If the idea of placing “lukewarm calls” to past clients makes you squirm, think of it as a critical business-development activity.

“Very few remodelers do anywhere near enough calling of trade partners and past customers,” says Chip Doyle, a Sandler Sales coach. “They see their job as building and estimating, and phone calls always fall to the bottom of the list.” If you have a pipeline to fill, move those calls to the top of your list, he says. There’s no better time than these quiet months of winter.

iStockphoto.com/Alex Mathers

Exceed Expectations

Friendly but systematic calls demonstrate good customer service and smart business practices (see “ Ask the Expert”). Past clients not only like but expect to hear from you, Doyle says. “One of the reasons they probably hired you is because they expected you to be around for another 10 years.” Remind them that, in fact, you are.

  • Be systematic. List all of your clients from the last three years, and block out a time every week to place the calls. Maintain the momentum: When you finish one call, “don’t put the phone back in the holster,” Doyle says. “Just hit the ‘off’ button and make another call.” Try to touch each person quarterly.
  • You make the call. Or your designer, or lead carpenter, or whoever had the best relationship with the client. Getting such a call from an unknown person can almost be insulting, Doyle says, as if the client isn’t good enough to hear from you directly.
  • Bullet-point reminders: fine. Scripts: bad. Keep it casual and friendly: a helpful “check-in” call. Show genuine concern about how they’re doing, and, later, how their kitchen is doing.
  • Listen for referral opportunities. Who has seen the kitchen, what have they said, think they’d want to talk to you? If there’s a problem, arrange to fix it. “The more contact you have with clients, the greater likelihood of more work and referrals,” Doyle says.
  • Always leave voice mail. “Telemarketers don’t,” Doyle says. Leaving a friendly message distinguishes and humanizes you and your company.

What Not to Bear

Never use these calls to offer referral rewards. Doyle hates that concept. Should a referral materialize, a nice gesture of thanks is great, “but don’t try to entice them with some petty prize,” he says. On referrals, Doyle points out, the key distinction is that your clients are doing their friends a favor by referring you: a company they respect and trust.

More from Doyle at www.train2improvesales.com. Mention “Remodeling Magazine” to receive his free e-letter.

—Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.