Few things can be more annoying than running a dead-end sales call. Yet, if we do not visit the customer, how will we know if the lead has a chance to turn into a good job? There is no magic rule for qualifying leads, but applying some simple logic can help improve the odds in your favor.

Few things can be more annoying than running a dead-end sales call. Yet, if we do not visit the customer, how will we know if the lead has a chance to turn into a good job? There is no magic rule for qualifying leads, but applying some simple logic can help improve the odds in your favor.

Qualifying leads is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Every company is unique; the time of year, economic conditions and the structure of the company are just some of the factors that can impact the situation. If you are a larger company and have a stable of commissioned sales people, possibly you can afford for those salespeople to run weaker leads in the hopes of converting some of them into jobs. However, when an owner-salesperson starts running weak leads, it quickly cuts into lifestyle and income.

The sheer volume of lead flow has a lot to do with the impact of qualifying calls. There is only so much time in the day, and if there is an overflow of leads, managing them just makes sense. All contractor per-sonnel can be overloaded at certain times of the year, and the temptation is just to add another appointment to the calendar. Most contractors find their time demands stronger in the spring and late fall. Bidding all leads including the poor ones can quickly fill your calendar, and you run the risk of losing good jobs be-cause a good customer may not wait for you. If you are not careful, the company becomes a bidding ma-chine, running from appointment to appointment rather than taking time to sell the job.

Key Questions

I am going to offer some questions you can use to help qualifying customers, but this is more about logic than the exact science of asking the right question. Remember that the sales experience starts with how your company answers the phone and interacts with potential customers. Not only are you qualifying poten-tial customers, you are setting the tone for dealing with your company. Have a pleasant voice ask, “Do you mind if I ask a few questions so that we can better serve you?” That can start things off in a professional manner. Start by asking permission to ask questions.

The next question to ask is “How did you hear about us?” This question is the foundation of the qualifying process. If it is a strong referral such as, “You did my neighbor’s house,” or “You always do my brother’s work,” or if it is a past customer, you probably want to make the appointment and consider it qualified. However, you still must ask some basic questions to make sure that what the customer is seeking is some-thing that your company does.

The neighborhood or income value of the house may also qualify the lead, but you still should go through the process. If someone lives in a $10 million home overlooking the water, it is probably a good lead. If not, it might be nice to simply visit and see how the rich and famous live, but make sure they put the Do-bermans up first. Established facts and positive information make the call a qualified lead allowing you to continue.

If the caller says, “I saw your truck sign,” or “I found your name in the Yellow Pages,” or if they are unsure how they found out about you, you should further qualify the lead. If people say they found your name from the Yellow Pages, you may want to ask another question. They may have already heard of you and just used the Yellow Pages to look up your phone number. Consider asking, “Had you heard of us before going to the Yellow Pages?” With unqualified leads, the next step is to ask more questions, such as:
  • Where is the job located?
  • When would you like the work done?
  • What is the scope of the job?
  • Do you have any particular concerns?
Such questions offer a sense of the job and what the person is seeking. With experience, you will develop a premonition or feeling regarding the person’s intentions. The more you do this, the better your gut instincts become. Yes, such gut feelings can be wrong, and that is why your schedule and time constraints must be taken into consideration. If you have no other appointments, chasing a blind lead still may or may not make sense.

So, what if you establish the person is a price shopper, or it is not the kind of job you are looking for? At this point, you can offer several different strategies, all of which require your gathering a little more infor-mation. You might consider asking if they are going to seek other quotes or if they have any idea of what they want to invest. Suppose the person says they were going to obtain other quotes; you might consider telling them you will not be the low bidder and ask how they feel about that. This is a good chance to probe for information and tell them a little more about your company. For small or insignificant jobs, you may want to offer a price range to get an idea of what they had in mind. I know some of you won’t agree with this strategy, but is it not better to get a handle on what they are thinking prior to wasting your time? What if they want a repair and are willing to spend only $50 and you are thinking $300? Unless you have a sales force sitting around with nothing to do, it just makes sense to qualify your customer’s intent.

Suppose you have asked an extensive set of questions and you are convinced the person is a price shopper. How do you get rid of them? There are several options. One is to simply tell them estimates are backed up for six weeks, and it will be that long before you can come out. Most will simply hang up and disappear. You may want to consider charging a nominal amount for a measure call. Or, you may simply want to rec-ommend someone else and offer a competitor’s name. Isn’t it better your competition waste their time and not yours?

Time is one of the few things we have in common with everyone else in the world. I am not sure how many days I have left, but I am sure that I have the same 24 hours today as everyone else. How I manage those 24 hours impacts my ultimate success.