Let's say your customer offered to send you an additional check for the outstanding way he or she was treated in the course of the remodeling job and the quality of work your company did. Would you toss it in the recycling bin? Of course not. That check would go right in the bank where it belongs.

But what about the leads you're paying a lot of money for, and the demos you pay even more for? When a prospect cancels or a demo results in no sale, do you put that information somewhere it's certain to languish and be forgotten?

You might. Many companies do, or did. But there's a far better way to handle the matter, one that provides you with a return for the several hundred dollars you've already spent to get that interested party's name and number (or better still, e-mail address). Handled effectively, a system to rehash unsold leads could increase your business by 10% to 20%. The key word here, of course, is system.

Maintaining Contact

The first step is to stay in touch. The older the colder, as the saying goes. For that reason, I'd let two days go by and then attempt to re-contact the homeowner who received an estimate or proposal but didn't buy.

The second is to persist. Circumstances change and so do minds. You don't know what might have been involved in the prospect's initial reluctance to do business with you. But it's a safe bet that at some point they may change their mind. It would be just as safe to bet that if you call and leave a voice mail, you're probably not going to get anywhere. You need to find a way to contact them and, best of all, to speak with them ? even if that means calling from an alternative phone number. Yes, you run the risk of irritating them, but like all risks in business, that's one that can be managed. The important thing is to get them on the phone and make it clear that this is not simply a matter of repeating the sales presentation they've already been through. But first you need to speak to them.

Quality Control and More

Once you get the prospect on the phone, thank them for taking your call and being so receptive to your representative's initial visit. Remember that your purpose is twofold: You want to know how well you were represented in the home and whether or not there is any chance that prospect will ultimately buy.

Be sure to get honest feedback on how well the homeowner took to the representative who performed the in-home estimate. Ask questions such as whether the representative arrived on time for the scheduled appointment; whether he or she was courteous; and whether he or she mentioned certain features or benefits of the product. Find out if any member of your staff annoyed or aggravated the prospect in any way. Listen, take notes, and apologize for any inconvenience that may have resulted.

After the quality control standards have been addressed, you'll want to narrow down the prospect's reason for not placing an order. To get the business, you have to get back in front of that prospect face-to-face. It can't be accomplished over the phone. Make certain that there are no impending circumstances, other than finances, that prevented the prospect from moving ahead. Once you've isolated the prospect's concern to money, present them with a time-sensitive promotion or offer that would meet all of their remodeling needs at a significant savings from that which was presented during the original estimate.

Avoid discussing the details of this discount offer over the phone. Companies often do this and only confuse the situation. Don't promise what you can't deliver. Instead explain that to be able to provide this substantial savings, someone from your company will need to double-check project measurements to avoid any possible cost over-runs that might make the project unprofitable. This sets the stage for a second meeting at the home and, for your prospect, lends excitement to the idea of new pricing.

Second Chance

Think about how you may proceed once you've returned to the home. What will be different? In some cases, depending on the project scope, you can change the specifications to create a new proposal that's more in line with the customer's budget. In other scenarios the only solution may be to sacrifice profits by reducing the original bid. That's a lot easier to do if your pricing is established with the understanding that at some point you may be returning to the home to renegotiate.

A wealth of opportunity exists among prospects who rejected your initial offer to do business. Some companies have even gone to the length of starting completely different divisions or even separate business entities to rehash unsold business. The idea is to generate a maximum return on your marketing dollar. Yes, it requires a certain discipline. But to chase down new prospects when you haven't cashed in on leads you've already paid for simply makes no sense.

?Sales and marketing consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company salesperson and owner. Visit his website at tony@tonyhoty.com or call him at 888.447.3969.