On your first phone call, how do you query potential clients? Here's a list of questions to ask.

Do you deserve me? You want to work with customers who fit your processes, team, personality, specialty. Ask yourself, Who is my ideal client and why do they deserve me? Ask the prospect, Why would you have my company work for you? The answer determines how committed the prospect is.

What's important? When the client explains what's most important in their project, you learn things. Is it price? Maybe this isn't your customer. If high design and environmental eloquence is, and that's your model, maybe you have a client.

What equals success? Ask, How will you know this is a successful project? The answer sets measurements and objectives. Can you live up to them? Then there's a fit.

What are the hidden issues? That may be too direct, so ask, Is there anything you'd like me to know before we begin — about you, your family, your home, your expectations? When you ask that question, the implication is you're going to do the work. If they can't answer thoroughly, maybe they aren't serious.

What was your previous experience? Experiences with other contractors help you learn how prospects dealt with bids or contracts. No problems? What made the experiences great? Specificity teaches you their experience level with remodeling.

I've used the questions above and found the braver I got in asking, the more rapport I built. And, the more respect I earned. —Paul Montelongo, CGR, is a construction industry trainer and consultant. For more strategies to increase sales, visit www.contractorofchoice.com.