A new roof, please.

Recently I had a new roof installed. During the process of selecting a roofer and closing the deal, I made several observations. I teach processes, so I was acutely aware of the sales and production processes, or lack of processes, that these companies were using.

Let’s start with the selection process. Why did I choose one roofer over another?

3 bids – all different

I decided I would get three quotes. One from a roofer I had used for many years, a second from a promising roofing company I’d talked to at our local home show, and the third from a roofing company who placed a front page sticky ad in our newspaper announcing a discount.The differences were quite interesting.

#1 – My regular roofer arrived with his helper, threw a ladder onto the roof, and walked around the edges, measuring each section of the roof. My roof is very cut up and very steep, but it does have a 4/12 pitch roof at the bottom that covered an old inset gutter, then it goes up at 12/12  from there. This allowed them to walk the roof in relative safety, even though it is 40’ off the ground. When he got down, he did some calculations and gave me a handwritten quote with the amount of squares, vent boots, and other particulars such as tear-off and cleanup. Very fast and efficient.

#2 – The next roofer, the one I met at the trade show, came alone, and had only a small ladder. He had a sign on his truck and was very well dressed. I told him what I expected and he proceeded to measure the roof. He did all his measurements on the ground using a fiberglass open reel tape and a screwdriver that he stuck in the ground to hold the other end of the tape. I had serious doubts about this method due to the fact that the roof is so cut up, and there is a large flat roof at the top, in other words, not all roof sections went up to a peak. Some only went up until they intersected the flat roof. When he finished his measurements, he went back to the truck and made his calculations. Before he presented his quote to me, he went through a very well-worn presentation book with several accolades about his company, their warranty, and some pictures of past jobs. His quote was handwritten on an estimate form. He was 6 squares higher than my former roofer, and his price was correspondingly higher. I asked about the brand and he said that I could choose any brand I wanted. Obviously he had himself well covered. 

#3 – And finally, the one that advertised in the paper. They had two things going for them – a small discount (which I don’t put much faith in) and a one year, no interest payment plan. Two salesmen arrived, both wearing company shirts, in a well marked truck. They were true salesmen, immediately telling me about how great their company is, that they were certified by their preferred brand, and how strong their warranty is. Another point that I liked was that their 50 year warranty was transferable, without a fee, unlike #2. They took one look at the house and decided that they’d get their measurements from EagleView Technologies, rather than climb up on  the roof. I had heard about EagleView a few years ago, and wasn’t very sure how accurate it could be. Basically EagleView can measure your roof from satellite views. More on this next week. So one of the salesmen pulled out his smartphone (Android operating system), and got some basic information from EagleView using their smartphone app. With this information he was able to give me a rough verbal price. Then he called his office and ordered a full blown EagleView report so that he could give me a final detailed quote. His estimate was ½ square different from #1 who physically measured it. 

Choices, promises made, and the follow through 

#1’s quote was close, but I wanted an out-of-state roof color that had to be ordered. He wasn’t too keen on that. Plus he’s never been to hot on technology, and doesn’t even offer an email address to communicate, which is vitally important in my book. Sometimes I call him and he doesn’t return my call for a day or two. I decided not to use him.

#2’s numbers were high. He didn’t offer financing, his warranty was for 5 year material and labor, vs. 10 years material and labor offered by #3, and although the warranty was transferable, it cost $100 to transfer it to the new owner, which we hope will be soon. He thought the flat rubber roof, being only 10 years old would be fine. #3 promised to coat the flat rubber roof with GacoRoof, a silicone based roof coating with outstanding adhesion and a 50 year limited warranty. So although he was super nice and used a presentation book, however shabby looking, I eliminated him. I didn’t even tell him about the special order color I wanted. 

#3, as I said, had a few things already in their favor. Cutting to the chase, yes, I did choose them, even though their process and promises had as many holes in it as a tasty slice of Swiss cheese. They have the potential to be a much better company. That’s what inspired me to tell this story. It brought to light, once again, how important it is to follow-up with your prospective client and fulfill all the promises you’ve made.

One minute you’re up, next minute you’re down 

When #3 left after the first visit, they were excited and very enthusiastic. I felt like we had really bonded, and I trusted them to do what they said they would do. My optimism was short lived though. When they left after the first visit, they promised they would return the next day and sit down with us and answer any of our questions we had about their proposal. That sounded perfect to me. My wife had questions and this would give us the information we needed to make an informed decision. Here’s what actually happened.

Lessons that can improve your closing ratio

How could #3 be less cheesy?

