Challenge Although it's easy enough to ask a satisfied client to refer your services to neighbors and friends, it's nearly impossible to get the timing right. “Most people aren't in the ongoing process of needing a remodeler,” says Jack Hauber of the Sandler Sales Institute. Nor should you expect them to keep you in mind for when the time does come.

One Solution Send a series of letters while the project is underway, so that when acquaintances do think about remodeling, they think of you. Ask clients if they know folks who might like to be on your mailing list. Hauber cautions to “ask early and often, before the job has even started. The day they sign the contract they're as committed to you as they're ever going to be.”

The Letter Series The first letter should introduce your company, explain that you'll be doing work for the Smiths, express your intent to be respectful of the neighbors, and invite them to contact you personally with concerns. (This can also be done by attaching a handwritten note to your newsletter.) The second letter should be a mid-project update that apologizes for any disruptions. The third letter should be an invitation to an open house party at the newly remodeled home. Tell your clients you'd like to host a party at their house for their friends and neighbors and pick up the expenses.

How One Remodeler Did It “The open house is an awesome thing,” says Bob Lipovsky, president and co-owner of Kingston Custom Builders, Fairfax, Va. One party last fall took place after he completed roughly $100,000 of projects at the home. Printed on the clients' letterhead, the invitation included this language:

Over the past couple of years, we have completed a series of changes and improvements to both the interior and exterior of our home. We are taking this occasion to show them to our neighbors and friends. The contractor responsible for the work will also be on hand.

Lipovsky spent about $2,000 on catering and clean-up, commissioned his talented daughters to play violin, and mixed and mingled in a friendly, low-key manner, along with four employees. The 30 or so people who signed the guest list “became my lead sheet,” he says, and one is on the brink of hiring Kingston for a $75,000 kitchen.

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