When Tom Higgins, owner of Superior Products Home Improvements, in Denver, started his company, he did it by knocking on doors. That's why he pays his own salespeople an additional 2% over and above their 10% commissions on jobs where they generate the lead themselves. In Higgins' experience, some salespeople take advantage of that opportunity. Most ignore it. That doesn't surprise Seattle sales and marketing consultant Vaughn McCourt, who says that he found, in his experience managing the salesforce at several large home improvement companies, that if salespeople making good money are given the choice of either generating some portion of their leads or leaving, they will leave. “If you slide this in and say, ‘You gotta do it or else,' he'll take the ‘or else,'” McCourt says.

TOUGH TASK Some companies create plans or policies in an effort to motivate salespeople to bring in leads. Incentives typically involve additional commission. Five percent, plus additions to monthly bonus payouts, is what, at various times, ImproveIt Home Remodeling, in Columbus, Ohio, has offered. ImproveIt is “always interested” in self-gen, co-owner Brian Leader says, but adds, “salespeople avoid doing it. They don't think they're cold-callers.” Leader feels that if the company's marketing department can generate enough leads, a salesperson's time is best spent running them. Ditto at Capizzi Home Improvement, in Cotuit, Mass., where salespeople “follow up on unsolds they feel have life in them,” owner Tom Capizzi says, but regular calling of the company's database of unsold leads is left to appointment setters.

PROSPECTING McCourt says there are three ways for salespeople to generate leads:

  • By knocking on doors around the jobsite;
  • By calling previous customers for additional work or referrals;
  • By traveling with service techs on repair calls so that while the tech performs the service or repair, the salesperson can inquire as to whether or not there are other products the homeowner might be interested in.
  • Leader says that reps can prospect by talking to customers about referrals, emailing letters to past customers, and participating in viral activities, i.e., social media.

    Still, McCourt and others agree that without being constantly managed and monitored, a system for creating rep-generated leads will immediately begin to disappear. “Self-gen is not an autopilot process,” Leader says, citing the paradox that “the better your company is at generating consistent, predictable lead flow, the harder it is to get reps to participate [in generating their own leads].”