Credit: Illustration: Josef Gast

The salesperson arrives at the address, gets out of his car and knocks, only to be told that the prospects are no longer interested. Sometimes no one answers the front door. Sometimes the call was actually about fixing windows, not replacing them. Sometimes there's just one owner home.

And sometimes the salesperson decides ? on the basis of how the prospect's property, or car, look ? that no matter how good his presentation is, these people won't buy. And he is keenly aware that if he presents and they don't buy, his closing rate goes down.

Do the Demo-Rate Math

Subtracting all these failed attempts from the list of your issued leads leaves you with a demo rate, i.e., the percentage of appointments where a salesperson was actually able to present a product and give the homeowner a proposal.

At a well-run home improvement company, the demo rate might be 75% or more, meaning three out of four issued leads result in a price on the table.

"[The demo rate] doesn't seem like a big deal if you look at it for just one week," says home improvement consultant Tony Hoty (

). "But if you amortize that out over 52 weeks, you'll quickly see that [X] many more demos will result in [X] many more sales for your company."

It comes down to a simple equation: "The more orders you ask for," says Jake Jacobson, vice president of sales at Premier Windows & Building, in Baltimore, "the more orders you get."

Cherry Pickers

Experts advise that you can get your demo rate up by reducing one-legs and no-shows through more efficient confirmation methods. To identify those sales reps who are cherry-picking leads, "you want to look at the company's numbers versus those of your individual salesman," says well-known home improvement sales and marketing guru Rick Grosso (

Sales that fizzle at the door can be tracked by rehashing all calls. According to Jacobson, those appointments where the prospect announces that he or she "only has 10 minutes," or is no longer interested, represent a big opportunity to up the demo rate.

"A lot of it is the entry and the desire to sell the job," Jacobson says. "Some salesmen are better than others at the door." He advises working one-on-one with weak reps on just that step: warm-up, noting that, "It takes time and concentration, and you've got to do it without a watch." What's also important, Grosso adds, is that reps understand "that they're not going there to give a free estimate, but to sell."