Someone from your company set the appointment. Your salesperson knocks on the door. Then knocks again. No one's home. Sound familiar?

Here's another scenario. Your salesperson knocks, expecting to meet with John and Mary Jones. Mary is there but there's no sign of John. Your salesperson reacts with surprise, then visible dismay, then spends several hours selling Mary 10 windows, only to have the sale quashed the next day when John advises Mary that the windows are way overpriced.

These two separate and distinct types of situations can mar your effort to turn leads into successful demos, i.e., those that result in a sale. Yet there's a lot you can do to manage this kind of adversity. How a company handles these two types of challenges affects its conversion rate and its lead costs.

Knock Knock. Nobody Home

Salespeople who encounter the Not Home prospect often get upset. How could they not? Valuable time and expense has been expended in hopes of gaining a genuine opportunity, and now they're irritated at the homeowner for not being there and, sometimes, at the company for sending them on a blind chase.

There are three reasons why people aren't home for a sales appointment when they agreed to be. The first is poor confirmation, the second is deliberate evasion, and the third is just life, i.e., something more important came up.

Appointments must be confirmed soon after initial contact is made and then reconfirmed the night before the visit. In both conversations, establish that all interested parties will be there for the sales presentation. If they won't be, there's a good chance that whoever is missing will come back to nix the sale. All parties present guarantees buy-in and agreement, and minimizes the risk of rescission.

A good script will ask the right, effective questions in the right way, and an experienced confirmer will know what kind of responses to look for. Even if the prospect has agreed to a time when both parties can and will be there, reconfirm that in the same conversation. For one thing, people may be on the line, but that doesn't mean they are listening. Keep the conversation friendly and light, but make sure you ask that hard question, only put it another way: Will that be a time when both you and he are at home? A "Yeah" or "Umhmmm" response doesn't seal the deal. Take anything other than a straightforward "Yes" as a no.

Sounds of Silence

Say you have confirmed and reconfirmed but your prospect isn't home anyway. Whether or not you can recover that appointment depends on how it is handled. Regardless of why the homeowners weren't there - now it's a moot point - respond in a way that's light, friendly, and professional. First, have your salesperson call the office to verify the accuracy of the address. Then have someone in the office attempt to contact the homeowner after sufficient time (15 to 20 minutes) has elapsed.

If there's no response on the phone, have the sales representative leave behind a door hanger that says something like Sorry We Missed You. This makes the homeowner aware of the fact that you did uphold your end of the agreement. Include space for a hand-written note. The note can add urgency to the situation by saying something like: "Now that I've had a chance to see your home, I'm excited to share a special program we offer that will be a perfect fit." This not only piques the homeowners' curiosity, it also apologizes for the missed appointment without putting guilt or blame on anyone.

In business-to-business sales, people sometimes don't show up for appointments. Things come up and life happens. Salespeople understand that. Why not apply the same attitude to homeowners? Maintain rapport with the homeowner and you're in the best possible position to re-book the visit for 24 to 48 hours later. Your confirmer could start by saying: "Good evening, Mr. Jones. This is so-and-so from X company. Did you get our note?"