Customer surveys by some of the bigger home improvement companies show that nothing annoys homeowners more — or predisposes them to negatively judge you — than a salesperson who doesn't show up on time. Say, for instance, that the appointment is for 6 p.m. and you arrive at 6:20 with a story about traffic.

Three things have happened — none of them promising. In the first place, you've shown disrespect. Respecting people means respecting their time and the fact that it's valuable to them.

Second, you've put yourself on the defensive. To sell, you need to be in control of the appointment and you've already lost control. Instead of the salesperson asking the homeowner questions, now the homeowner is asking you questions (“Did you run into traffic, or what?”).

Third, a salesperson who is late has the homeowner questioning not just the salesman's reliability but the company's reliability, too. Hey, if this guy is late, what about the installers? Everything is thrown into doubt.

Just Calling to Say … Late is bad news. If you have any reason to believe that you're not going to get to the appointment on time, call the office to let them know. Have them make the homeowner aware of it. Being even a few minutes late could easily be a source of irritation and get you off on the wrong foot with the homeowner.

You might think: If I'm running behind, why shouldn't I just call the homeowner to let them know myself? The reason is that you're providing that homeowner with a ready-made way to blow off the call entirely. What could easily happen is that your prospect could cancel with a line like: “You know what, we don't really have a lot of time for this anyway. Could you just email us a quote on the windows?” Or, “We've already talked to [your major competitor] and have decided to go with them. But thanks anyway.”

So have the office call if you're going to be late. Then, when you do get to the house, make as little noise about it as you can. Say something like: “I hope the office called.” Since they did, now you're the good guy.

Plan to Be on Time Two final points. One of the traits of a great salesperson is good time management. Arriving on time is all in the planning. So if that lead is half an hour away, get started an hour before the appointment time.

And if you get there early, don't knock on the door. Find something else to do while you wait for the scheduled appointment time to arrive. Showing up early could be as annoying as showing up late.

And when you're on time, you might want to remind the homeowner — just once — that you're on time. Remember, being on time is the first impression of being professional ... which makes you more money. And that's what it's all about. Good selling!

Jake Jacobson is vice president of sales at Premier Window & Building, a Maryland home improvement company. Reach him at