Unpleasant and potentially deal-killing sales call “surprises.” Examples: Just one of the two homeowners shows up for your initial visit; they want only to confirm that another remodeler's price is fair; they're nowhere near ready to sign a contract. For their part, homeowners could be surprised to learn you don't give free estimates or won't let them supply materials, or the job will leave them without a kitchen for three weeks.

The up-front contract (UFC), an explicit, oral or written understanding between the remodeler and the homeowner. Jack Hauber of the Sandler Sales Institute says a UFC should spell out “things that matter” to you and should also reveal whether the homeowner shares your goals, expectations, and understanding of the “rules” of the sales process.

How One Remodeler Does It
Typically, a salesperson deploys the UFC in the initial phone call. But it can be presented at any point in the selling process. For D.G. Liu Contractor, a 26-year-old company in Dickerson, Md., the Web site itself is a UFC.

Just five pages long, foregoes the usual project portfolio in favor of straightforwardly telling how they do business. For instance, it tells visitors “up front that we are not for everybody,” and “we don't do free design consultations.” A page called “Our Process” explains in-home appointments: when they can be scheduled, who should be present, how much time to allow, how to prepare, and what to expect at the end — a request from the estimator for a yes or a no.

“We want to eliminate callers who can't understand our services are not a commodity to be competitively priced,” says Jerry Liu, president and sales manager of D.G. Liu Contractor and a client of Jack Hauber. “We hope to relieve some of their anxiety and get them focused on the problems” they hope to solve and the amount of money they intend to spend.

Liu's salespeople also use a UFC before each meeting. “We find out the prospects' agenda instead of boring or frustrating them with ours and let them know it is OK to say no at any point as well as yes,” he says. That way, “the salesperson is far less likely to get a ‘think about it' at the end of the meeting.”

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