REMODELER: How do I sell if I can’t give potential customers references? My company is new, but I have 13 years of experience in residential and commercial construction. I’ve had my state contractor’s license for half that time. —Chris Alley, Lazer of SW FL, Naples, Fla.

MICHAEL LEE’S ANSWER: This is not a unique problem for any new business but it is particularly tricky for remodelers, whose customers tend to want personal references.

You can certainly advertise your 13 years of experience; this may be sufficiently reassuring to some prospects. You can also guarantee your work to demonstrate your commitment to quality and honesty. Many remodelers are afraid to offer a guarantee because they fear that customers will use it unfairly. In fact, this rarely happens.

Until you develop professional references, you can also offer personal references of your character and reliability from friends and relatives. And, if you are asked to make a price concession, you can make it contingent upon the client writing a testimonial for you after the work is complete.

Note: The most effective references are not in writing but on video. Put a digital camera on a tripod and have clients talk about their new kitchen while standing in it. Hire a student to edit it to a two-minute clip that you can play on your laptop for future clients. Video testimonials will blow your competition away!

­—Michael Lee is the author of Cross-Cultural Selling for Dummies. Send your sales challenge to