Your leads come from several sources. Some are prospects eager to see a salesperson. Some are far from buying, or have minimal interest in your company or your product. And some close at a higher rate than others. A lead is a lead, as the saying goes. But not necessarily to salespeople.

At Feldco, a window manufacturer, retailer, and installer in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana, salespeople don't know the source of the lead unless the lead is a prior customer or a referral. Knowing the lead source, president Doug Cook says, could create a bias, based on job size or prospect interest level.

“I would prefer that we assume the customer knows nothing and that every customer should be educated to an optimum level,” Cook says. The exception, in the case of a prior customer, is common sense: “We have to include prior pricing and purchases in the lead information.”

WHAT THEY KNOW Many home improvement companies share that philosophy. “Salesmen judge the lead in a heartbeat,” says Larry Chavez, owner of Four Seasons in Albuquerque and Phoenix, which provides its salesforce with leads from 25 sources, including showroom and sell-furnish-install leads. Reps, Chavez says, need “to trust the operation to give them good appointments” and don't need to know who got the lead or where it came from. Chavez says he defines a good appointment as a prospect who's interested and has agreed to give the company enough time to present. Such leads — all leads — should be run “cheerfully.”

STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE Salespeople, of course, will find out where the lead came from when they get to the house. “How did you hear about us?” may be the first question they ask, and should be the first question, according to Jake Jacobson, vice president of sales at Premier Window & Building, in Baltimore.

And since they are going to find out everything anyway, Jacobson says, the more salespeople know about the lead before running it the better off they are.

And it can provide a strategic advantage. Knowing, for instance, that the prospect first came into contact with the company at a home show, or was referred by a friend or neighbor, allows the sales rep to revisit the source of the lead and reignite that spark of interest that got the prospect to commit to the appointment to begin with.

For instance, “If it's a recommendation, he needs to know what the people who recommended us bought,” Jacobson says. That becomes a way to launch the conversation and begin building rapport. But it shouldn't be left to chance. Salespeople, he says, “need to be trained on what to do with that information in the house.”