It's been a week since that contract was signed, and the customer's on the phone, insisting she wants to back out of it. Do you chase that business or move on to the next opportunity?

Sell It Right Most cancellations are preventable at the selling stage, experts say. Sales that are closed with the right combination of logic and emotion rarely result in recision. Steven Burak, president of ABC Seamless in Eagle, Idaho, has few jobs canceled. However, if a customer wants to cancel, Burak tries to salvage the business, especially if the company is somehow at fault. If it's beyond salvaging, he returns the deposit without penalty.

You're Fined Many contractors put cancellation penalties into their contracts, but they're often flexibly enforced. “We're sensitive to situations, when the homeowner has a legitimate reason,” says Sven Kramer, general manager of Stanek Vinyl Windows, Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio. In the absence of a legitimate reason, Stanek enforces a 15% cancellation fee and views canceling as breach of contract if the job's already started.

Firm But Fair Zeke Hall, president of Hallmark Windows and Siding, Bethesda, Md., says his company also recognizes the need for flexibility. “We're certainly going to pursue the project,” he says, “and in no sense are we going to lose money on the job. But if the customer is set on not working with us, we're not going to force it.”

Your response to cancellations can determine whether a prospect ever does business with you or recommends you to others.

“We give [those who cancel] a lot of respect,” Hall says. “We tell them that if they decide to use us in the future, we'd love to work with them. We wish them the best of luck. And sometimes they come back.”