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The First Appointment

by David Lupberger


Question: I do good work. I have a long list of satisfied customers. But every time I go on a first sales call, even when it's a referral, I feel like I'm in a poker game, with most homeowners reluctant to show all their cards. How do I best respond to this kind of paranoia?

Answer: It's more than paranoia. Our industry has a lot of baggage. There have been some really incompetent remodelers that have done some terrible work. For some unfortunate homeowners, instead of participating in an exciting and creative process, their experience became one of the most stressful times of their lives. One homeowner I spoke with told me the stress of his building project was as hard on him as living through a very serious illness one of his children had suffered several years before. Almost every homeowner has heard a story like this. Their biggest fear is that the same thing could happen to them. Our job, on that all-important first appointment, is to show them that it won't. How do you best do this?

I've discovered I can address this very deep fear by putting my construction process on paper. I've found one of the greatest fear quenchers is putting detailed paperwork in my client's hands. Homeowners can call all your references and hear about the great work you did in the past, but that doesn't guarantee that they will have the same experience. Besides assurances, you want to give them a detailed paper trail that will show them how organized you are, and give them a sense of how you will guide them through the process.

Let me provide you with some simple suggestions of items to give your homeowners to help them understand a process most have never experienced. It may sound complicated, but it's easier than you think.

The Preliminary Schedule
Not only do most homeowners not understand how long construction may take, but they have no idea as to how long the design process takes. Provide your clients with a list of the different steps involved in finalizing a design. I provide a preliminary construction schedule that details what decisions will need to be made for construction to start by a certain date. When homeowners see this long list of "to do" items, and see what they are responsible for making decisions on, they become much more realistic about what needs to happen. But someone has to show them the list. They need to see on paper all the decisions that have to be made before you can move forward.

Clear Specifications
Clear specifications dovetail nicely into a preliminary schedule. Most homeowners do not comprehend all of the decisions that have to be made. I work with a 28-page specification index that details all of the materials that will be required to complete any project. I provide homeowners with a copy of this at the first meeting. I let them know I will guide them through the selection process. Clear specifications eliminate cost overruns and miscommunication.

A Construction Schedule
One of homeowners' biggest fears is how long their project will really take. Provide homeowners with a schedule that helps them see all the steps involved with their job. I use a simple spread-sheet, with each week of their project listed across the page. Under each week, the project tasks are listed. This lets them see what will be happening, and when.

Job Procedures
Review your job procedure. I have weekly homeowner meetings once the job begins. I write a simple summary of each meeting and provide them with a copy. I have change order procedures that everyone agrees to before the job starts. I put an on-site logbook where clients can leave questions or comments and we promise to respond within 24 hours. Let homeowners know there are certain procedures you follow that guarantee a smooth process.

Ground Rules
Let homeowners know you will establish clear ground rules for their project. Here are some of the questions we review:

  • Will there be telephone access on site?
  • Will there be bathroom access?
  • The time work will begin and end.
  • Whether work is permitted on weekends.
  • Who clients call with an after-hours emergency.
  • Who clients talk to about Change Orders.
  • Will any work areas need to be cleared of furniture?
  • Where will workers store their tools and building materials?
  • Where will pets be kept during construction?
  • Where will workers eat and park their cars?
  • Homeowners fear remodeling because they don't understand the process. Show them your process by putting it on paper. It will assist both you and them.

    Reprinted with the permission of Qualified Remodeler

    To contact David Lupberger directly, call him at (301)570-9756. You may also send your comments and/or questions to David at his personal email..

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