Home improvement companies often complain that there aren't enough leads. Yet in many cases the real problem is that the leads on the schedule are not being issued. That's because homeowners cancel or the lead in some other way falls off the schedule at some point during or after a rigid confirmation call.

Turning that customer contact into an actual product demonstration, i.e., demo, requires scripting and finesse. Want to raise your demo rate? The key is to qualify that prospect and confirm the appointment without alienating or estranging him or her. Success is all in the process.

Keep the Set Call Professional

Say you have the name of a homeowner who you've talked with at a home show. Your confirmer calls to set the appointment. That call should be made as soon as possible because after 48 hours that lead is in limbo. In calling to set the lead, my suggestion is that you skip the disingenuous rapport ("Hi! How are you? I'm calling from ...") and keep it completely professional. Good morning, good evening, or good afternoon. Then go right to the point ? otherwise your confirmer risks getting cut short by the prospect.

Start by saying something like this: "We spoke with you yesterday at Sam's Club and you expressed an interest in lowering your energy bill (or) getting the energy tax credit. One of our representatives is going to be in your area. Is tomorrow a good time?"

If there's wariness or hesitation, I like to ask this question: Have you ever had an estimate on replacing windows before?If they haven't, that's a good reason to have the representative out to show them what replacing windows might cost and why the energy tax credit makes this a great time to think about doing it.

Confirmation Do's and Don'ts

Confirmation is calling back a lead that has a specific appointment already established. And this is where bad scripting or an inept or untrained caller can drive your demo rate ? demos to leads issued ? quickly down.

The first sin is in repeatedly asking the prospect to confirm his/her name and address. This only frustrates homeowners. It's especially counterproductive because there are countless websites that make a homeowner's personal and demographic information available as a matter of public record. In many cases the local county auditor's site will provide you substantial data, including the home value, title holders, property liens, etc. It takes less time to log on and acquire this information than it does to call the prospect and harass them for it.

At some companies, confirmers end up asking homeowners questions that are essentially useless for the purpose of confirming an appointment but which have the effect of making prospects gun shy. Examples: How long have you owned your home? What would you say is the value of your home? Would you want us to present financing options or do you plan to pay in cash?

Those kinds of questions can alarm homeowners, who suddenly sense a high-pressure situation in the offing. Why would a confirmer ask them? Because a salesperson looking to hyper-qualify the prospect suggested it. The worst, and most frequent, is when confirmers demand that prospects set aside 45 or 90 minutes for the appointment.

How to Manage Time

This is shooting yourself in the foot for several reasons. First, since most in-home presentations for remodeling projects take a minimum of two hours to complete, telling the homeowner to set aside 45 to 90 minutes is a flat out lie. Second, when the prospect agrees to give you 90 minutes but reveals that they have a prior obligation just after that time elapses, what do you do? Reschedule. Now the homeowner becomes confused. Third, many consumers reluctantly agree to the time requirements and then call back later to cancel because they cannot begin to comprehend why the company would need that kind of time. After all, it is just a free no-obligation estimate, right?

You can clear the way to getting the time you'll need to do a complete presentation by explaining to the prospect that you have had an overwhelming response from your marketing efforts. As a result, even though your company is normally right on time for scheduled appointments, it's possible that your representative may be running 15 to 20 minutes behind. Keeping that in mind, ask the homeowner if it is safe to say that they will be available for the remainder of the morning/afternoon/evening. Conclude by asking if the possibility of running behind may interfere with any other plans that they might have that day. This approach successfully establishes more than sufficient time without alarming the homeowner with rigid time requirements.

Third Ear

Lastly, making sure that the spouse or all interested parties are present at the time of the appointment without agitating the prospect is key to confirming the appointment. It involves the use of what I like to call the "third ear." The first step is to ask if the appointment is scheduled when all parties will definitely be at home. The second is to ask, "And that will be good for [the spouse] as well?"

In effect, you're asking the same question two different ways. That question has only two acceptable answers. They are: "yes," or "definitely." Going along with "yeah," "probably," "maybe," or some variation thereof will likely result in an incomplete demonstration.

If you want a high rate of demos to leads, have your marketing department formulate a confirmation script that includes all these elements. Then, once completed, laminate it, record it, and tolerate no deviation from it.

Of course, there is no one fool-proof approach. Just keep it brief. Not-home and single-spouse appointments will always exist to some degree regardless of how you confirm. But allowing salespeople to influence how that confirmation takes place will increase the likelihood of no-shows and canceled appointments. After all, if salespeople had their way, they would only be visiting prospects with credit scores of 800 that have already committed to purchase over the phone.

?Consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement salesperson and company owner. Reach him at tony@tonyhoty.com or by calling 888.447.3969.