Beware of generic sales training programs that advise you not to be “an unpaid consultant.” Sure, salespeople love to hear that they shouldn't waste time on non-buyers. But that's a gimmick that can send you right into a sales slump.

Generic training can be disastrous for home improvement salespeople because most generic sales systems are designed to sell tangible products, such as furniture, computers, or the like. Selling construction services is different in two ways.

First, construction services are intangible. Sure, we can show samples, photos, or videos of windows, siding, or countertops. But the prospect is not buying that component. They're buying a finished project. That's not tangible until the product is delivered.

Second, the prospect for construction services probably has no prior knowledge of or experience in buying such a product. If we ask them typical qualifying questions, their answers are speculative and may not reflect their actual feelings.

These two factors make the qualifying process associated with generic sales training useless. In fact, using that type of qualifying process often triggers a disqualification. Either the prospect feels pressured by manipulative qualification questions, which triggers a cancellation, or the salesperson hears what he or she thinks is the wrong answer to a qualifying question and decides not to pursue the sale.

Here's an example. When the salesperson asks, “What were you folks planning to budget for this project?” that's a difficult, maybe impossible, question to answer if they don't know what they're buying. So, under pressure, or as a negotiating gambit, the prospect may say $10,000. The salesperson, knowing the project is in the $30,000 range, disqualifies the prospect. Surely, he thinks, they won't agree to triple their budget. But it could be that they will pay that amount, as long as they know that's what to expect.

Blow off enough leads and what we have is a sales slump, as well as lost sales and profits. —Richard Kaller, a contractor for 30 years, is the founder and CEO of Certified Contractors Network, 610.642.9505,,