The answer is no answer. That is, the prospect says: We have to think about it.

Time for the salesperson to isolate the objection, meet it head on, press for a signature. Or is it? In the last few years, many companies in the home improvement industry committed to getting a sale on the first visit have found the need for greater flexibility. For many prospects the statement, “We need time to consider it,” is not a dodge but a fact. “There are times when people say: I really liked your proposal and I'd like to think about it,” says Miles Wilkins, general manager of The Board Store Home Improvements, in La Crosse, Wis. “And that's what they mean.”

FINANCING, FLEXIBILITY It's also the case that with fewer prospects having access to ready financing, they may need time to determine how to pay for what they're thinking about buying. “There are more valid reasons for not buying today,” says Shane Schuckman, co-owner of Renewal by Andersen of Las Vegas/Phoenix. “People might say: I have to figure out where to get the money, or I'm trying to get three or four things done to the home and I need to get my bids together and prioritize.”

The company has always been committed to a first-night close. But homeowners are more discerning, and companies are willing to work harder for their business. Five years ago, Schuckman says, it was “either you get [the sale] or you don't and you move on to the next one.” But today, with leads fewer, salespeople need strong follow-up skills to convince homeowners who are “still looking” to do business. Too much pressure can anger prospects.

Mike Damora, sales manager at Roeland Home Improvers, in Denville, N.J., says that he asks prospects if they'd like a price right away, i.e., tonight, or if they'd prefer that he work up a detailed proposal and return or email it to them. Most homeowners want a price. If they can't commit, Damora asks them if they're OK with the product, the process, and himself, the salesperson. If they are, it comes down to price. “Is your product worth the price? Did they see the value for the money? Is the price fair and is it in their budget?”

RETURN ENGAGEMENT These days Damora says he can often persuade fence-sitters by moving through the proposal line by line, comparing Roeland Home Improvers' offer with proposals from competitors. Still, fewer are willing to commit on a first visit and the key to finally winning the sale is perseverance. “I use my drive time to make those calls,” Damora says.

Wilkins agrees that more patience is called for and says he's aware that he's asking homeowners to make a large purchase. The Board Store closes many deals on the first call, he says, but “we do a lot of second-call closes too.”