Credit: James Yang

You're spending good money on ad campaigns or on search engine optimization (SEO), but the rate at which those inbound calls convert to appointments is lower than expected. Many companies, says Tom Audette of Three Deep Marketing, in Minneapolis, could improve their conversion rate by directing inquiries somewhere other than the sales office — where callers will often be pre-qualified — or an overstretched admin employee, such as the receptionist. The point in handling calls is “to turn polite interest into a serious sales presentation,” Audette says. For a healthy conversion rate, it's essential to:

  • Establish a professional and assertive tone that responds to prospects' questions while taking charge of the conversation.
  • Get the right information from the prospect.
  • Convey the value of a personal visit by a sales representative.
  • GET FOCUSED What also ensures success, says Scott Barr, owner of Southwest Exteriors, in San Antonio, is having a person “whose whole focus is converting those calls to high-quality appointments.”

    The first thing that such a person wants to know is how or where the caller found out about the company. That enables lead tracking and “let's us know what particular offer they're calling in response to,” says Almena Faux, director of outside sales and event marketing for P.J. Fitzpatrick, a home improvement company in Newark, Del. Other essentials include name, address, phone number, email address, and the increasingly important cell phone number. P.J. Fitzpatrick's appointment setter will also want to know how old the house is — because of the Environmental Protection Agency's Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, among other reasons — and whether or not there are deed restrictions that might prohibit certain products or colors.

    CONTROL THE CALL Scripting is critical but it's no guarantee that the call will become an appointment. Whether or not that happens is “70% to 80% the person,” Barr says, that is, how skilled appointment setters are in responding to questions and in selling the need for and the value of the appointment. For instance, when appointment setters run through a checklist of factual information, “do [homeowners] feel like they're being interrogated — or stimulated?”

    Barr says — and others agree — that the biggest challenge remains getting both parties to commit to being present for the sales presentation. Quillen Brothers Windows, in Bryan, Ohio, takes it a step further and asks that all parties be present and participating. “Otherwise,” owner Bob Quillen says, “the salesperson could arrive to find one or the other homeowner upstairs reading a book.”