, build rapport, and set a second appointment. Don’t denounce them as amputees because they weren’t there waiting at the kitchen table with the coffee brewed. You’ve taken one step. You’re one step closer to the sale. That’s how to see it.

Why do so many companies confirm both their inbound and outbound inquiries with the same script and approach them with the same selling system? I can’t answer that question. What I firmly believe is that we should treat these prospects differently depending on the way we came in contact with them in the first place. Click the link below to watch a brief video where I discuss this phenomenon in greater detail…

For more information on how to properly handle and convert inbound and outbound leads, call me. I look forward to hearing from you. — Lead Generation consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company Owner, salesperson, and Marketer. Visit his Web site at or call him at 1-888-447-3969.

No Shows Appointments

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

No Shows and so-called One Legs frustrate salespeople. But a sale is all in the way these homeowners are handled.

Someone from your company set the appointment. Your salesperson knocks. Then, knocks again. No one’s home. Sound familiar? Here’s another scenario. Your salesperson knocks, expecting to meet with John and Mary Jones. Mary’s there but no sign of John. Your salesperson reacts with surprise, then visible dismay, then spends several hours selling Mary ten windows, only to have the sale quashed the next day when John advises her that they’re way overpriced.

These two separate and distinct types of situations can mar your effort to turn leads into successful demos, i.e., those that result in a sale. Yet there’s a lot you can do to manage this kind of adversity. How a company handles these two types of challenges affects its conversion rate and its lead costs.

Knock Knock. Nobody Home.

Salespeople who encounter the Not Home prospect often get upset. How could they not? Valuable time and expense has been expended in hopes of gaining a genuine opportunity. And now they’re irritated at the homeowner for not being there and, sometimes, at the company for sending  them on a blind chase.

There are three reasons why people aren’t home for a sales appointment when they agreed to be. The first is poor confirmation, the second is deliberate evasion and the third is just life, i.e., something more important happened or came up.

Appointments need to be confirmed soon after initial contact is made and then re-confirmed the night before the visit. In both conversations, estabslish that all interested parties will be there for the sales presentation. If they aren’t there’s a good chance that whoever’s missing will come back to nix the sale. All parties present guarantees buy-in and agreement, and minimizes the risk of rescission.

A good script will know how and what to ask and an experienced confirmer will know what kind of responses to look for. Even if the prospect has agreed to a time when both parties can and will be there, re-confirm that in the same conversation. For one thing, people may be on the line but that doesn’t mean they’re listening. Keep it friendly and light, but make sure you ask that hard question, only put it another way: Will that be a time when both you and he are at home? ‘Yeah’ or ‘Umhmmm’ doesn’t seal the deal. Take anything other than a straight-forward ‘Yes’ as a no.

Sounds of Silence

Say you’ve confirmed and re-confirmed but your prospect isn’t home anyway. Whether or not you can recover that appointment depends on how it’s handled. Regardless of why they weren’t there—now it’s a moot point—respond in a way that’s light, friendly and professional. First, have your salesperson call the office to verify the accuracy of the address. Then have someone in the office attempt to contact the homeowner after sufficient time (15 to 20 minutes) has elapsed.

If there’s no response on the phone, have the sales representative leave behind a door hanger that says something like Sorry We Missed You. This makes the homeowner aware of the fact that you did uphold your end of the agreement. Include space for a hand-written note. The note can interject urgency into the situation by saying something like: ‘Now that I’ve had a chance to see your home, I’m excited to share a special a program we offer that will be a perfect fit.’ This not only piques the homeowners’ curiosity, it also apologizes for the missed appointment without putting guilt or blame on anyone.

In business to business sales, people sometimes don’t show up for appointments as well. Things come up and life happens. Salespeople understand that. Why not apply the same attitude to homeowners? Maintain rapport and you’re in the best possible position to re-book the visit for 24 to 48 hours later. Your confirmer could start by saying: Good evening, Mr. Jones. This is so-and-so from _______ company. Did you get our note?

Not Amputees

One Legger is a term of anger and disdain. The companies in this industry that do the best job of converting those scenarios into sales use a different term. They call them One Step appointments, because if they’re handled properly the company is One Step closer to a sale.

People are busier than ever today. There are more dual incomes, more activities that involve parents and kids. If you think every call involves two people sitting in the living room with a pot of hot coffee waiting for you, you’re in the wrong business. After all, when you ran into them at Sam’s Club they were there to buy pickles. So chances are you’re going to encounter One Step calls.

Wrong way to handle them? React with surprise, or, worse, irritation.

Right way? Don’t act surprised. Greet the homeowner with warmth and enthusiasm. In the first few minutes, don’t even ask where the other spouse is. Then, when the time’s appropriate, say something like: ‘I noticed there’s a John Jones as well, is he going to be available?’

From there, do a needs assessment, including measurements. Discuss the products briefly. Leave behind references, brochures and other pre-positioning materials. All this helps instill a strong desire to schedule the follow-up visit where the full product demonstration will take place.

If the homeowner wants to know why you need to talk with both parties, the best thing to do is answer the question with a question. Ask the prospect if he or she has ever heard of the Better Business Bureau. Then explain that your company follows guidelines suggested by the Better Business Bureau, which recommends that all parties be there.

Handle With Care

The home improvement industry’s good at generating leads. Many companies have databases loaded with the names of homeowners who wanted windows, siding or a roof, who didn’t buy because of the rigid way in which they were handled.

Today, the cost of an issued lead is roughly  $250, and industry-wide, about 70% of issued leads convert to demos. That makes it critical for you to streamline your procedure for confirming leads, and for handling all manner of in-home mishaps. After all, you already paid for the lead. You can either cash that check or tear it up and throw it away.

Lead Capture

(As Published in Replacement Contractor Magazine)

If you receive my monthly news letter, then you already know the power of staying in front of your clients – that is probably what drove you to visit my website in the first place… Therefore you should be able to understand that capturing your prior customer emails and staying in front of them with pertinent information is paramount! What if you do not have those email addresses? How do you acquire them. Follow these 7 simple steps:

1) Call all of your prior customers for whom you do not have email addresses

2) Describe how you have recently conducted an internal audit of all
customer files

3) Explain that you are missing a properly completed warranty card for
many past customers

4) Make it clear that failure to have this on file could possibly
nullify the product warranties for those consumers

5) Offer to email a new warranty card to them right away to ensure
that they are insulated from that risk

6) Follow up by emailing a newly created generic warranty card that
will insulate your customers on all relevant claims

7) Store the email addresses in your customer files

Remodel Link

A team of the home remodeling industries greatest minds has teamed up to develop a new web-based lead management system that is designed to help manage your business from the point of lead generation all the way through the entire sales and installation process. Visit the following link or call 1-888-447-3969 for a free thirty day trial