DON'T BE ON TIME Yes, things happen. If you can't be on time, it's 100% better to call and say you're going to be late than not to call. Never destroy the relationship with an apology during greeting.

OFFER A BAD HANDSHAKE Most men want to give every other man a vice grip handshake. You're fighting and you haven't even gotten over the threshold. If you squeeze a woman's hand too tight, you're done. It's over. Give a quick handshake that is equal to or less than the receiver's grip. If she's a limpy noodle, be as limpy as she is. If he's got a vice grip, give back just a little less. Make eye contact or the situation will feel cold. Never do the hand over the hand on the first handshake.

TAKE OWNERSHIP OF THE HOUSE Stop yourself if you're about to say, “If this were my house, I would…” Or, “I really don't like white cabinets…” You're personalizing the taste of someone else's house and taking ownership of their project.

QUICKLY EXPOSE THE SOLUTION Walk in like Superman with your hands on your hips, your cape flapping, and your tape measure at the ready. Women salespeople tend not to have this problem, but men want to resolve the situation right away and they give away the shop. Qualify what the client needs and wants first.

DON'T PREPARE BEFOREHAND You can't get a genuine, helpful, respectful relationship going quickly if you're not ready. It's game on as soon as the office phone rings. The gatekeeper needs to extract as much information as possible. Send an easy-to-understand agenda to the homeowners before the meeting. People buy from those they know and trust.

DON'T HAVE YOUR PAPERWORK HANDY You'll get the fish out of the water and then say, “I'm sorry I have to go back and get the paperwork.” Be prepared to accept business and be ready to whack the fish on the head and pull it into the boat.

From Joe Dellano, design/build sales coach, Arlington, Mass.