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A homeowner is on the phone and wants to know what your company charges for windows. Or a new roof. Some companies will give a price; most prefer not to. "Quoting a job over the phone doesn't do us or the home­owner any good," says Roone Unger, president of Exovations, a roofing, siding, and window company in Atlanta. "If we quote the job too high, they're not interested; if we quote it too low, then we may have to come back out asking for more money." It's difficult, he says, to put a price on what you don't see.

For many companies the simplest response is the most effective. Ryan Parsons, co-owner of The Brothers That Just Do Gutters, a gutter and gutter-cover company in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., responds to such inquiries by explaining to homeowners that "there are many variables that go into pricing a job." He then asks: What are you specifically looking to do, and what are you experiencing right now that prompted you to call us?

Company owners say that the important thing is to turn that inquiry into an appointment where the job can be measured, priced, and explained. Giving a price over the phone often means the homeowner will then move on, looking for an even lower price. But if pressed by an insistent prospect, some companies will give a range of prices or will even provide a rough estimate.

"Our standard response," says Jake Jacobson, vice president of sales for Premier Window & Building, in Maryland, "is that there are lots of options we can give you, and therefore it would be difficult to give you [a price] over the phone." But, Jacobson adds, often such callers have already sat through two or three sales presentations from other companies and have heard about as much as they want to on the subject of vinyl windows. In that case Jacobson will give the caller a price range at which the company's windows can be purchased. Parsons says that if callers insist, he will give them a range, but it's a broad range.

Cut to the Chase

But what if the client interrupts an in-home sales presentation to insist he merely wants a price? If that happens, it means "they've obviously made a decision that they're done," Jacobson says. That only happens if the salesperson hasn't established rapport at the beginning of the call, Unger points out. If a client says he's already sat through four presentations from four vinyl window companies, what the Exovations salesperson will talk about is the service level and professionalism the company provides, "all the way down to final inspection."