When you're selling home improvement products, bad habits — such as prequalifyingleads, failing to give a full presentation, and trying to makethe sale with promises the company can't keep — are easy to develop.

But those bad habits can also be easy to break, if not prevent, home improvementcompany owners and sales managers say. That is, if you're willing to committo continuous training and eternal vigilance.

Breaking Habits Sales managers at home improvement companies use a variety of techniques tomonitor salespeople and keep them on track. Weekly meetings, role playing, managersrunning leads with salespeople, and diligent reviews after those salescalls are all geared to making sure reps stay on the system and everybodyis doing the same thing.

“The secret of handling bad habits is to deal with them before they happen,” saysChris Cardillo, president of Castle, The Window People, inMt. Laurel, N.J. That means, Cardillo says, you start with a complete, structuredtraining program, and “never assume a new hire is knowledgeablein any area. Just as you would with a sales presentation, you must completeeach step of your training program.”

Tom Slicko, vice president, Prairie Home Alliance, a siding and window companyin Washington, Ill., notes any bad sales habits he sees during the weekand saves them for discussion at the weekly sales meeting. “Addressingthose problems is best done in a group atmosphere,” Slicko says. Thatway, everyone in the meeting benefits, not just the offender, and “it'salso a good way to learn ways to do things other than your own.”

Stick with the Pitch Book For Frank Manzare, vice president and partner, Statewide Remodeling, in Dallas, breakingbad sales habits starts with a plan and a solid pitch book. Buthis experience has shown that “most people don't use the pitch book, sothey have no structure ... no road map. The salespeople don't use thepitch book, the manager doesn't make them use the pitch book, and then themanager wonders why the reps' sales are all over the map.”

Stick to the pitch book and many bad habits don't ever get a chance to form, Manzaresays. “You pitch everybody the same way.”

Follow-up is just as essential. “My philosophy is that you have to inspectto get what you expect,” Manzare says. “That means, ridingin the field with your salespeople, and calling customers behind pitches andmisses to find out what actually happened.”