One of your salespeople gets the lead and presents your product to the homeowners. No sale. They're “be backs.” What happens to the lead? Does the salesperson hang onto it until the mythical day arrives and the homeowners call to inform him that they are, indeed, interested in buying windows? Or does it disappear forever into his briefcase while he's running the two or three other appointments per day your company is giving him?

“If they don't sell it at the first appointment, it comes right back to us,” says Kalliope Eaton, president of Midwest Construction & Supply, a window and siding company in Mason City, Iowa.

FOLLOW-UP IS KEY Eaton points out that salespeople aren't as good as the company is at following up on unsold leads. For that reason, it makes far more sense for the company to control the lead. “There's so much competition for that lead, and we've spent a lot of money to get it,” she says. “We consider it ours.”

But that doesn't mean that the original salesperson doesn't get another shot at closing the sale. If salespeople tell their manager they're still working the lead, they get more time to close the sale, says Paul Despenas, Midwest Construction & Supply's vice president of marketing. If reps don't ask for extra time, within three days of the original appointment, the company takes over to try to arrange a second visit.

About 20% of the time, homeowners agree to a second meeting, Despenas says. In those cases, Midwest Construction sends the original salesperson back out, unless homeowners prefer to deal with another sales rep. “Once salespeople get back in,” Despenas says, “they close about 60% of the leads.”

THREE-DAY RULE At Illinois Energy Windows & Siding in Lombard, Ill., salespeople get three days “to turn a no-sale into a sale,” says president David Sonner.

If nothing pans out, the company's telemarketing manager will attempt to set up a re-visit. That, Sonner says, is successful about 10% of the time. On that second appointment, the original salesperson still gets credited if the deal is sold. “But if the original salesperson doesn't feel comfortable going out or if customers don't want that person back out, we'll send somebody else,” Sonner says, and the rep forfeits the commission.

If the project is big enough, Illinois Energy Windows & Siding will send a manager along on the follow-up appointment. If there's a sale, the original salesperson will get half the commission, and the other half will go to the manager, to Sonner, or to his business partner.

Premier Window & Building in Owings Mills, Md., takes a similar approach. The company attempts to set up a second appointment for the next day. Premier Window's preference is for the original rep to run that second call. If for any reason he can't, won't, or isn't wanted, the commission goes to whoever rehashes the lead. “Whoever makes the sale gets credit,” says vice president of sales Jake Jacobson. He says the company is able to convert at least half the leads to sales when it gets a follow-up appointment. —G.M. Filisko is a freelance writer based in Chicago.