When it comes to hiring a contractor, many homeowners have just one fear: that they'll hire the wrong one. So a year ago last March, Kip Lee, owner of Coastal Empire Exteriors, a sunroom and window company in Savannah, Ga., put together what he calls a “Credibility Book” for himself and his four salespeople to take on appointments.

Tell and Show The credibility book consists of a range of materials in a binder. It features four-color brochures on the sunroom and window products the company offers, warranty information, testimonials, and publicity that the company has received. It also includes a number of downloaded Web pages of news clips about dishonest contractors.

To help him put the book together, Lee says he went online to the Google site and typed in “contractor arrested.”

“About 3,000 items came up,” Lee says.

Chapter 1, Lee says, talks about “the four things you should look at when doing a remodeling project: company, product, price, and warranties.” At the end of last year, the company got a powerful third-party endorsement when it was named Small Business of the Year by the Small Business Assistance Corp., and a story about the award appeared in the Savannah Business Journal. That, of course, is front and center in the credibility book.

Credible Evidence Prior to bringing the book along with them, salespeople would tell the company story as part of their presentation.

Lee says equipping the salespeople with the book resulted in an initial rise in closing rates of 5% to 7%. “People like to see things,” Lee says. “They like to see the evidence.” Lee tells his salespeople to imagine themselves as lawyers and the homeowners as jurors. The credibility book is the evidence in the case.

The company continues to update its book with any positive press that it receives. A substantial portion of the demographic the company targets is over 50, and the risk of an aborted, failed, or unsatisfactory project for older clients is a major concern. The credibility book “lets us differentiate on security and low risk,” Lee explains. The company's print ads proclaim that Coastal Empire Exteriors “takes the risk out of home improvement.”