Leadership Selling: Stop Estimating and Start Consulting

February 4, 2011
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On the surface, roofing contractors all look the same to consumers. After all, nearly every website from contractors promises service, quality and satisfaction from a contractor that has been around for generations with satisfied clients and guarantees of good work. 

On the surface, roofing contractors all look the same to consumers. After all, nearly every website from contractors promises service, quality and satisfaction from a contractor that has been around for generations with satisfied clients and guarantees of good work. The problem is that, with all the advertisements sounding similar, consumers have little way of differentiating good contractors from the average ones.

Your challenge is to differentiate your offering so that you establish credibility prior to the start of the project. Try offering “Free Consultations” to your prospects instead of “Free Estimates.” A free estimate offers no real value to a consumer except to make shopping convenient, which is the last thing you want! You goal should be involve the client right from the beginning of the process. Stop wasting time with estimates and start offering a “Free Consultation.”

Place an offer for the free consultation on your website and advertisements to let prospects know that you can guide them through a complex process. An estimate is merely a price offer, which is hardly of value to consumers who expect a price as part of your presentation. Conversely, a consultation helps prospects navigate through the challenges of their unique situation. There are at least four components of a consultation you can provide.

1. Questions and answers. It should be obvious, but still worth stating. Your role as a consultant begins with your ears. Discover early in the process why your client made the call at this time in her life. What changes have occurred? What did the client have in mind when they first picked up the phone to call a roofing contractor? These are good questions to break the ice.

2. Situation assessment. This is where you provide an inspection of their roof and determine any problems that exist. Additionally you will offer an education about Roofing 101 basics the client should know. This includes performance issues such as ventilation, local codes, choosing a quality contractor and construction details they should know prior to the project.

You install roofs every day, while your clients might purchase only one roof in a lifetime. Do not take for granted the basic details that you assume everyone will know. Auto companies spend millions of dollars investing in ads that promote safety. Safety is not only a shared benefit of all auto manufacturers, it is regulated by law. But the auto companies recognize the value in promoting safety. In the same way, you should promote the things that are common to all roofers - such as ice and water shield, proper ventilation, underlayment, deck inspections and the like. Don’t take the value assets for granted.

3. Product options. It is not too early to discuss product considerations prior to the proposal phase. You will gain a lot of insight into your client’s budget and expectations. Contractors assume that consumers are well educated and gaining lots of information from the Internet. The reality is that all roofing brands have subtle differences that you know better than the consumer. Additionally there are unique product materials for clients to consider. Finally, there are the architectural aesthetics that your client should consider. Your discussion of product issues enables you to discuss your client’s project as more than a house. It is their home. Your advice and education about design considerations will give you immense credibility and build momentum towards a future sale.

4. Performance and maintenance issues. It is easy to take weather issues for granted when you deal with roof materials every day. But your clients are not as well versed in these issues. For example, a client in a coastal area might need to understand implications of hurricane-force winds while a northern climate poses ice buildups. Additionally your clients should understand how to maintain roofs and gutters and know the long-term expected life cycle of various products.

If you want to differentiate yourself from the competition, don’t want until the construction starts. Demonstrate your ability to provide value early in the process with a professional consultation. 

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