How do you halve lead costs? Tom Poulin of Poulin Design Remodeling, Albuquerque, N.M., has done that since hiring lead manager Joe Turowsky six years ago. Lead costs at his $4 million-a-year company have dropped to 3% of sales, from 6%.

It used to be that after home shows (a prominent source of Poulin's leads), salespeople would only pursue the best leads from stacks of lead sheets. Now, every lead (there are 16,952 in the database, from home shows, referrals, work with real estate agents, and other sources) is tracked by Turowsky in a software program developed by Poulin's controller, Dave Johnson.

Turowsky calls 1,000 of the 6,000 "active" leads each month with a low-pressure query on where the prospect is with their remodeling plans. "Active leads are never static," Turowsky says. "They're either improving or deteriorating. People are scared of salespeople. ... We don't want to be high pressure. It's low pressure, so when they're ready, all they have to do is call."

Turowsky assigns leads and sets appointments for the company's six salespeople. He also manages Poulin's handyman services/subcontractor referral efforts and customer service.

As a result of Turowsky's lead diligence, Poulin's marketing costs have dropped from $240,000 to $120,000 annually, which more than pays for the lead manager's salary.

Leads now cost $44.44 each. "One recent sale we started working back in 1998," Poulin says. And now, Turowsky has to beg Poulin's salespeople to extend themselves - he has more good leads than they can handle.

- J.F.S.