Trying to sign up a roof job, especially when you are new to the roofing business, can be intimidating. If you are a new roofing company owner, you will quickly find that filling your schedule with jobs may take some effort. Here are a few tips to help give you a better chance at lining up some new customers.
Whether with a cold call, or responding to a request for an estimate, the first impression you give a customer can go a long way in the process of selling a roof job. You may get an emphatic “NO!” before you open your mouth just based on appearance alone. Roofers already tend to have the reputation of being rough, dirty, and shady. You can really set yourself apart by presenting yourself as the opposite of that stereotype. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but make sure your appearance is somewhat neat and tidy. This is crucial with a cold call. If you are only doing roofing sales, neatness will be much easier. If you are mixing jobs with calls, you may have a tougher time staying clean. Save the tar-stained shirts or pants for days you are only doing jobs if possible.
A smile and friendly tone will help break the ice with the potential customer. If you know you are not good with words, there are plenty of resources to help you with your communication skills.
A neatly written or typed estimate can also help with professionalism.
A pet-peeve of mine in the sales industry is the cut throat “a-sale-at-any-cost” mentality. In my opinion, I would rather under-promise and over-deliver, than to exaggerate my skills and not follow through. The pressure, especially when you may need work, is to promise more than you are able to really do, and at a lower price, just to get the job. This is a dangerous practice. You could potentially get in over your head, and not be able to deliver a product that the customer deserves and has paid for.
If the customer asks you to perform a certain roofing service, be honest about your skills in that area. Don’t be afraid to tell them you aren’t an expert in that particular area, and that if you completed the job, it may not be “museum” quality. Customers appreciate honesty. You would be surprised at how many customers told me they appreciated my honesty in telling them my strengths and weaknesses. Many have asked me to go ahead with jobs even after I was trying to talk myself out of them. Don’t be so eager to take on a job that you know you can’t complete, or that you can’t do well, without giving the customer an honest set of expectations. Trust me, your customers will appreciate this, and you will get referrals because of it.
Be honest about the condition of your prospective customer’s roof. Don’t tell them they need a new roof when you can clearly see the roof has plenty of life left in it. That is unethical and just plain dishonest. You wouldn’t want someone doing that to you. You might get away with it, but beware. It could come back to haunt you.
Don’t forget to be honest about the timeline of the job. If you know you can’t do a job this week, don’t make a promise you’ll do it this week just to sign up the job.
It is important to be organized and knowledgeable when dealing with a customer. Know your pricing. Know your roofing lingo. Be confident, but honest when talking about the best way to complete a roof job. I realize some knowledge comes from experience, so it may be difficult to be knowledgeable with an area of roofing you are not familiar with. This is where a previous trait I mentioned, honesty, can come into play.
I know of one roofer who used the line “That’s my specialty!” when any potential customer asked about a certain service. In other words, every type of roofing service he was asked about was his specialty. He had the “fake it until you make it” mentality. I don’t know if that is the best sales method. It would definitely help for you to learn as much as you can and get as much roofing-related experience possible so that you can best advise your customer. If you do choose to have a specialty, put as much effort as possible into learning all you can, so you can truly call yourself an expert in that particular area. Many customers (but not all) can easily spot when someone doesn’t really know what they are talking about.
All customers want to know they are getting a good deal. There are a number of ways to give the customer value without having to lose money. One way you can add value is by throwing in extras, on top of what the customer has requested, at no cost. This could be telling them you will clean all gutters at no extra charge after doing a roof job, or that you will be using a premium shingle at the same cost you would charge for a standard shingle. Don’t lie about your pricing. You don’t have to pull numbers out of your hat. For me, I always charge the same for 3-tab shingles as I do for architectural shingles. I prefer installing architectural, and they have a better warranty. When the customer finds out I charge the same price, they will see they are getting a better value by choosing the architectural.
I generally try to present my estimate with a firm price, so that the potential customer has confidence they are already getting a good price. I generally don’t like to play games with my pricing, but there are a few exceptions.
One exception deals with my minimum charge. I have a few different standard “minimum charges” depending on what the roof-related work is (my minimum is less for gutter cleaning than for regular repairs as gutter cleaning takes less skill). I have adjusted those minimum charges when the job is particularly easy, or small, thereby giving the customer value.
Giving the customer value doesn’t mean that you should always start with a higher price and then give “discounts”, but this technique is common practice in some cultures. In some parts of the world, it is understood that you will go back-and-forth before settling on a price. This is similar to going to a car dealer, with both the salesman and yourself knowing that you are not going to pay full price. This is a somewhat common practice at yard sales. You don’t pay full price for that used toaster. You offer much lower and then come to an agreement with the seller. If you are aware of this when dealing with certain cultures, you can adjust your prices accordingly, so when the potential customer argues with the price, you can lower it to a price you are both happy with. I realize this is not a common practice in the US, but when dealing with certain cultures, you will find that you may be insulting them if you stay firm on your price. I lost a few jobs early in my business when dealing with customers from other parts of the world, because I was naive and stubborn (and a little insulted) when my prices were being questioned.
Communication with a potential customer can make the difference between signing up a job or never hearing from them again. Starting with the first call, make sure you are effectively communicating with the would-be customer. Make sure you get all necessary contact information, and that you have the correct address. Set up a clear time to meet for the estimate, if the customer will need to be there. If you are going to be late, have the courtesy to contact the customer and update them on your status. Repeat phone numbers, addresses and times back to the customer to confirm the correct information.
After the initial contact, a follow-up is an important step in keeping the communication lines open with the customer. A follow-up text, phone call, or email can all be appropriate ways to open the door for action from the customer. Personally, my style is not high-pressure. I don’t like to look desperate for work. If you did things right with the other four steps I mentioned, you shouldn’t have to strong-arm a customer into submission.
Be patient. Not hearing back from someone doesn’t mean an automatic “NO” to your proposal. I recently had a customer contact me after 2 years (yes, 2 years!) to tell me they were finally ready to have the work done. I was able to re-write the estimate at a higher amount because of additional work they also now ready to have done.
These five attributes will definitely help you sell more jobs. Keep in mind, that no matter what sales technique you use, you won’t sell every job. In fact, if you are signing up just about every job, your prices may be too low. Pricing will be discussed in another post.
Now, go out and sign up some customers!