Engaging the services of a third-party appointment-setting firm usually isn’t the first thing most remodelers think of when it comes to handling sales inquiries. Most remodelers simply look for someone to cover the phones. It’s most often someone around the office who also does some filing, paperwork and picks up the calls as they come in. The problem with that strategy is it is based on the false assumption that covering the phones is a simple job. These days, homeowners demand an instant response. If they call a company and don’t hear a friendly voice, they are going to call a competitor. Consider what a typical internal appointment-setter has to do during the course of a typical day in addition to setting appointments: answer existing calls, take customer-service requests, go to lunch, do filing. The list goes on and on. During any and all of these moments, the phone is still ringing, and homeowners are still trying to be in contact. Missed calls equal missed opportunities.
In addition, Web forms and emails come into remodeling companies at all hours. Responding with blinding speed to these requests is essential. A recent MIT study (www.leadresponsemanagement.org/lrm_study) showed that a prospect who submits a Web form and is contacted by a company within one hour is six times more likely to become a qualified prospect than those who are contacted after one hour.
Remodelers should consider it takes at least three people to consistently answer the phones and uphold strong appointment standards, making a strong case for engaging a third-party appointment-setter to field sales inquiries, qualify leads and set appointments.
Tug of War
Another reason to consider an outside appointment-setter is that every day a tug of war takes place inside most remodeling firms as the marketing team and sales team struggle for control of the company’s lead-generation machine. Putting the lead-generation machine at arm’s length in the hands of an independent third party may lessen the tendency to squabble over what is a qualified lead and what is not.
At most remodeling companies, marketing team members use trade shows, the Internet, canvassing, television/radio advertising and all sorts of other promotional programs to fill the prospect pipeline. In their eyes, every name generated by these initiatives should be considered a great lead that can be closed. On the other side is the sales team. These are the people who have to strap on their helmets and, day after day, go into homes trying to close sales and make their numbers.
The sales team never thinks leads are qualified well enough. In fact, most sales reps will say that if they couldn’t close the homeowner, then the lead simply wasn’t qualified in the first place.
The owner of the remodeling company, of course, will work with the appointment-setting service to establish criteria for qualification. Indeed, the first and most important objective within the appointment-setting process is for the home-improvement company to set a list of criteria the appointment-setters use to measure the qualification of every potential lead.
No one should dictate to a home-improvement company what its qualification criteria should be. However, it is extremely important to define the standards for a qualified appointment within the organization and then hold fast to those standards. Sales will propose higher appointment standards. Marketing will favor a less strict set of rules. It’s important to not give in completely to either side but, instead, clearly define and document qualification criteria for appointments. Then, have the appointment-setters enforce the criteria. That way, everyone in the remodeling company uses the same lead-qualifying standard without exception.
Maintaining your lead-qualifying standard provides a basis to judge performance. Is the marketing team generating enough leads to meet the defined standard? How are individual sales team members performing relative to one another? Having strong, consistent, appointment-setting at the core of the company also provides accurate sales and marketing team member assessments that will improve business.
Going Outside for Help
Understandably, handing off the appointment-setting responsibility is difficult because outsiders now represent the remodeling company and speak with its prospects. However, the remodeling company can script outside appointment-setters without interference from its sales or marketing team. The company also benefits by having a full team of representatives working on its account, eliminating missed calls, and responding more rapidly to its inbound email and Web submissions. Although there is a cost involved in using an outsourced approach, it often generates a higher level of qualified leads and increases the overall number of appointments for the remodeler.