Recently, to improve the quality of our appointments, the company I work for invested in a phone system that records inbound and outbound calls.

When told I had an appointment at “the monkey house,” I thought the homeowner really had pet monkeys! But after listening to the recorded appointment being scheduled, I quickly learned why the girls in my office called it “the monkey house”: Children yelled, toys crashed, and someone was crying in the background.

I was unsure whether to feel flattered or to ask what I'd done to deserve such a challenging appointment.

WARMING UP THE KIDS When I arrived, the three children (all under age 6) were hitting and punching one another. I had a hard time warming up with the homeowners because they were trying to settle the children, so I asked the kids to each bring me their favorite toy. They brought them out and played quietly for a few minutes. Then the youngest became fidgety. I asked if she wanted to sit next to me and draw on my customer survey while I finished talking with her parents. She scribbled while I took notes.

During the siding presentation, each of the children jumped on the insulated siding and selected a favorite color. Later I opened my window sample and allowed them to crawl through. They each felt the heat from the heat lamp.

NO RUSH When measuring the siding at the monkey house, I suggested that the family go ahead and eat dinner, so I wouldn't get in the way of their evening routine. I took a little longer measuring, to make sure they'd finished eating.

While I was pricing the project and writing up proposals, Mom bathed the kids. Again, I took longer than necessary so she had enough time and wasn't rushing me out after I gave them the pricing. I wanted to eliminate the possibility of her leaving the conversation so she could finish getting the children ready for bed.

Finally, while I was going over the contract, I asked each child to draw me a picture of the house and family. They scribbled their names on these, which now hang in my office.

BE PREPARED I believe in always being prepared and ready to turn distractions into selling advantages. If you engage the whole family in your presentation you increase the probability of closing the sale. You can turn distractions into opportunities for creating relationships and building trust.

Other suggestions:

  • Write down the children's names and include them in the personalized thank-you card after the job's completed.
  • If the homeowners need to discuss the project before making a decision, sit down and read a book to the children or play with them until a decision has been reached.
  • If Mom or Dad is busy minding children elsewhere in the house and you don't have the attention of both prospects, bring the demonstration to them. Then move the conversation back to the kitchen table for pricing and to discuss the final details of the project and cost.
  • Have a book of before-and-after pictures that includes pictures of children and homeowners.
  • Have a supply of candy or small company promotional items in your vehicle for well-behaved children.

—Bethany Kazaba is a sales representative for P.J. Fitzpatrick Inc., a replacement company in Wilmington, Del. Reach her at or