January 2006 Table of Contents

Featured Articles
Script It!

Rep after rep has whined to me over the years about all the shoppers, one-leggers, curiosity seekers, and do-it-yourselfers they've had to spend time with. I just can't understand why experienced salesmen are willing to run bad lead after bad lead. Read more

2005 Cost vs. Value Report 2005 Cost vs. Value Report

Say you own a home worth $400,000. Your home needs a new roof. You find a contractor and he does the job. Cost? $12,000. A year later, you, the homeowner, decide to move. How much did spending that $12,000 on your roof add to the price you can ask for your home? Read more

Regime Change

When Jack Kostak bought All-Seal Home Improvement in 1990, the company was one of many low-profile, mom-and-pop window and siding operations in Dayton, Ohio. Sales were $1.1 million. Today All-Seal, with three showrooms, is the biggest locally-based replacement contractor in that city (population 950,000), with $6 million in annual sales. Read more

Black Eye

Doug Sutton remembers well his first sales call. It was 30 years ago and Sutton, in his 20s at the time, was sitting in with a grizzled rep running a siding lead. The presentation concluded with the rep giving his prospects a price: $6,900. Read more

Meeting of Minds

When The Fick Bros. Roofing & Exterior Remodeling Co. in Baltimore held its first Total Quality Management (TQM) meeting in the fall of 1999, sales manager Jeffrey Fick expected sighs and shrugs. He got a few. But Fick bit the bullet and the following month made the meetings mandatory for all company employees. Read more

Working With Vinyl Windows Working With Vinyl Windows

Comparing installation instructions from different vinyl window manufacturers reveals a jumble of contradictions. Here are some of the most striking examples: Read more

Legal Eagle It Is Written

It can be easy to get into problems if your warranty is not in compliance with federal law -- even if you are fulfilling customer claims. Read more

Pay Up

Some make excuses -- "I need to transfer funds." Occasionally some just disappear. They are the customers who haven't given you your final payment. Read more


With the high cost of leads and sales, I believe that the next frontier for reducing costs and increasing profits is the "future" buyer. There are three types: high sense of urgency to buy, low sense of urgency to buy, and no sense of urgency to buy. Read more

Tough Questions

Salespeople who golf tee Gary Johnson off. So, when the sales manager at ABC Seamless Siding & Windows in Toledo, Ohio, interviews candidates for a sales job, he not only carefully checks their resumes, he also asks what they do with their free time. Read more

Old Friends

Dennis Schaefer, owner of Creative Wood Products, a deck and sunroom company in Fenton, Mich., wants to make sure his customers never forget him. Since he has the name of every customer that his company has done business with, he can contact them for promotions and special events. He also sends them his company's quarterly newsletter, by mail or e-mail. Read more

Two-Steppers Two-Steppers

With telemarketing leads harder to get and media leads ever-dicey, more home improvement contractors have turned to canvassing. But that doesn't mean canvassing has become any easier. The door-to-door search for leads is still uncertain territory where each company needs to find its own way. Read more

Tusk Deep in the Tar

In the spring of 2002, when I was director of marketing for a large and fast-growing home improvement company, we were spending eight figures on advertising, but cold-call telemarketing was generating better than half our leads. Read more

Direct Mail, Part 2

Strong controls, and tying direct mail to other marketing activities, will boost your return. Read more

Lead On

At many home improvement companies, where lead costs are running $200 and more, getting salespeople to generate their own leads is a battle worth fighting. Self-generated leads drive down marketing costs and add to bottom line profits. Read more

Deal Defunct

Ask a home improvement salesman to describe his worst nightmare and chances are it involves a five-figure contract turned down because of bad credit. Read more

First Impressions

Rick Engstrom, owner of Engstrom Siding & Windows, in Siren, Wis., finally had to say something. The salesman was performing up to expectations in all ways except one. "I told him, 'You've got one foot on a banana peel before you ever get in the door,'" Engstrom recalls. Read more

Ante Up

Your salesperson gets to the door and no one is home. Or, worse, someone is, and that aggrieved homeowner explains that she told the canvasser she wasn't interested. Read more

Talk It Up

There are a few questions that every salesman needs to ask himself about the competition: Read more

Highs and Lows

Unless you're gifted with a team of million-dollar sellers, your salesforce is probably a mixed bag. One or two high producers, one or two who struggle, and the rest somewhere between. Read more

Built-Ins Add Up Built-Ins Add Up

Providing the option of built-ins can add to your bottom line and can give that customer something more than a custom deck. Read more

By Design By Design

Vinyl siding isn't ordinarily thought of as high design. Yet the scope of work often includes complex decorative elements. Read more

Cool Roof

Massachusetts roofer Jim Lydon once got a call from a client complaining that the roof Lydon had installed was "leaking like a sieve." When he arrived to inspect, Lydon found that the homeowner, hoping to save money on her fuel bill, had plugged up all the soffit vents. Read more

Power to the People

The installer arrived on site with a truckload of lumber and immediately discovered a problem: no way to drive to the back of the house. He and the helper would have to carry every stick, which would take about two hours and add that much time to the job -- a custom deck -- possibly setting the schedule back a day. Read more

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