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There are many reasons why a salesperson might call the company office in the middle of a sales appointment. Generally speaking, it's because he needs information. Fred Finn, president of Euro-Tech, a window and siding company in Bensenville, Ill., says that “there is no dumb question.” In fact, it's likely that sales reps will call, and the questions go all over the place.

Not long ago, for instance, a salesperson called because someone living in the home was on oxygen and wanted to know if it was safe to change out the windows. Another called to say that his prospect was an electrical engineer who wanted information on National Fenestration Rating Council ratings. Another time a salesperson called to say that the homeowner would like to buy windows but was behind on mortgage payments and that his credit history included two bankruptcies. All situations where management input is not just useful but is crucial to closing the deal. “If there's a chance that what they don't know could stop them from selling that homeowner, then I want them to pick up the phone,” Finn says.

PLUS & MINUS Chris Cardullo, owner of Castle, The Window People, based in Mt. Laurel, N.J., says it's “always beneficial” for salespeople to call if they encounter situations where, for whatever reason, they can't move forward with the sale. That could be everything from not being able to get in the house to begin with, to product knowledge or a financing question. A phone call to the manager “clarifies the situation,” Cardullo says, and reduces tensions that can arise in the course of the sales appointment.

Though some homeowners may view the rep's sudden recourse to a manager on the phone with suspicion, Finn says that his reps should feel free to call in the middle of the appointment, and many do. “We live in a cell-phone society,” he says. “If I worked in a retail store and a customer asked a question I couldn't answer, I'd say: ‘Let me get the manager.'” When sales reps don't call, Finn says, it's often because they presented a price. If they do call it's because something got in the way of being able to do that.

LAST RESORT Well-known industry sales trainer Rodney Webb suggests that calls to the boss should happen in the middle of the sales call “only as a last option,” such as when the rep gets a question from the homeowner that he can't answer. Webb says that when a salesperson can't or won't answer a question, he puts himself in a position to not sell the job. “If you don't know the answer,” Webb says, “tell the customer: ‘I am not sure, but if it's that important to you I'll find out right now.' Then pick up the phone and get the answer.”

Webb says that he otherwise discourages making calls mid-appointment. However, he has found that a good time to call is when the salesperson has closed. At that point, he says, it's a good idea for the salesperson to call the company owner and have him speak to the customer. The owner, Webb says, should congratulate the customer for his purchase and should thank him for the business and “for entrusting your home to us,” adding, “I promise we'll do a fantastic job.”

Webb says that, as the business owner, he would then give the homeowner his personal phone number and invite him to call if there are any problems. That practice, he says, significantly reduces cancellations.