Brett Hall is a second-generation roofing contractor in Arlington, Texas. When Brett talks about the concept of selling roofing in his company’s showroom he becomes, let’s just say, a little bit animated. Roofing Contractor was pleased to accept Brett’s invitation to stop by to visit and learn firsthand just how this unique process works and why showroom selling has proven so successful for Joe Hall Roofing Inc.
Joe Hall Roofing, Inc. had its beginnings when Jim E. Helzer decided to exit the roof-contracting business to focus on his roofing distribution company, JEH Supply. Jim owned Best Top Roofing and Joe Hall was his general manager at the time, having worked for the company in a variety of different positions. Joe wanted to continue his career as a roofing contractor, so when Helzer closed Best Top in 1988, Joe gathered up $10,000 in cash along with his years of experience and started Joe Hall Roofing Inc.
In the beginning Joe worked from his home and in 1989 was joined by his son, Brett, who was just short of completing college at the University of Texas at Arlington. The business began to build from there, but the acquisition of their office and warehouse site on a main highway in Arlington played a significant role in the future growth of the firm. The office and warehouse space allowed for the addition of staff and made it easier for personnel to handle materials, but the retail exposure proved to be a real asset as well. It did not hurt that the price was right. The property was purchased at auction on the courthouse steps.
In 1995 Brett purchased the business from his father. In 2004 Joe started Hall Commercial Roofing, established as a separate company from Joe Hall Roofing dedicated to commercial roofing pursuits. Joe continues to operate Hall Commercial Roofing, which focuses on negotiated work broken into four primary areas of focus: repairs, small roof replacement, new construction and large-scale roof replacement.
Joe Hall Roofing has grown into a significant roof-contracting firm, employing 20 staff members and 160 field personnel. The business is segmented into four divisions, consisting of maintenance, residential/new construction, residential/re-roof, and “high-end” residential roofing. Long-term succession plans are being considered for both firms that will have Brett once again buying out his dad and stepping out of the ownership role in Joe Hall Roofing. Other future pursuits include construction of a new office, showroom and warehouse complex, as well as an improved enterprise computer system.
Joe and Brett are both involved in the roofing industry. Joe is a longstanding member of the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association and serves on its board. Brett is past president of the North Texas Roofing Contractors Association and has been a featured speaker at the Roofing Contractor “Best of Success” conference and the International Roofing Expo.
The Showroom Concept
Located at the rear of the suite of offices, adjacent to the warehouse and garage at Joe Hall Roofing, you will find a showroom designed to bring together all the elements of a great buying decision for a potential roofing customer. According to Brett Hall, that is pretty much the goal for this space. He says, “A happy person walking out of this room that understands what to expect is a happy customer when the job is done when it comes time to pay the bill.” The culture of the firm is all about “creating happy customers,” and Brett believes each satisfied customer will in turn create three more customers.
The idea of offering customers a place to come and make a major purchase is not new. Home furnishings, for instance, are almost always shown from a retail showroom. The space may or may not contain the inventory that will ultimately be delivered, but considerable space is devoted to showing the furnishings. Consumers are used to this kind of buying. They may spend a few thousand dollars on a home furnishings purchase and tens of thousands on a new roof. Hall says, “Why not?” to the idea of offering a showroom to roofing customers.
Bringing potential customers into the showroom accomplishes much in the customer-satisfaction process. It removes a lot of the mystique of dealing with a roofing company for the first time. A customer walking through the office on the way into the showroom is going to pass walls featuring industry accomplishments along with celebrity endorsements and the smiling faces of Joe Hall Roofing associates. Potential customers are given the time and attention required to have all of their questions and concerns answered before they sign a contract.
And sign they do. The team at Joe Hall Roofing estimates that 80 percent of the potential customers entering the showroom ultimately sign a contract. Temper that with the fact that an estimated 60 percent of them have already been visited by a sales consultant at their home, but the other 40 percent make their first contact with the company on their first visit to the showroom. Still in all, the closing percentage in the showroom is remarkable.
The showroom itself is not all that remarkable. It’s a simple space, probably under 500 square feet. It does, however, contain samples of virtually any roofing system you will find in north Texas. Not limited to roofing samples, the showroom also holds samples of every conceivable accessory and component that goes into a roofing system - right down to the last fastener and tube of sealant. Many of the products are displayed on the walls, segmented by type. A number of the products are displayed on sample boards that may be taken off the wall and handled by the customer or salesperson.
In addition to products, the showroom has a computer set up to show sales presentations or to go online for more specific information on any given product. The idea is not to push one product or product line over another, but to educate the consumer and show them all the options available. There is also a table large enough to accommodate a set of plans with chairs to allow a place for the customer and sales associate to review literature or a contract.
North Texas is prone to damaging hailstorms, so many owners are interested in metal roofing or other hail-resistant roofing products. Part of the process of showing some of the textured metal roofing products includes an anecdotal “hail demonstration” using a baseball to simulate a 3-inch hailstone. No matter how hard you throw the ball at the textured metal shingle, the dents just do not show up on the surface. While many customers want metal, the majority of homes (and budgets) are better suited for asphalt. Comparing the price of metal does, however, put an upgrade “Class 4” shingle product in a much better light than comparing it with the lower end of the asphalt shingle line.
Customer calls to Joe Hall Roofing are tracked and logged into their computer system. Customers are encouraged from the very first call to consider coming into the showroom. All calls are rated on a scale from 1 to 10, and all customers who come into the showroom are moved up to the 10 - or “VIP”- status. Inside customer service reps or sales consultants who visit the owners’ sites all have access to the notes on calls logged into the system.
As previously mentioned, plans are being made to construct new office, showroom, and warehouse facilities. While today’s showroom may be unremarkable, plans for the new showroom are more ambitious, to say the least. Plans are to carve out 2,200 square feet of space from the new facility dedicated to a showroom that will be state of the art. A professional designer has been employed to come up with the final plans, which will include a lot of stainless steel and stone-colored concrete designed to give the space a more industrial feel. The idea is not to be unwelcoming, but to give visiting customers a museum-like experience.
The new space will be organized into areas that will allow both guided tours as well as self-tours. Customers will be able to stop at one of a number of kiosks, each featuring the products of a specific manufacturer. The kiosks will be leased to interested suppliers and will feature their product samples, literature and a computer display with links to information on the products shown. Customers will be able to bring in digital photos of their homes so they may be loaded into one of several computer programs that can be used to simulate the look of various roofing products and color selections.
In addition to the samples and kiosks, there will be several spaces set aside for one-on-one meetings with customers for the purpose of answering final questions and ultimately for signing contracts. The new space will also have a separate play area to entertain children so parents can focus on the information being presented.
We’ll Be Back
Roofing Contractor will stay in touch with Joe Hall Roofing as plans and construction of the new showroom get rolling. There may be a slight delay as the firm deals with the fallout from some weather events this spring that have made for a busy season. We will issue a full report on the finished project.
In the meantime, the original showroom is working just fine and continues to produce smiling faces on the customers who invest the time to come into the Joe Hall Roofing showroom. In return for their investment in time they will become better-informed consumers and ultimately happier customers for Joe Hall Roofing. A win-win indeed.