Eric Wortman knows all the reasons why a lead fails to convert to a “sit” or product demonstration: forgotten appointment; one-legger; the homeowner thought he was shopping a repair, or he only wants a price.

“In 2006, our total demos were 78% [of confirmed appointments],” says Wortman, owner of Sandia Sunrooms, in Albuquerque, N.M. “One-legs were 8% of the leads we ran and ‘not-home' was only 3%.”

The demo rate is an important measure of sales productivity. But contractors say that it can be an ambiguous one, involving the lead source; whether, how, and when the appointment is confirmed; as well as the salesperson's performance.


One reason for Sandia Sunrooms' high demo rate is that, “We make sure the people are there,” Wortman says. “We have a telemarketing staff and we confirm within 24 hours of the appointment.”

Confirmation and following up no-sits with a customer service call will improve a company's demo rate. Kearns Brothers, in Dearborn, Mich., demos about 80% of its leads. Whatever the lead source, says sales and marketing manager Gary Kearns, the company promptly books the appointment, follows up with an e-mail, and has reps call a few hours prior to arrival.


In O'Fallon, Mo., vice president Dan Merrifield credits Lake Side Exteriors' higher-than-average sit rate (80%) to a two-step selling process the company learned from Certified Contractors Network, the Ardmore, Pa.-based consulting group.

CCN's director of member services, Scott Lemons, says the two-call system removes the intimidation homeowners often feel about the sales process. On the first call, sales reps find out what the prospect wants or needs, then they measure. Later, they return with separate proposals, and present them.


Lemons suggests that owners or sales managers sit down with reps who have a low sit rate and examine the opportunities that are being missed. “If he has a sale every three presentations, then the more presentations he makes, the more money he makes,” Lemons says. “You would automatically see an increase in the sit ratio if they understood that.”

But for some companies, revenue is the more important number. “The reality is that results are what matter, and sales are the real result we're after,” says Jim Atkins, president of Southern Siding, Window & Door, in Bonita Springs, Fla.

“A salesman with a subpar sit rate but a good overall closing ratio is still producing,” he points out. “I don't want a guy to think he can cherry-pick leads, but if he's making the sale, you've got to give the producer some leeway.”