  1. One salesperson was younger and did most of the talking. He mainly talked about his products and services. One had to almost interrupt him to ask a  question. You may recall from one of the sales lessons in Scientific Remodeling System that you should apply the 80/20 rule when selling. Listen 80% of the time, and talk 20% of the time. If you aren’t getting the information that you need to speak to your prospective client’s needs, then you are just regurgitating what you already know, with no regard to the prospective client. 
  2. I was sold, yet he kept on selling. Never continue to sell when you have accomplished your sales goal. This can only hurt your sales efforts, and could even lose the sale for you. Be attentive to your prospective client. Empathize with them. When you do this, you are giving them exactly what they need. 
  3. The next day they were a no-show, although they had promised to present their proposal to us the next day. That really bothers me. They have the potential to close a sale, and didn’t follow through. In most situations this will lead to the loss of a job. Look at this from your prospective client’s point of view. You got them excited about your product and services, they haven’t rejected you on price, and they eagerly await the next phase, where they may potentially sign a contract. They may be staying home from work, or not running errands, or putting off chores they need to do, in anticipation of your visit. When it doesn’t happen the wind disappears from their sails. Empty sails can lead to no sales.
  4. The following day I called and re-introduced myself to the younger salesperson and asked if I might receive their final quote. He didn’t immediately recognize me, so I gave him a few reminders of who I was and then he remembered me. But not before mentioning the fact that he had been to so many sales calls that he sometimes didn’t recall who’s who. Whoa! Don’t ever be guilty of that faux pas. (See “Behind the Curtain” article on RemodelerBiz.com.) That is the last thing your prospective client wants to hear – that they are just one of many, and you don’t necessarily remember them. Always treat your clients as if they are the only one you are working for. Make them feel special, not common. 
  5. If you use some sort of technology, tell the prospective client about it. Sometimes being techie can make the difference, especially when it comes to the ease of communication.
  6. And the final hole in the cheese – he emailed the quote to me. Talk about not fulfilling a promise. Not only did we not sit down to discuss the proposal, I got a hurriedly written proposal on a form where information was filled in or checked off, emailed to me. 

The contract

That’s probably enough critiquing for now. In the end, everything turned out okay for us and #3. The emailed quote gave us time to study it and prepare for their visit. I made out a detailed addendum to the contract with additional requests and services, made a place for both parties to sign, and kept the same price. They arrived the next day and we sat down and got the additional information we needed. After some haggling and a few calls back to the office, they stuck to the original price, and I got several additional items done that improved the roofing job. In this case, not keeping their promises cost them about $500 of potential profit.

Lessons learned

What can we learn from this experience? How can you improve your sales process? Here’s a list of several items you might add to your sales process:

  1. Always arrive on time. If you are even five minutes late, call them and tell them you are on your way. 
  2. Be sure to follow the 80/20 rule – listen 80% of the time, speak 20% of the time. Take the time to understand their real pain, then offer a solution, and not before. 
  3. Don’t oversell. It’s easy to get overenthusiastic when you have a good prospect who’s excited about the proposed project. Know when to shut up. Be thankful they like what you have to offer. Once you see that you’ve convinced them to buy your product, you’ve done your job. Don’t push it. 
  4. Show your prospective clients the unique benefits you offer over your competition. Make sure they understand what they are. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they understand what you just said. Many times a unique benefit you offer will make the sale. For instance, a transferable warranty was important to me. One that is free to transfer is even better. Yet if they hadn’t mentioned it, I might not have asked. Create a list of the benefits you offer and study how you will present each one in the best light possible. If you don’t have unique benefits that differentiate you from the competition, then it’s time to create some. Brainstorm with your sales team and come up with a list. You may be surprised what a 15 minute brainstorm session can produce.
  5. Dress well when you sell. If you have a company shirt, so much the better.
  6. Arrive in a clean, well maintained vehicle.
  7. Create a detailed sales call process, from getting out of your vehicle, to presenting the quote. The more detailed the better. In time you’ll have most of the variables covered.
  8. If you make a promise, honor it. It may be a promise to see them in a few days with a quote, or a promise to include something in their quote. Don’t let these details slip through the cracks. Write them down and make sure each one is fulfilled. The salesperson is your prospective client’s first glimpse at the integrity of your company.
  9. Never mention any other job to your prospective client. Theirs is the only job going on. Keep that illusion alive.
  10. Never email or phone in a quote. An estimate is too much work to waste on a phone call or email. You may think it’s saving you time and offering the prospective client convenience, but you are much more likely to lose the job if you don’t invest the time to meet with them and answer their questions, and hopefully get a signed copy of the contract back.

Next week

There’s a lot more that goes into the sales call, but this will get you thinking about how you should consult with your prospective client and present your proposals. 

Leave a comment in the box below and tell us what you got out of this story, and let us know how you run your sales process.

Next week I’ll tell you about the hand-off to production and the production of the project. And I’ll tell you more about EagleView. Till then… 

Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall

This article was written by Randall Soules, remodeling coach, adviser, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System, showing you better ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to discover better ways to run your business, click here. He also provides his uniquely customized one-on-one coaching to a select group of contractors. Feel free to contact Randall at Randall@scientificremodelingsystem.com.

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