A remodeler emailed me with this question:

“Do you have a good article on how to tell a new lead that we’re not a good fit and we’re not interested in even looking at their project? There sure are a lot of people getting 5+ 'bids' out there these days and I’m struggling with how to tell them we’re not interested. I know I’ve read articles in the past, but can’t remember the specifics and one of your stages is to qualify the lead – your input would be appreciated.”

Here is process to do that:
You're having a conversation with a new lead. Start with a bit of bonding and rapport with the lead. This is the stage where you are simply trying to find some commonality, which is the foundation of a good relationship. Do consider going no further if you can find no common ground because continuing talking will likely not create a good outcome.
Set up an upfront contract. The best way to do this is to cover these four topics: Purpose, Agenda, Logistics and Outcome, in that order.

  • What is the purpose of the call? You are the one who gets to define it. Suggest to the prospect that the call is for the lead to determine if you and your company are a fit for him and his needs. Also suggest that you are to determine if the lead is a fit for your company. It is a two-way street. Ask the lead to be comfortable with him telling you that you are not a fit, if that turns out to be the case. And ask the lead if it is okay for you to tell him if you think he is not a fit.
  • Review your respective agendas. Always ask the lead first what his agenda is. You want to find out anything that's on the lead’s mind, anything he wants to make sure will get talked about. Then lay out your agenda. Now it is less likely that you will have a long conversation with the lead and as you are trying to close out the conversation the lead asks if you can discuss with him one really important item.
  • Agree upon logistics of the call. How long do you need to do your lead intake process? Tell the lead that. Ask for his permission to converse with him for that amount of time. Ask about what happens if he gets another call. If you hear a baby crying ask if this is the best time to talk or if you should call back at a more convenient time. By addressing these issues up front it is less likely the call will go out of control.
  • Talk about the outcome. What is the mutually agreed upon idea of the outcome of the call? You tell the lead that it is to figure out if it makes sense to have another call or meeting, or that you should part ways. Remind him of the purpose of the call, which you talked about at the beginning of the interaction.

Now you are in control. Do this with every sales interaction and you will not find yourself stuck talking with someone who is not a fit. Think P.A.L.O.
Next blog I will lay out what to say to a lead who wants a free bid from you to compare to bids from other contractors, a way to say it that might engage the lead in your idea of how the process should unfold.

Related articles:

Just Say NO!: Recognizing when a prospect is not a good fit

How To Say No And Create Advocates

The Right Approach: Profiling clients allows you to communicate in ways they best understand