I recently read an article online about the problem of one-legged sales calls. A one-legged call is an appointment when only one of a couple is available to talk to the person representing the construction company. I remember dealing with this when I first started selling remodeling back in 1969, and they’re still around today.
Frankly, this is much to do over a problem with a fairly simple solution. Based on what I’ve read however, many companies haven’t really thought this through. They use an approach that will alienate the owner and won’t give the company a good chance at the sale. There is a very soft, easy way to see if the potential client is a serious buyer or a tire kicker. We cover this in our book, Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide. It begins when you take the lead.
You get a call from the nice folks, and you ask your questions. Once you’ve covered the basics of the project, you ask, “When will you and ____ have about an hour to an hour and a half to meet with (me/our representative/salesperson/owner) and review your project in its entirety?”
By asking this way, you are making it clear that if you are dealing with a couple, you expect both to be present when you or the salesperson arrives. They inform you that only one of them can make the initial appointment. The spouse might drive long-haul trucks, perhaps they’re a doctor or other service provider away from home for long hours, or maybe they’re a sales representative whose territory only gets them home on weekends. There are many legitimate reasons that make it difficult to meet with both parties.
If that’s the case, you say, “John/Mary, I understand that your spouse/significant other can’t be at the appointment with us. That’s not a problem, and I would first like to ask, do you have a Power of Attorney for your spouse/significant other?” If they do, problem solved.
If they don’t, you simply say, “Just so there is no misunderstanding….We will be glad to come out and take a look at your project, discuss it, review everything that you have in mind, but before we will do any design work, any estimating or give any price quotations for your job, we will require a second meeting with all parties to the decision at that meeting. If that is agreeable, then we would be happy to come out and discuss your project.” Then you add, “Is that fair enough?”
Now the ball is dead center in their court. You’re clearly setting the conditions under which you’ll go to their home or building and review what they want done. You’re clearly establishing that you won’t do any design work or estimating or present a price until you’ve had a second meeting with all decision makers present. Now button up and listen to their answer.
I believe that if a customer is good enough to give me a call, the least I can do is give them an hour of my time to explore if there is a possible job there.
If they accept your terms, go on the sales call. If they start asking about prices or asking for a bid, remind them what they were told on the phone. You will only do design work, estimating or give bids when all the parties to the decision are there. You can always provide them with a link to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value report and let them look up their own job and the approximate prices listed in the report. The report gives mid-range prices for a whole bevy of projects and can be reasonably accurate.
If they aren’t willing to set an appointment under the conditions you’ve set, that’s their decision. You can softly but firmly pass on that opportunity. This should also reduce the risk of negative feedback such as a nasty post online.
Before you start a project, you’ll need a written contract signed by both parties, unless one party has a Power of Attorney. Make sure you’ve had the chance to meet with all decision makers before investing too much of your time into a project.