The best salespeople calling on roofing contractors today must be as sharp as ever to win the trust and respect necessary to begin or maintain a winning relationship.

There are a number of things that hold true in roofing, no matter the size or scope of your business — or even what part of the industry you work in, including:

  • Change is damn near always hard.

  • Poor communication is the enemy.

  • Anything that comes in a can ends up on your pants sooner or later.

  • We’re all selling something.

That last one is something I’ve been meaning to write about since the late 1990s. The reasons for its timeliness will be discussed in a moment. In the meantime, consider the relationship that many roofing contractors often have with one or many professional men and women who carry the title “salesman,” including independent sales reps, manufacturer’s reps, distributor’s representatives, and even the occasional equipment or hardware peddler. Many roofing contractors consider these salespeople an extension of their own staff. It is hard to imagine such a close and trusting relationship in the typical business situation.

Others, however, would have you believe that roofing salespeople are a dime-a-dozen, and are not as relevant as they were in years gone by. I think the opposite is true. The best salespeople calling on roofing contractors today must be as sharp as ever to win the trust and respect necessary to begin or maintain a winning relationship.

The smart salesman works to help the roofing contractor succeed. He or she knows what his contractor needs and wants, and works tirelessly to deliver it. Great roofing salespeople will be fast to tell you that it is not materials or equipment they have to focus on but rather fast answers to pages and phone messages, quick turn around on requests for pricing, technical information, submittals, and sales and marketing materials. Basic blocking and tackling.

Great salespeople take advantage of every opportunity to learn all they can about their client’s business. They may not be, or ever aspire to be, roofing contractors, but they often know as much as anyone about the way their system is put into place, or where it does (or doesn’t) belong. A truly dedicated salesman who is on your side will defend you from trouble and will thank you relentlessly.

When they do all these things well, don’t forget to return the thanks every now and again.

And now for the reason this topic has finally moved from the “to-do” list to these pages. In the fall of this year, we celebrate the retirement of one of the roofing industry’s premier salesmen, my friend and associate, Kim Miller of Jacksonville, Fla. In his 37 years in the roofing industry, Kim has earned and enjoyed the trust of countless roofing contractors, architects, building owners, general contractors, and many others in the area surrounding his North Florida home.

Kim started his career in 1965 (judging by his rugged good looks, I would estimate that he was 6 years old at the time) as a representative of Johns Manville. Following early retirement from that post some 20 years later, Kim went on to work as a salesman with a local construction materials firm. He then did a successful stint as an independent sales rep promoting a variety of Division 7 specialty products and metal roofing. For the last seven or so years, Kim has worked as a salesman with Southern Roof Center in Jacksonville, the position from which he now retires.

Kim has long enjoyed the position that any salesperson would envy. He has done the work, paid the price, and earned the respect of his clients, his peers and even his competitors. He has always been one of my heroes in this business. Kim was a seasoned veteran when I arrived on the scene in the middle 1970s.

A disease that is gradually robbing Kim of his sight has hastened his retirement. Change really is “damn hard.” In spite of this, he intends to start brand new following his “official” retirement as an independent consultant for Southern Roof Center. Great salespeople are tenacious, too. He also plans to leverage his newfound independence into more quality time with his children and grandchildren.

The challenge is there for today’s generation of salesmen, and the bar is set high by the likes of Kim Miller. Thanks for serving your industry, Kim.