By Jim Stephens. In an economic downturn, there's a decrease in sales and production. We're usually surprised by this and respond with panic when we realize we've turned away potential business by over-qualifying leads. Here's how to avoid the pitfalls of over-qualifying:

  • Track the quality of leads and monitor trends in weekly sales meetings. Use a rating system to rank lead values. Assign a higher number to attributes you value most. Average results. Establish a target number for your ideal client. For example, referrals have a higher numeric value than Yellow Pages call-ins. Other factors to rank include location, home value, and project type. If a great lead is 80 and you get a lead worth only 45 points, prioritize accordingly.

  • Don't believe what your prospects tell you. The problem they bring you is never the real problem. You may be disqualifying prospects because you're not probing deep enough to get past the intellectual smoke screen.

  • Don't trust the telephone. Most contractors wait for the phone to ring rather than prospecting for new business. The leads that you generate through prospecting are often of a higher quality than calls that simply come in.

  • Treat all leads as "golden." Calculate the actual cost of every lead. Realize when you disqualify a prospect frivolously, you throw money away. Figure out a formula that works for you, but one idea is the following: (marketing budget / # of leads per year) + (average # of hours spent processing a lead x the hourly value of your time). In our company, it added up to a little over $550 per lead in 2000.

  • Don't let a negative outlook toward the economy poison your attitude. The right selling behavior produces sales.

    --Jim Stephens, CR, of Stronghold Construction, Boise, Idaho, is a Big 50 remodeler and Sandler sales trainer/business coach,