Did you ever buy a car from a salesperson who you thought did a great job and with whom you were completely happy?

I have, and I'm sure you have, too.

When it was time to buy another car, did you find that the salesperson no longer worked at that dealership? What did you do then? Chances are you went to a competitor.

It's common for consumers to make a major purchase and then end up an “orphan,” that is, a customer whose salesperson is not around to answer questions, service the product he sold, or help the customer buy again.

SURVEY THE FIELD A homeowner who has purchased one home improvement product is statistically very likely to purchase another, but from whom? If he's satisfied, his first choice should be your company and you. However, if the salesperson who the homeowner previously dealt with is gone, how long do you suppose it's been since someone from your company contacted that homeowner?

Consider instituting an “adoption program” to make these “orphan” customers yours. Ask your sales manager for a list of such customers, and contact them with a customer satisfaction survey.

Script the survey so it's to-the-point. Explain who you are, why you're calling, and ask a series of questions to ascertain whether the customer is completely happy with the product he bought from your company. Ask what he likes most about his experience with your firm.

Listen carefully and then repeat your understanding of what the customer said. Thank him, and then ask about other home improvement projects he may be considering, to determine whether he might be a prospect for another of your products. If it seems he is, ask for an appointment.

REFERRAL REQUEST If the homeowner has no improvements in mind, ask if he would be willing to introduce you to a neighbor. That's a direct referral, one of the best leads you can get, and you will have gotten it through your own efforts.

Either way, this is a productive way to spend an hour or two on the phone each day. Take care of these “orphans,” and they will take care of you with referrals, new business, and great word-of-mouth advertising. —Chuck Anton is a sales and marketing consultant who specializes in the home improvement industry. You can reach him at www.chuckanton.com.