For generating strong leads, few methods of canvassing are as effective as simply getting on the phone with past clients. Instead of using a “script,” two marketing consultants encourage striking up a genuine conversation based on your personality and the work you’ve done for the client.


Make two calls a week, says Michael Stone, whose books include Profitable Sales: A Contractor’s Guide. Even if just one in four calls results in a lead, it can give you 26 more possible jobs for the year. A hypothetical:

You: “Hi, Mary. Just wanted to see how the kitchen remodeling work we did for you six months ago is holding up. Do we need to do any fixing or fine-tuning?”

If Mary identifies a problem, no matter how small, respond with something like: “I’ll be in your neighborhood next Tuesday afternoon. Can I swing by and check the cabinets then?” Explain that this is part of your service and that there’s no charge.

Set the callback time and date. Show up on time, fix the problem if you can, or schedule a carpenter or sub if you can’t.

While you’re there, ask: “Mary, do you know of just one person or family that has expressed an interest in remodeling their home?” Don’t be greedy; asking for just one name will make it easier for her to give you a good lead. Ask for permission to use her name when you call.

Ask the “one person or family” question even if the client says the kitchen is holding up beautifully, Stone says.

Hate making these calls? To schmooze more comfortably, consultant Adrienne Zoble suggests writing down three open-ended questions in preparation. Begin with “How often,” “How much,” or “When,” rather than “Is” or “Does,” which often terminate with abrupt yes or no responses. “Why” questions can seem aggressive or demeaning, she adds.

You might ask, for example: “How much entertaining are you doing in your new kitchen?” “How are your kids enjoying the new basement?” By the end of the second question, “the conversation will take on a life of its own,” she says.

Get in the habit of jotting down notes, Zoble suggests. Then, next time you talk, you can also ask about their grandchild or that trip to Europe. “Give them the opportunity to talk about themselves,” she says, “and show what a good listener you are.”

The calls really work, Zoble says. One of her remodeling clients told her that two of five clients he had just contacted had work for him. Good thing he called.