Rick Edwards, owner of Nature View, a home improvement company in Pittsburgh, once had a salesperson return from running an appointment complaining that the lead should never have been set. The parties, he said, had made it clear on the phone that they weren’t going to buy for at least a year. “Sometimes you need to change the salesperson’s way of thinking,” Edwards says. “I told him: a year is a long time. Then I asked what he’d have done if they weren’t going to buy for, say, three months? Six months? Nine months? He got the idea.”

Sell Your Way In

Company owners agree that complaints about leads often just mask poor selling skills. “My first question is: Why is it a bad lead?” says Randy Leeds, owner of First Choice Windows Remodeling Group, in Greenwich, Conn. “Is it because you’re a rotten salesman?”

 Leads where homeowner interest is minimal tend to happen far more frequently when produced by a company’s canvassing or in-store or event marketing programs. Those, not coincidentally, are also the leads that tend to result in the most complaints from salespeople. To which, Edwards says, the response is: Why would the home­owner set the appointment if they had no interest?

“The [sales rep] may have to sell his way in,” Edwards says. “If the prospects say they’ve changed their minds and are not interested, the experienced salesperson tells himself, ‘Well, I’m here,’ then steps in the door anyway and heads for the kitchen table. As a salesperson, you have to learn not to hear certain things.”

Qualifying The Lead

But complaints about leads can also be legitimate. For instance, if the prospect is not home or if all buying parties are not present. “A lot of that falls on call staff,” says home improvement sales trainer and consultant Mike Damora. Complaints could arise, for instance, when call center personnel are working a list of old show or event inquiries and there’s such a high level of rejection that they start to get desperate.

But depending on how your company defines a lead, there’s always some chance of landing a sale. To Edwards, a lead is an appointment with a homeowner who needs the product but doesn’t yet have it. Anything beyond that simple definition amounts to qualifying the lead. “If a level of interest exists,” he says, “they can improve that.”

“No [homeowner is] sitting around with a check burning a hole in their pocket, waiting for the window or siding guy to show up,” Damora says. “You have to cultivate those leads to make them good.” 

—Jim Cory is editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.