Turning Time into Money: Pre-qualifying Prospects – part 2
In part one of this two-part series, I discussed the impact proper pre-qualification can have on your most valuable asset–time.
Now let’s take a comprehensive look at the conversation you should be having with all your leads.
The Pre-Qualifying Conversation
An in-depth conversation sprinkled with questions is an easy, effective way to determine whether or not a caller is a high-quality lead as well as to begin building a relationship with the prospect. Don’t rush your prospects off the telephone. Spend 10-20 minutes with each prospect. Some remodelers spend up to 45 minutes in conversation. The amount of time you spend is really proportionate to the size of the job. Small projects like a door replacement for example, takes very little pre‑qualification to decide on the worth of the lead while a large, complex addition may require more.
Whatever time you spend with the prospect, ask about these key points:
Lead Source Remodeler: How did you hear about our company?
Finding out how the prospect came to call tells you a few important things. First, it indicates what marketing activities are producing the most productive leads — and on which tactic you should continue spending money. Secondly, this information gives you a good idea of how difficult the sale may be. As we all know, in 99% of the cases it’s easier to sell a referral lead than it is to sell someone who found your name in a list of 50 others. Don’t we all want those leads that will be easier to sell?
Job Size and Scope Remodeler: Tell me about your project.
If you specialize in custom additions and the prospect wants a small bathroom update, the job may not be worth your investment. That’s for you to decide based on workload, source of the lead and numerous other ingredients. But without knowing the scope of the job, you’re working blind. Be sure to ask some questions about the type of project.
Sense of Urgency Remodeler: When would you like to be able to use your (master bedroom, bath, kitchen, etc)?
This question will give you an idea of whether or not the prospects have a realistic idea of the time needed for quality construction. If the sense of urgency is high — they want it finished yesterday, they’re probably close to making a decision on their remodeling company. Asking the question this way gives you more information than asking when they’d like to start construction. If you’re schedule is too crowded to permit you to match their wishes, you can explain it to them early in the process and convince them to wait for your schedule to open up.
Bringing Up The Budget Remodeler: “Do you have a investment range in mind?”
Knowing whether or not a prospect has a realistic idea of a project’s budget requirements is a key to a successful sale. If they don’t have a budget range in mind, you can decide if you want to give them something to think about. For example, if a client says,” I don’t have any idea what to budget” your answer can be: “In the last year, we’ve remodeled six kitchens. The investments ranged from $10,000 to as much as $50,000. Does your budget fit in that range somewhere?” This is soft, unoffensive and unthreatening but will help you find out if they’re “real” prospects or not. If the prospect is gasping for air on the other end of the telephone line, chances are they didn’t even plan on the low end — which means that they might not be the best prospects you’ve had in awhile.
How Much Do They Know? Remodeler: How much research have you done so far?
A popular clothing chain says, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” This can apply to a remodeling customer, too. The more people know about the process of remodeling, the clearer their expectations will become. People with realistic expectations about the process — and the price — are the best kinds of clients. They will better understand why things cost as much as they do, and what elements go into a quality remodeling project. They’ll be less easily swayed by price alone. On the other hand, during their research, they may have been given some misinformation (My brother-in-law said that I can get this bathroom completely redone for $2500) which you can straighten out during your conversation.
The Decision Makers Remodeler: Besides yourself, will anyone else be involved in making decisions concerning the project?
For the best chance of successfully closing the sale, the decision maker(s) should be present and ready to discuss the project if at all possible. No one can tell your story like you can, so depending on another person to fill in the details about why yours is the best company for the job is risky. This phrasing of the question(above) is non-offensive and politically correct. In today’s society, don’t ask “Will your husband (or wife) be involved?” because you might inadvertently annoy someone.
If other people living in the home will be involved, you might respond, “When you’re remodeling your home, it has to be designed to meet all of your needs. I’ll be asking for a great deal of your input to help me develop the right solutions. The process would be much clearer and easier for you if I could meet with you both. Could ____ join us?”
Old-time salespeople call this “setting up a two-legger.” But some remodelers feel the trend today is toward flexibility as more and more homeowners are willing to make a commitment without the input of a partner. This is especially true with design/build firms which ask for a small fee at the beginning of the process. Many individuals today can spend the $150-$500 needed for this first phase without discussing it first with a partner. So even though the sales process will be easier and more productive with all interested parties present, don’t be too quick to turn down a “one-legger.”
Past Remodeling Experience Remodeler: Have you ever remodeled before?
If a prospect has remodeled before, what type of an experience was it: pleasant or unpleasant? If they claim that everything went well, ask why they’re not using the same company again. If the experience was awful, find out what went wrong so that you can explain how you’ll make sure the same things don’t happen this time. This could be an important selling point.
Many companies have created a lead form that leads them through these important areas of information. These forms act as “crib sheets” or reminders not to skip over pertinent questions. Other companies rate their leads after gathering the information. One St. Louis firm rates their leads 1-4 in three main areas: location of the project, type of project and source of lead. Those leads rating 9 or above get special, immediate attention. Leads with a rating of 3 or below often are not accepted.
If you ever decide you don’t want a lead, be professional about how you turn them away. Either recommend they call the local chapter of a remodelers association (have a telephone number ready to pass along), or give them the name of another company who will do a good job. A Chicago firm tells the prospect, “We’re a small firm and involve ourselves in a limited number of projects each year. Each project we do must fit what we do best. While this project doesn’t fit our business, perhaps we could recommend that you call our chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and ask for their membership guide. There are many member companies that will be delighted to have your business. Their phone number is (000) 000-0000. Thank you for calling.”
Pre-qualifying your prospects can tell you a great deal about the type of people you’re attracting to your company — and help you use your time to produce the greatest possible results and profits. Spending a few minutes with your prospects at the beginning of the sales cycle can make a big difference to your bottom line.