Harvard Business School refers to the time crunch that small business owners face as “resource poverty.” The solution is to focus only on high-impact activities — specific actions that impact several areas of a business at one time. Qualifying the customer before embarking on an unproductive sales call is a high-impact activity. Here are seven steps you should take when conducting a 15-minute qualifying conversation on the phone.
No. 1: Ascertain how the potential customer came to call you.
It’s important to evaluate your marketing efforts. If you can track your lead sources, you can then allocate additional resources to those activities that generate the highest number of calls.
No. 2: Review the scope
When you conduct your qualifying call, ask your potential customer to explain, as best they can, the scope of work they need completed. If they seek services you don’t offer, refer them to another contractor who can provide those services. If you can assist them with their project, say so. Then ask to go into greater detail about the project. “Do you mind if I ask a few questions to find out more about what you want to do?” When they respond with a “yes,” you become the expert. You are conducting the interview and controlling the flow of conversation.
No. 3: Eliminate the tire kickers
Often remodelers prequalify potential customers who possess no sense of urgency, but who still need assistance planning a project. To many prospects, the project development process is a mystery so offer some helpful tips. Any help you provide at this stage may develop a relationship, so when they are ready to buy you get the call. These leads still have value. They just need to be developed.
No. 4: Determine the budget
There is a cost for your services, and if they can’t afford these services, you don’t want to waste your time going to their house. At this point in the interview, you will want to ask “do you have a budget for this project?” This is a reasonable question to ask any homeowner. Do not feel shy about asking, and don’t be deterred if they will not share this with you. If a homeowner responds by saying they don’t have a budget, or they won’t share it with you, try this: “Let me ask another way. I’ve renovated bathrooms for $20,000, and I’ve done others for over $50,000. Are you closer to $20,000 or to $50,000?”
This will let you know if they have a realistic budget. If they tell you $4,000, you may want to reconsider going out to their house. But because many prospects have no experience with remodeling, many are unprepared for the real cost of your services. This doesn’t mean they are not a good customer. It may mean that you will have to provide some education. Helping them understand can turn them into a customer.
No. 5: Determine the schedule
Ask the prospect when they want the work completed. For a project like a new kitchen or bathroom, design work may need to be done. There must be time set aside for planning, and selecting the appropriate cabinets and fixtures.
If their schedule is realistic, and allows for this planning period, you have a good starting point. If not, educate them on a realistic timeline. They are only going to do this once, so make sure that they do this the right way. Good advice and direction will improve their project, and this is what most homeowners want. Waiting a few more months is not a deal killer. Establishing clear expectations before a project starts is a required starting point.
No. 6: Identify decision makers
Who is making the final decision on a project? You need to know this prior to going out on a sales call. Don’t go out on “one-legger” appointments. You will waste your time. With one partner missing, the person you speak with can always tell you that they can’t make a decision without consulting their partner. If a decision involves two people, make sure both are there for your sales call.
No. 7: Review the scope of work with the homeowner
In this last step, summarize the scope of work that was outlined in step No. 2. At this point, you are determining if you can help. You are identifying the homeowner’s budget and schedule, and asking any additional questions. You are determining if this is a job you want and if this is someone you want to work with.
In asking these questions, you learn a great deal about a prospect: Real prospects want to talk about their projects. You will know when people are responding honestly, and you will know when people are withholding information. Because you are giving up several hours of your time, make sure the homeowner is a serious buyer. You may really “connect” with the prospect. In this case, you have already presold yourself. When you have a good connection with someone, your follow-up call is more of a formality if you have reviewed budget and schedule and both are satisfactory.
Don’t try to sell anything on these calls. Just listen. Let the homeowner speak 80 percent of the time. With good questions, you can guide the homeowner through a description of their project, and help them understand scheduling and project costs. This is the basis of a good working relationship. Be patient with this. Time is your most valuable resource. Only schedule appointments with qualified prospects!