Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the homebuilding industry as well as construction engineer, site manager and in training, auditing and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental and safety management awards for clients.

Denis is co-author of 'The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence'.

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Don’t create a bad impression with the simple things in sales!


It is amazing how quickly we can create a negative impression in the most of simple ways. The danger can be not having perspective, doing what has always been done or falling into the act of ‘processing a customer’ especially if we are busy or running out of time.

Here are some things to avoid, yet are so common and make the customer feel you are not prepared or professional and therefore equate the experience to that they will encounter if they build a home with your company.

  • Do not call the next customer waiting ‘next’ or the next customer coming up to your desk ‘and you are?’
  • Don’t have one person dealing with a customer and another just standing beside you doing nothing. I have seen customers approach a reception desk or sales group at a model home and ask ‘can you help us’ to be told, ‘sorry you will have to wait for him/her’, even when all they want is a glass of water, guidebook to your neighborhoods etc.
  • Yes, connect with the customer to build a relationship and rapport, but don’t give them your life story and just focus on yourself and they have other things to do today so respect the appointment time available.
  • Have a pad and pen available if they need them to make notes. Otherwise you will spend 10 minutes running around searching for one.  So ensure you have information on hand or nearby such as maps of neighborhoods, information on financing, even customer satisfaction rates etc.
  • There are usually key pieces of information that regularly are asked or that you like to provide as insights for customers.  Use word, powerpoint or excel to create this information in a professional format that you can print. Do not scribble on a sheet of paper, especially upside-down!  Diagrams, arrows, ‘rough numbers’ scribbled on a page is unprofessional. It’s messy and seems like this is the first time you have thought about this. Even if they take it with them can they translate it later that evening?
  • Know what is available in your inventory. If you don’t have this information available via software on your terminal or laptop ensure you have printed out the latest information prior to your meeting. Telling them you don’t know or spending time leaving them or surfing your way around your internal system to find the answer seems unprepared and simply not knowledgeable about your inventory.
  • When you give information on for example the location of a model home or an example of the exact model of home they are considering for them to visit, be accurate. Having that customer lost in a neighborhood because your map or directions were wrong creates frustration and reflects on you and your knowledge and care for them.
  • If they bring up negatives about your homes, neighborhoods or amenities listen to them.  Do NOT brush them off! If you know that changes are in place in regard to these tell them and give specifics. This will show that the organization is aware and improving. If not, make notes and pass the information along and tell the customer this. Remember this is something hampering you closing a sale, the construction, design, land development or whatever department needs to take your (and their) input seriously. Do not downplay or dismiss their concerns, this will be seen as ignoring them and you will lose credibility instantly.

In my last blog I talked about creating ambassadors, by doing some of the things listed above you can create the opposite. You can turn a potential customer into someone that turns around and leaves only to tell friends and family and everyone they can on Facebook about how rude, disorganized, clueless and unprofessional you are. All for free!  When was the last time you were a customer, purchased a car, new carpet, waited in your Doctors waiting room? Think about how you were treated and how you would like to be treated and put that into practice.

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