Chris Thompson and Tony Hoty own Ohio Consolidated Builders, a replacement company in Cleveland. They also operate Canvass King (, a consulting service for home improvement companies looking to develop a canvassing program.

REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR: How did you become experts at canvassing? CHRIS THOMPSON: We canvassed for leads when we started the company. Later, we diversified into other lead sources. Today, 75% to 80% of our leads come from canvassing. Our lead costs, fully loaded, are less than 10%.

RC: And at some point you began sharing that information?

CT: We put together a canvassing manual and a DVD. So far we've worked with about 100 companies.

RC: What's different about your system?

CT: Many owners think that to have a canvassing operation they must buy vans and hire a canvass manager. But they don't have to. Recruiting is your biggest challenge. The best canvassers are young people. Find out where they are — malls, community colleges, high schools — and put up job fliers. Also, use the Internet.

RC: Where on the Internet?

CT: Set up a MySpace ( account. Post a profile of your company with a recruiting flier. Then do a search of accounts within 15 miles of the office. Look for people in a certain age range. Pull up their profiles. Pick 30 or 40 of them and send a message.

RC: How do you train them?

CT: We do a group interview, then explain the job. Mainly you want to see if they show up. Have them come back the next day, and set up a training class. Once they see the job they'll know whether or not they can do it.

RC: Do many stick around?

CT: If you get 20 calls, eight to 10 show up. Four or five will become canvassers; one or two will stay around for 90 days or longer.

RC: Who should manage this?

CT: Someone has to be in charge, whether it's the owner or the office manager. You'll need 20 to 30 minutes of management per shift to run through scripts and role-play. But typically you'll grow your manager from within the canvass force. Take the best canvassers and put them in a supervisory position.

RC: Is canvassing strictly for large companies?

CT: No. It's a matter of systems: recruiting, hiring, training, managing. The foundation is the scripts. You don't want five people saying five different things at the door.