I think everyone has some valid points.
The reason for qualifying over the phone for me is that my time is precious. The are "tire kickers" out there and no one wants to sit for a few hours like us windows guys are several hours like the GC guys for what in reality is not even a prospect for work. I'd prefer to spend time with the family that barely remembers who I am. I think we have all made the mistake in qualifying TOO hard and that is where the problem begins.
It's okay to ask questions on the phone to find out what you're getting onto. My standard is, "Have you had anyone take a look at this for you? Why are you still getting bids?"
Based on your example I think they're full of it. If everyone was professional, did a great job, and they liked what they had to say, then if they are "just the way they are" they'd be sitting in front of the fireplace "thinking about who they wanted to go with"...not getting more bids. The right questions up front might have weeded this out early.
So might I suggest:
1. Get the HO's history regarding their project early on. Have they been thinking about this project for awhile or did it come up just recently, why haven't they done anything until now, any other bids, why they haven't picked someone yet, no bids then what is the things that are important when looking for a company to do this job, what's their timeline for having this done, and many more questions.
For me, these have to be answered before I move forward because they wil all be reasons not to buy in the end. If I know the answer in the beginning I can tailor my presentation to squash those and leave the HO with no reason not to buy.
Ever had a buddy tell you you're full of s*** and usually you are cause you're trying to dodge saying what's on your mind? HO do it too.
They don't want to hurt your feelings so they try to give some BS instead of saying, "you're not the guy for us." I tell them they're not being honest with me.
"Joe, here's my thoughts and then we're going to decide what we are going to do about you're project. In my experience that response tells me three things...1. You don't really know WHAT you want and you're hoping a guy will come along and figure it out for you...2. One or both of you has lost interest in doing this project right now but are afraid to admit to yourself or the other so the bid/estimate process continues to appease the need...or 3. You're not being open and honest with me. #3 we're going to fix right now. If you can't be open with me and tell your fears and concerns about taking this project on then you will NEVER get this done because the guy sitting across the table will not know how to help you. As far as #1 goes if you're honest with me I can help you figure out what would be best for you if you communicate with me . And #2 comes down to need. And usually this process doesn't begin unless everyone agreed at some point you had a need or desire. And in my opinion you do need this work done."
"So let's get past all the bull crap, tell me what's important to you, what's intimidating you, be real with me, and let's this thing done and out of your hair once and for all!"