Every lead is like a box of chocolates: You don’t always know what you’re getting. Whether your leads come from a phone call, a referral, direct marketing or the internet, the goal is to know as much about the potential client as you can prior to picking up the phone to engage.

The minimum information consists of a name, address and the scope of work desired. From this starting point a lot of additional information can be gathered on the internet. Google Maps will give you an aerial view and a front elevation of the home as well as a 360-degree street view. With a little more sleuthing of your online city records, you can also determine whether a potential client is the owner along with important details like the lot size, the square footage of the house and the most recent sale price of the home.

At the end of the day, your goal is to determine three things. First, you want to know whether the project fits well with the type of work your company seeks. For example, some firms excel at high-end kitchens and baths. Others are best set up for whole-house projects. Second, you must ascertain whether the owners are the right fit for your firm. Last, it’s important to know if a potential client’s budget is where it needs to be.

Once you’ve gathered as much information as possible, the first call is made. The goal of that first call is to continue to vet the lead, gather more information and, ideally, if you sense a fit, set up the first meeting in the home. As is explained in the Sandler sales system, you’re seeking to understand a prospect’s pain or motivation to move forward with a project. If there are red flags about the job, it’s best to have a diplomatic conversation about the subject.

In many instances I often realize a potential client’s desired scope of work will make a house, according to Zillow, one of the most expensive in its neighborhood. There can then be the discussion around this observation. Is this a “love it” or “list it” situation? At which point does the client sell and move? Have they thought about this scenario?

You may learn the property is their childhood home and that the prospect is committed to a renovation and expansion. If they’re thinking of selling as an option, you then have been given permission to move to price. You can then bracket the “all-in” design and construction budget for them over the phone. If they’re comfortable somewhere within your budget range, schedule the first meeting. Always approach objections as permission to unpack the issue.

If you can locate your prospect on LinkedIn, it’s helpful to learn as much about the client and his or her partner as possible. Their profiles will enable you to estimate their income and discuss schools, interests and past clients whom they may know. You can link to a prospect after the first phone conversation with a nice note. You certainly should link after the second meeting. It is a great way to send the client your resume and summary of your previous work.

First Impressions and Data Collection

Every client is a potential client for life. Even if they choose another firm, or the project is too small or far away, or they sell their house, a good impression is important. Every prospect who chooses not to hire your firm might ultimately have a bad experience with whomever they eventually hire and subsequently buy a house that needs work.

Others might move closer to your work area or simply realize a year or two later that they can now afford the work or an expanded version of what you discussed in that first call. Every prospect is also a source of potential leads.

Beginning with the initial lead and continuing on to your preliminary research, your first phone call and any in-home meetings, it’s important to collect all the data on the clients and their home. Whichever database management system or CRM you use, the software should be robust enough to scale up as your sales team grows.

It should also be customizable to accommodate all the various types of information mentioned above and many more. These can include mapping tools, hyperlinks to LinkedIn profiles, the clients’ places of business, websites and a photo of the client and his or her partner.

Your customer-relationship management software should provide your team, sales manager and management team with a dynamic dashboard to include such data as prospect funnels, close ratios, dollar volumes and the number of prospects and projects at each stage of your sales funnel, just to name a few. Email exchanges should also be archived in your CRM and connected to each prospect’s name and address.

Your CRM database can also be the engine behind your emailed or mailed newsletter. If you’re ever short of leads, your past prospects can be a treasure trove, if only to find out how the story ends because you never know what you are going to get. Prospecting and re-prospecting are indeed like a box of chocolates. QR

Christopher K. Landis, AIA, owns Landis Construction in Washington, D.C. He brings 30 years of remodeling design, construction and management experience to this series of columns for the magazine. You can reach him at chris@landisconstruction.com.

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