Leads today are costly, and those costs continue to rise. That's why you should think before you disqualify leads on the phone.

Discarding leads too easily can damage your company's reputation and its overall brand image. It also triggers excessively high lead costs because of all the leads that never run.

When professionally handled, I believe there is opportunity in every lead. Change how you handle your leads and watch your lead costs drop.

One Leggers For instance, many home improvement companies refuse to run a lead if the complete buying party is not present. In other words, if the husband and wife can't both be home, the lead is discarded.

But a bad lead is often simply a bad or untrained salesperson.

Of course it's a good idea to have the complete buying party present during a preliminary meeting. But should it be required that the complete buying party be present when they aren't sure about what they want, have no clue about what they need, and their schedules are already full?

Insisting on the presence of the complete buying party triggers up to a 50% lead-burn rate in some home improvement call centers because the prospect sees no value in changing his or her schedule to meet with an unknown salesperson.

Short On Time Years ago, when people had more time and there was often only one wage earner per household, insisting on the presence of the complete buying party made sense. But today both spouses are likely to have careers outside the home. They're often long on money and short on time.

I suggest that you use such situations to measure the project and the prospect. If one homeowner can't be there, measure and schedule a return visit when you can present your proposal. In most cases, we find that what the prospect initially wants is not what they need. This means that if you've done the job right on the first visit, the homeowner who was present already may have convinced the other that yours is the company to use.

Richard Kaller founded the Certified Contractor's Network, a contractor education group. He passed away in April. This is his final column.