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Prospects Vs. Suspects

When it comes to sales, the only limited resource for contractors is time. Save time and avoid rejection by recognizing a simple fact: You can only sell to people who can buy!

Some sales people are optimistic enough to believe that anyone who calls to inquire about a home improvement is a potential buyer. With some experience, many figure out that there are two types of callers--"prospects" and "suspects." In order to separate the prospects from the suspects, use these simple descriptions.

the prospect:

  • has a need and recognizes.
  • has the resources, ability and authority to satisfy the need.
  • has a sense of urgency.
  • has agreed to listen to you.
  • in open to communication and establishing rapport, even over the phone.

the suspect:

  • may have a need, but doesn’t know it.
  • may or may not have the resources, ability or authority to pay for the product.
  • may or may not have a sense of urgency.
  • may or may not want to listen to you.
  • resists open communication or formation of a business relationship.
Always withhold final judgment on the quality of the inquiry until you have talked with all the decision makers involved. In the case of husband and wife home-owners, make every effort to talk with them separately before finalizing your judgment. Often the individual who makes the call will relate only a portion of the situation.

A remodeler recently shared a story of a "Mrs. Home-owner" who called his office expressing interest in a new garage. She said she was calling several companies, shopping for price and was in no hurry. She requested that someone just call her and give her a price over the phone. Armed with that information, the remodeler might have been cool about the inquiry. Instead, he called in the evening and spoke with "Mr. Home-Owner," who revealed that he was referred by a co-worker for whom the remodeler had just finished a similar garage addition. Mr. Home-Owner related that he was quite impressed with the company’s performance on the co-worker’s project, was anxious to get the project done before winter and was aware of what his co-worker had paid for his garage. The remodeler recognized that Mr. Buyer exhibited all the identifying characteristics of the "prospect," and the lead moved up on the priority list. One of the most important tools in identifying prospects is the lead form. Every company should have one, and everyone who answers the company phone should use it. Think of it as a script with such open-ended questions as:
  • What type of work are you thinking of?
  • How soon are you thinking of starting?
  • How long have you been considering this?
  • How long have you owned your home?
  • How did you get our name?
  • Are you thinking of financing or paying cash?
  • What remodeling projects have you done in the past?
Open-ended questions get answers as big as the sky in Montana and provide more that enough information to determine whether an inquiry represents a suspect or a prospect. Use them to determine how strong your prospect is in relation to three factors:

1) What is the need that drives the call? Urgency represents a higher level of need.

Is there deadline on the horizon?

2) What effort did the caller put forth in order to find your phone number? Did your number come from the phone book, or were you referred as a result of active inquiries?

3) What ability does the caller have to pay for the job? If he is planning to finance, does he have equity in the property? Has the caller just sold another house freeing up the cash to remodel his new purchase? It is more important to know that the customer has the capacity to pay the bill than to know how much he is planning to spend at this stage in the buying process.

The greater the effort spent to find you, the more urgent the need and the better the ability to pay, the higher the chances are that this caller is a true prospect to whom you can sell a job.