Credit: Photo: Erik Lam

Here's a sure way to lose a sale: Show that you're irritated by the homeowners' pets. “If you don't show affection toward their animals, you can really turn off buyers,” says Dennis Todd, commercial sales manager at Allen Brothers, a roofing company in Rochester Hills, Mich. But what if the beloved pooch is a pest?

BE THE ALPHA ANIMAL “Use a firm yet friendly tone with pets,” advises William Amato, president of Las Vegas Sales Consultants, in Elmhurst, Ill. “Animals are like children. They crave discipline, yet they want to know that you love them. If you do it affectionately, you can get the point across.”

Amato — who admits he is more a cat than a dog person — has one particular job where there is a dachshund that he has won over. That has earned him points with the homeowner. “The owner told me that the dog doesn't normally like men, and she's amazed at how much this dog loves me,” he says. “I just talk to the dog, pet her, and tell her how sweet and cute she is. She knows I mean her no harm.”

PET TIPS There are other tricks to letting dogs know that you're not a threat, says Tom Slicko, vice president of sales at Prairie Home Alliance, in Washington, Ill. “Don't put your palm out to them; offer the back of your hand,” he says, “and don't pet a dog around the mouth or nose. Pet them behind the ears.”

If Fido is still feisty, ask that the homeowners put him in another room. “I explain [to the owners] that my own dog is a boxer who gets overly excited, and I know that other people don't feel the same affection for her that I do, so I put her in her kennel so she feels safe,” Slicko says.

You can also blame your request on allergies or a prior bite, Todd says.

KITTY NEEDS ATTENTION Cats can also be a distraction. “The biggest cat pest is the one that climbs onto your paperwork,” Slicko says. “I politely pick up the cat by the middle of the stomach, put it gently on the floor, and continue with my presentation.”

Todd, who owns three cats himself, says he will also scoop up the feline and give it attention. “I put the cat on my lap and start petting it,” he says. “Either it will stay there or it will jump down.”

Whatever you do, don't let a critter kill the sale. “Animals can be a total connection point with people, and you don't want to lose that connection,” Slicko says. “If you do, the [potential] harm to [your rapport with the homeowners] is enormous.”

—Gabriella M. Filisko is a freelance writer based in Chicago.