(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.