With leads costing $200 or more at some companies, home improvement contractors are understandably reluctant to let unsold leads quietly fade away. That's why many have some kind of rehash program intended to breathe new life into unsold leads, even if success is modest at best, as many report.

At Modern Exteriors, Springfield, Mo., leads that did not result in an appointment the first time around go into the company's contact management software for “casual” follow-up, says operations manager Randy Zickefoose.

“We contact them two or three times in no set period of time, but then they just get too stale,” Zickefoose says. However, he adds that Modern Exteriors currently is developing a more disciplined approach.

Tread Carefully One key to rehashing old leads is to do it inexpensively, without creating possible liability. Even though his company doesn't do telemarketing, “you still have to go by the rules and regulations in the follow-up,” says Carlo Pinto, president of Pinnacle Energy in Wilmington, Del.

His solution is to work the mail. “All the leads we get from canvassing that didn't convert, we put into our database to do quarterly mass mailings,” Pinto says, adding that mailings always include some promotion as an incentive for consumers to act.

Since beginning the program this year, the company has had “some success,” Pinto says. “I don't have any hard data, but every once in a while we get a call from someone who talked to a canvasser six months ago, and now they want an estimate.”

Better Than Nothing Another approach is to prevent the lead from getting stale in the first place, says Bill Frazier, president of Austin Gutterman, Austin, Texas. “You have a two-week time frame when someone is going to make a decision most of the time,” Frazier says of leads that have been demo'd but not sold. “I leave the lead sheet with the salesperson for 10 days after the [originally scheduled] appointment to follow up or reset the appointment with the customer,” he says. After that, barring special circumstances, it goes into rehash.

“The rehash program is prime motivation for the customer to do business with us now,” Frazier emphasizes. “Even if the deal is a little short, we want to bring it in because something is better than nothing.”

One of the office staff calls the customer to talk about closing the sale right away. Frazier offers a discount, usually 10%, that's good for three days, after which the project reverts to the originally proposed price. If signed, the commission on the discounted sale is split between the original and the rehash salespeople.