Bob Strong used to lose sales. That was 30 years ago, when he was just getting started selling home improvement products. “I wrote a tremendous amount of business,” says Strong, who now sells windows for Betterliving Patio Rooms, in Athens, Ala. “And I had a tremendous amount of cancellations.”

Forfeited commission checks caused Strong to reconsider his methodology. And, most importantly, he says, to slow down.

“I'd get the contract and it'd be bingo, bango, bongo, I'm out of there,” Strong recalls. What he has learned to do, he says, is to remain in the house an additional 15 to 30 minutes doing a warm-down in which he resells prospects on key features and benefits.

Sales Gone Wrong According to conventional wisdom, the average home improvement company loses about 35% of what it sells to rescinded contracts or credit rejects. Generally, chances of rescission go up as the price rises. When clients can afford your product, but then cancel, the fault typically lies in the presentation. Skipping steps in the sales process and not properly explaining product, installation, or financing lays the groundwork for that bad-news phone call.

Buttoning up the presentation by raising and meeting any lingering objections helps head off cancellations by validating the client's trust. “It comes down to answering all their questions before you walk out,” says Brian Barrick, sales manager for Howk Home Improvement in Kalamazoo, Mich. To do that, Barrick advises his reps to make themselves scarce for a few minutes by, say, remeasuring, which gives customers a chance to discuss the project and to then raise concerns.

Inexperienced reps, especially, tend to run from the house, wildly excited about getting the deal. “We tell reps, ‘Slow down, relax, go over the paperwork thoroughly,'” says Pat Pagano, sales manager for American Siding & Window Systems, in Urbandale, Iowa. “Let the customers know what they're signing and what they're getting. That's the time to build on the rapport you've developed. Learn more about them. Show them the human side of you, not the sales side of you.”

The “R” Word Barrick points out that there are two ways to invite rescission. The first is by not building enough trust during the sales presentation. The second, he says, comes down to “how you present the right to rescind.”

Often, he says, reps pull out the sheet with rescission information just before they leave, hastily inform the homeowner that the deal can be cancelled at whim, and then ask for a signature or initials on that document. Wrong move. “When you walk out, you should be leaving them with two or three main points,” he says. “You don't want that to be one of them.”

Instead, Barrick suggests that reps address the customer's 72-hour right-to-rescind on the contract as part of the company story. He also points out that it's a mistake to present the right to rescind as a safety valve for fence-sitters. “Don't tell them that this was created for them to cancel, but rather to give them time to verify what you've been telling them and to protect them from ‘Big Switch' selling techniques,” he says.

Tie It Down Many companies re-contact customers within 24 hours of contract signing to tie down the sale. Howk Home Improvement reps, for instance, call the client the day after signing to ask if there are any additional questions.