Scott Burns, a co-owner of Next Door & Window, in Burr Ridge, Ill., makes 30 to 70 follow-up calls a day, and his approach is generating business.

Replacement Contractor: What do you do if a prospect calls Next Door & Window after-hours requesting information?

Scott Burns: That happens all the time. Or people call and leave a message saying they don't want "a pushy salesman" coming out to the house.

What happens is that they will get a call within five minutes. I thank them for contacting us. I ask what they want information on. I tell them we do windows and entry doors; that we carry fiberglass, vinyl, and wood. I ask if they have a preference.

Then I mail them our prepackaged presentation kit, which includes all the things a homeowner needs to know before buying doors or windows.

RC: What happens after that?

SB: Within 72 hours I will do a follow-up phone call. I'll say something like: I don't want to bother you. I just want to be sure you received the package we sent.

Many people are truly in the beginning stages of their search. They have no clue. Then I will send them a personal note thanking them for contacting us.

Making It Personal

RC: Why a personal note?

SB: I'm a huge believer in making it custom. When I ordered the notecards, I deliberately had the inside left blank so I have to write something. I handwrite everything now.

RC: Why?

SB: Because no one else does it. What I do is to personally send it out. I find that people will respond much better.

RC: How about for your general database?

SB: We use MarketSharp, which has a calendar function and notes.

Once a month we send out an email newsletter. We tell people that they're going to be getting a newsletter. Our emails announce specials or tell people about our open houses or a home show or other event we're participating in.

RC: What evidence do you see that the people getting these emails actually buy?

SB: Well, for example, we had an open house recently and this couple came. They were buying a house in the area. It was a short sale and they were trying to figure out what it would cost to replace the windows.

They contacted us four months ago. They got our email, so they came in for the open house. We were offering 5% off for two days. They bought 20 windows.

Making Outbound Calls

RC: Do you have someone in the office who is responsible for calling?

SB: I pretty much do the outbound calls. I make 30 to 70 calls a day. Today for instance, my activity includes 81 assignments.

With customers, we always do a 72-hour follow-up. I call the day of the installation to thank them for the business. I do a one-week follow up, a three-week follow-up, and a 45-day status call.

RC: What do you say on the day of installation?

SB: I pull the file while the guys are finishing up. I introduce myself as one of the owners of Next Door & Window. I say I'm calling personally to thank the homeowner and to ask if everything went OK.

Yesterday I had a guy tell me he was very happy except that he hated the way the windows were caulked. So at four this afternoon we had a crew out there re-caulking. He never would have said that if I hadn't called. The last thing I want is a homeowner saying the caulking is a little sloppy.

RC: How do you market to people who spoke with a salesperson but didn't buy?

SB: Within two days they get a phone call from me thanking them for letting us come out. I will call them personally and thank them. I will ask if they have any questions and will remind them that we have a six-month no-payment option.

Within three days they get a postcard from us, the first of a series of seven postcards.

The first postcard introduces us and thanks them again.

Three days later they get postcard number two, which explains the service that we do.

Postcard three explains our installation procedures.

Postcard four introduces me and the member of our team you'll be working with. And so on.

This is an 18- to 21-day process. And in the meantime they receive a survey from one of our managers asking them three quick questions:

1) Did we show up on time for the appointment?
2) Did we offer a solution to your problem?
3) Are you considering us?

And we just added one: On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your experience with Next Door & Window so far?

Ending Communication With Prospects

RC: Is there a point where you stop contacting them?

SB: Only when they tell us to. If they call and say: You guys have called and mailed and emailed, how do I get you to stop?

Our policy is that the only way we stop talking to prospects is if they buy something or tell us to stop. And I explain that to people. If they truly would like us to stop, that's not a problem. I'll take them off my activity list, and they will not be contacted again.

RC: How do they respond?

SB: Last year we had two jobs from people calling because they didn't want to be contacted again. One guy had gotten four postcards and an email. He called up and said: How do I get your guys to stop?

I said: Oh, just buy the windows.

He said: Your prices are too high.

I said: Give me 24 hours. I will personally look at your file.

He ended up buying.

RC: Are there any other ways you're in touch with customers and prospects?

SB: We do annual phone calls. I have four on my list for today. I say: We did some windows for you last year. I'm one of the owners. I'm calling to make sure you're as happy today as you were a year ago.

If they say everything's great, I say: Can you do me a favor and recommend me to a friend or family member?

RC: How much of your business is from past customers, either repeat or referral?

SB: We're a $10 million company and 49% of our incoming leads are repeat/referral. So it's huge. We close 40% of issued leads, but somewhere between 60% and 70% of repeat/referral.