Like most home improvement contractors, Charles Gorse says that inbound leads offer greater sales potential than outbound telemarketing leads, i.e., follow-up calls to contacts made at shows and events, or flat-out cold calls.

“These are people who are asking us to come out and give them a free, no-obligation estimate,” says Gorse, general manager for Southern Industries, in Augusta, Ga., “so they've already thought this over.”

Few would dispute that. But when it comes to methods of handling leads originating from these sources, contractors don't always agree. At Braymiller Builders of Western New York, in Hamburg, N.Y., only the script opening for incoming and outgoing calls differs, says David Braymiller, president. Cold-calling telemarketers offer free estimates because “we're working in the area,” Braymiller explains. Working a “warm” inbound lead, they offer to set an appointment as a follow-up to the prospect's interest. “Once you get beyond the first sentence, it's pretty much the same,” he adds.

The approaches differ more at Full Spectrum Remodeling, in Eddystone, Pa. “Outbound calls need to be treated very gingerly,” vice president Josh Schneider says. “Typically, you are contacting [the prospect] for something they may not even have been thinking about.” In contrast, inbound callers are usually actively investigating a project and eventually will purchase, he adds.

GET THE DIALOG GOING For most companies, however, the goal in handling either type of call is the same: to gather contact information, determine product interest, and set the appointment with all decision-makers present. “At that point,” Gorse says, “it's the salesman's job to turn that interest into a need and that need into a desire, and take it from there.”