Screening Leads

April 16, 2006
Home Performance Special Issue 2006
A version of this article appears in the Home Performance Special Issue 2006 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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        Asalesperson should spend most of his or her time working on those sales that have the easiest-to-close, most promising leads.There are three main elements to look for in determining which leads those are: need, ability, and trust.The more need, ability, and trust there is around the table when you present your proposal, the more likely it is that the lead will turn into a sale.Thus, screening leads for these three elements is the first part of a sales system, a linear process that will guide you most efficiently to your objective: the sale. By implementing a lead-screening process, contractors are better able to focus their time and energy on prospects who give favorable answers, divulging high levels of need, ability, and trust.The following lead form (p. 21) contains carefully crafted questions that can be used as a loose script when talking to a prospective customer. The questions address the prospect’s need, ability and trust, allowing you to prioritize the leads most likely to generate sales.
        Questions designed to divulge need are used to find out how anxious the prospect is to see you, how urgent the job is, and how much effort the prospect has put into fulfilling his or her wants or needs:
        • How soon were you thinking of having the work done?
        • How long have you been considering this kind of project?
        • When is the best time to schedule an appointment?
        • Do you have any specific plans or products in mind?
        • How long do you see yourself living in this house? ]
        • Do you have other performance problems in your home? (List some common problems: noisy HVAC, smoky fireplace, drafts, peeling paint, dust, mold, and so on.)

        Questions designed to divulge ability are used to expose the prospect’s financial capability, and to find out how much he or she knows about the remodeling process:
        • How long have you owned your home?
        • What remodeling have you done before?
        • Are you interested in financing or in paying cash?

        Questions designed to divulge trust are used primarily to find out how much the caller prospect knows about your firm. Prospects who are repeat clients or referrals bring with them a higher level of trust; those who looked up your name in the yellow pages generally have a lower level of trust:
        • How did you get our name?
        • What research have you done?
        Place a supply of lead forms at every telephone to capture the answers to these questions.
        Here are some more detailed scripts for many lines on the preprinted lead form. By developing a conversational style, you can record all of the information on the form as the conversation unfolds.

Contractor-Supplied Information

        Date and time. This line gives the date the call was received, and the time of day. The latter can be useful if the salesperson has trouble reconnecting with the prospect. In that case, it can provide a clue as to an acceptable time of day to call. For example, if the incoming call was received at 9:30 pm, the salesperson might feel justified in calling this late, even though normal procedure dictates never calling a client’s home after 9 pm.
        Taken by. Identify the source of the information; this could be the answering machine if the call came in after hours, or the name of the person who originally handled the call during normal business hours. Occasionally it may be necessary for the salesperson to review the information on the lead form with the person who originally took the call.

Prospect Information

        Opening statement.“You, like me, are very particular about the kind of improvements you do to your home. In order for me to be sure that you get the results you prefer, I would like to ask a few questions.”
        Mr./Mrs./Ms. Identify who makes the call; this can indicate who is the advocate for the work. There will be times when a prospect is unwilling to engage in the conversation initiated by the lead form. Should that happen, it is appropriate to gather as much information as possible during this initial phone interview and later place a follow-up call in the hope of speaking to another of the decision makers. During the follow-up call—regardless of who answers the phone—review the questions on the lead form once more. Ideally you should try to speak to all the decision makers at separate times, both to determine who the primary decision maker is, and to find out if the prospect really is worthy of the investment of time and energy required for a sales call.
        Address. Include the prospect’s full mailing address and e-mail address.This information is vital for many different purposes, ranging from building databases for future marketing efforts to making an accurate estimate of job costs.You will also need it, initially, to find the location of the project.
        Phone. The target is to get home phones, pagers, cell phones, work phones, and so forth for each of the decision makers. Phrasing the question as: “Is there a number where we can reach you at work?” may get you the name of the prospect’s employer or business.This can be useful in establishing common ground.
        Type of work. “What type of work were you thinking of doing?” Get the prospect to provide a brief description of the work that he or she wants done.This can tell you whether or not the project is a good match for the capabilities of your company. It can also give you useful information about the prospect’s needs, and about the urgency of the project.
        How soon to start the work? “How soon were you thinking of having the work done?”This open-ended question is designed to elicit information about need and urgency.
        How long owned home? “How long have you owned your home?”This is an open-ended conversation starter, vital in determining the prospect’s ability to pay. If it turns out that the prospect doesn’t own the home, the value of the lead would change drastically.
        Referred by. “How did you get our name, Mrs. Buyer?” This openended question helps to identify common ground. It also helps you to analyze the effort that prospects put forth to find a source to satisfy their needs. Certain types of prospect come with higher levels of trust than others. A repeat customer typically has the highest level of trust. A referral prospect comes with a lower level of trust than a repeat customer, but a higher level of trust than a prospect who just picked your name out of the yellow pages.
        Interested in cash or financing? “Were you thinking of financing the project or paying cash? We do have financing available, which would enable you to take advantage of the interest deduction on your taxes.”The answer to this question defines the prospect’s ability to pay. Research indicates that customers spend 30%–50% more money when the project is financed than they spend when they pay cash. Salespeople know that it is often easier to sell a financed job—the importance of price is diminished when the cost is viewed in monthly payments.
        Best time for appointment? “When would be a good time for our representative to schedule a visit to your home?” The response might be: “It would need to be at a time when both my wife and I were here.”This is the response that identifies the decision makers, while at the same time clarifying the prospect’s marital status. If however, the prospect does not volunteer this information, the appropriate response could be “Is there anyone else other than you who will be involved in the decision- making process? We may want to include them in our initial meeting.”
        What remodeling done before? “Have you done any remodeling in the past?”The answer to this question tells you whether or not the caller has any idea about the process involved in remodeling.
        How long considering this? “How long have you been considering this kind of project, Mr. Homeowner?” This information helps to determine where the prospect is in the buying cycle. It also sheds some light on the prospect’s need and on the urgency of the project.
        How long do you see yourself living in this house? Because it is open ended, this question is a good conversation stimulator. Often, people who are planning to live in a home for a long time are more inclined to spend what it takes to do the job correctly.
        Do you have plans or a design in mind? The response to this question gives the prospect the opportunity to elaborate on the level of effort he or she has assigned to the proposed project.As a rule, the more effort the prospect has spent, the higher the level of need.
        What research have you done? “What research have you done regarding the project, Mrs. Homeowner?” This question is designed to prompt the prospect to volunteer information about whether there are other bidders involved, without your having to actually ask the question. The goal is to avoid giving the prospect the idea that it is normal to get multiple bids, while at the same time finding out if there are other bidders.
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