Leads not panning out? Could be your sales process. Turning things around begins with the recognition that there are three types of prospects. The first — high sense of urgency — wants to buy now. The second — low sense of urgency — is interested, but not planning to buy immediately. The third —no sense of urgency — is interested, but still at the information stage.

Replacement contractors with high marketing and selling costs typically focus only on high-urgency prospects. To get the sale, they try to force a deal through in one call, insisting that the complete buying party be present.

There are two things wrong with that. One is that they often fail to set appointments. The other is that there are a lot more prospects in the second and third categories.

Yesterday and Today With the high cost of leads today, it's foolish to burn them up with high-pressure, one-visit, old-school sales tactics. Those were effective in the '50s and '60s, when people were less educated, less exposed to home improvement marketing, more likely to have a stay-at-home spouse, and had more time.

Today's prospects have very little time. Both spouses work. Both are better educated. They're bombarded with home improvement marketing, and they have Internet access. They might know more about products and options than the salesperson. Consequently, they reject high-pressure sales tactics.

Common Sense In addition, prospects have many more options to buy, and the unit of sale is significantly higher than it once was. Common sense says that as both the unit of sale and the homeowner's product knowledge go up, the selling cycle becomes longer. Compressing it into one visit is like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. It can be done, but it takes a lot of pressure. Often the outcome is cancellation.

Want to cash more leads? Change the focus of your sales process from closing to providing information. That makes it easy for all three categories to want to buy now. —Richard Kaller once owned a network of five home improvement companies. Today he operates Certified Contractors Network (www.contractors.net), a training and educational organization.