Renaissance Exteriors, a window, sunroom, and siding company in Maple Grove, Minn., gets leads from many sources. Just who's going to run those leads sometimes depends on where the leads came from. For instance, the company's biggest lead source is home shows, where prospects are likely to come away with information about a half dozen home improvement companies. In those situations, as with Yellow Pages leads, where homeowners are also likely to talk to many companies, president Jeffrey Pattison says it's wise to send the most technically savvy reps, those who have “been in the industry a long time” and can “sell the differences.”

Strong Closers Needed Merv Hollander, of WeatherTite Windows in Youngstown, Ohio, agrees. The leads that come in from the company's television ads and from Hollander's live call-in radio program are “warm and fuzzy,” compared with show leads, where customers may contact 10 to 15 companies and be exhausted after demos from three or four reps. The solution? “We try to send a strong closer,” Hollander says. Reps who run show leads get as much information as the company can provide about competitors the prospect may have spoken with. “They come loaded to compete,” he says, “though we never knock anybody.”

No Excuses Home improvement company owners are sharply divided when it comes to distributing leads from different sources or modifying the sales process to fit the lead. At EuroTech, a window replacement company in the Chicago area, leads are blindly distributed by dispatchers, and president Fred Finn insists that the multi-step selling process not be altered one bit, whether it's a sell/furnish/install lead or a referral.

“If you've got ‘good' leads and ‘bad' leads,” he says, “then the salesforce thinks that it's not their fault if they don't sell the so-called ‘bad' leads.” Gerry Rogers, owner of Mr. Rogers Windows in Chesapeake, Va., agrees. “We're under the assumption that our lead-gathering source and our customer service reps produce a standard quality lead, which for us means two folks who have 90 minutes to spend with us and are interested in replacement windows sometime in the next year.” His intent, Rogers says, is to “marry” a standardized lead-gathering and appointment-setting procedure with a standardized selling process.

Multiple Lines For companies selling a variety of products, things can get tricky because the issue of product knowledge enters the picture.

Renaissance Exteriors, for instance, must give sunroom leads to reps trained in the product. “We set the lead to whoever might be best suited to that product,” Pattison says. “Or whoever knows that product best. If it's a James Hardie lead, we send a James Hardie guy out there.”