“When salespeople meet with the wrong prospects, they get ësituationally depressedí; it just kills their spirit.” óGrant Mazmanian
Brucie Rosch “When salespeople meet with the wrong prospects, they get ësituationally depressedí; it just kills their spirit.” óGrant Mazmanian

It’s easy (relatively) for a company owner to tell his or her salespeople to “dump 80% and keep 20%” when talking about finding qualified leads. It’s more difficult for salespeople to wrap their heads around that idea when they believe they can sell to anyone and their commission is at stake.

In this economy, every lead is precious, but how do you get your salespeople to see that some leads are more precious than others?


Salespeople are optimists, always thinking of the positive outcome; they’re money-motivated and they hate rejection. They get emotionally attached to the sale. “There is the expectation that the prospect will buy. There’s the drive time. There’s how much the salesperson needs the commission. They’re going to hang onto that,” says Grant Mazmanian, president at Pinnacle Group International and a consultant to 125 construction industry businesses. This can hinder sales reps from moving onto the next, better prospect.


The first step to going after the right leads is, of course, to pre-qualify, which is preferably something done by the company’s gatekeeper or receptionist who asks questions up front. After that, salespeople should make “three piles,” Mazmanian suggests. The “A” pile is homeowners who are ready to buy now; “B” is those who will buy soon; and “C” is those who will do the project later, say next spring, for example. “If you get to a prospect’s home and they’re not for you, then you haven’t done your homework,” Mazmanian points out.

After making a sales call, Mazmanian suggests that the company owner debrief the salesperson (see GoodForm for a failed-sale debrief template). The owner needs to be both coach and educator to help salespeople — who are emotional — logically look at their situation.

“When salespeople meet with the wrong prospects, they get ‘situationally depressed’; it just kills their spirit,” Mazmanian says.

Walk them through their last 10 sales calls. Ask questions such as, Why did this one close? Was it urgency? Did their best friend refer them? Which pile (A, B, or C) did this sale come from? Do you see a pattern emerging?

This can help the salesperson establish a triage and lower the likelihood that he or she will make a presentation to the “C” list. “The sales rep has to see statistically what he’s doing so he can be less emotionally involved,” Mazmanian says. You want to get them to work mostly from their “A” pile, which helps raise the probability of a sale.

Goodbye Script

“We encourage our clients to go for the ‘No.’ To take ‘We’ll think it over’ away as one of the options. That’s just a ‘slow No,’” says Sandler Sales trainer Jim Stephens, based in Boise, Idaho. To do this, you have to give the prospect permission to say, “No.”

You say: “You ask me questions and I’ll ask you some questions, and we’ll decide if we’re a good fit for each other. If at some point in our discussion you feel it’s not a fit, will you be comfortable telling me it’s not a fit?”

The prospect will usually say, “Sure.”

You: I appreciate that. A lot of people don’t want to tell me ‘No’ because they don’t want to hurt my feelings.

The prospect usually affirms that they’re alright with that.

You: If we do agree that there is a fit, we’ll have to figure out what the next step is. If we get there, will you be willing to help figure that out?

This gives them the space to say Yes or No.

You: What I’d like to avoid is ending this meeting with both of us feeling we had a good meeting but not clearly knowing what the next step is. Can we agree to figure out a clear next step?

If you get a No, that’s where you say, “I get the feeling that we’re never going to be doing business together. Am I reading that right?”

If the prospect agrees, you are free to find someone else.

If they respond, “I wouldn’t say never,” you can ask them when they might think they’ll need your services and you can put them in your pipeline and move onto something that will get you a sale and make you money now.

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the October 2011 issue of REMODELING.

Statistic source: National Association of the Remodeling Industry