The Problem You're wasting time on low-quality prospects.

The Solution Identify how the prospect will make the decision about whether, when, and with whom they'll remodel. They probably won't volunteer that they're shopping for the lowest price or the fastest availability, but there are ways to “elicit the truth,” says Jack Hauber, a sales coach with the Sandler Sales Institute.

For instance, you might ask if they've remodeled before (always ask permission to ask a question). If they have, you could inquire why they're talking to you, since they already know a remodeler. They may mainly want to make sure their preferred remodeler isn't charging too much. Or, they may have had a miserable experience, which leads to a wealth of information you can use to distinguish your company, Hauber says.

Another approach is to say, “Let's pretend we have remodelers A, B, and C. How are you going to decide among them?” If they reply, “If it's an apples to apples comparison, we'll do it on the basis of price.” You can cut your losses there if you're not cheap. Or, you can dig deeper and ask how they know it's really a fair comparison — another way to reveal their concerns.

How One Remodeler Does It “I used to talk to all raw leads,” says Jeffrey Hall, owner of Villa Builders, Chester, Md. By showing a sincere interest, he says, “I thought I was doing something the other guys weren't, and that made me better. That wasn't the case, and my closing ratio was ridiculous.”

Hall now takes 20 to 30 minutes to phone-qualify leads, asking about their project goals along with more personal questions, such as how they want to use the space and how long it's been a problem. Red flags for him include “people who speak in abrupt sentences,” who tend to shop for price. He also shies away from those who don't want to discuss budget.

“We're learning that it's OK to ask these direct questions,” Hall says. “This is about finding the truth, and you need all the right information.”

When the prospect seems like a good fit, Hall endeavors to “steer them into understanding that the relationship with the builder, and the process the builder brings with him, is more important than price.” The trick, he says, is to get prospects to draw this conclusion on their own, by getting them talking about their fears or past experiences. “The fact is,” Hall says, “low price and those issues usually come together.”

Jack Hauber, Sandler Sales Institute,; 301.590.8700, ext. 11.