Anyone looking for signs that the U.S. construction industry is starting to recover may want to check out the attendance statistics from last year’s Metalcon.
The Oct. 11-13, 2011, building show at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta brought 5,525 to the city, a slight improvement when compared with the 2010 event’s attendance in Las Vegas.
Organizers say they represented suppliers, designers, developers, contractors, fabricators and builders from 52 countries and a wide section of U.S. states.
“With an amazing blend of products and components being offered, visitors were able to find everything for the entire building. Since sustainable products and concepts are an integral part of our event’s mix, the construction professionals who came to Metalcon can be more competitive in both new and retrofit markets by offering sustainable metal products that help improve buildings,” said Claire Kilcoyne, Metalcon’s director.
Show officials were quick to add that 94 percent of companies that exhibited at the 2010 Las Vegas show came to Atlanta for this year’s event.
That included MRS Metal Rollforming Systems of Spokane, Wash., a longtime Metalcon exhibitor. Company official Bill Griffin said they were generally pleased with this year’s show.
“Metalcon is a good show for us. We’ve been an exhibitor for 10-to-12 years,” Griffin said. “This year, as usual, the quality was good. Although there was less traffic, there were more serious buyers. We introduced a new line of in-plant equipment that is more affordable and more efficient and it was very well received here.”
Officials with machinery maker Bradbury Co. Inc. said they liked international visitors their booth attracted.
“We had good traffic with high quality visitors from a wide variety of countries,” said salesman Bob Burquist. “We talked with people from South Africa, Canada, Peru and the United States.”
A highlight of Bradbury’s booth — along with a number of other exhibitors — was that visitors could scan specially designed barcodes with their smartphones that took them to the company’s website and gave them product information.
The 2011 show also attracted 33 new companies whose products included tools, roofing and software.
One such company was American Weatherstar, based in Mobile, Ala.
“This is our first time in Metalcon and we had a great turnout,” said Scott Gayle, the company’s sales and marketing manager. “We’re a coatings manufacturer, so our audience is contractors and building owners. That’s who we met here. We’re already working on a project with a customer we met the second day of the show. In fact, we were so busy we ran out of brochures and pens we give away. At other shows we usually have some left.”
Officials with Acero Estrella and Steenhof Building Services Group, two of new exhibitors that came from outside the United States, had similar comments.
“We are a new exhibitor and had a great show with high quality leads. We offer cold-formed steel products so Metalcon was a good opportunity for us to introduce our company and products to a wider audience from both South and North America,” said Griselle Gemao, a communications manager with Acero Estrella, which is based in the Dominican Republic. “We saw visitors from a variety of countries such as Honduras, Venezuela and Mexico.”
Liz Scott, an executive assistant at Steenhof Building Services Group of Orillia, Ontario, agreed.
“We made some very good contacts at this show,” she said. “We’re consulting engineers and are able to help manufacturers get their products certified for the Canadian market. Because that market is busier than the U.S. market, many U.S.-based companies want to get their products certified for the Canadian market. We will work with them to do that.”
In 2011, the show followed its practice of promoting the use of metal roofing and solar technologies at the “Solar Bay,” a special section of the show floor, as well as the “Green Island,” where companies with energy-efficient products were grouped.
Metal roofing manufacturer Englert Inc. often exhibits in the Green Island section.
“The interest in green products is always good at Metalcon,” said marketing director Mitch Graber. “Usually about 50 percent of our inquiries are related to green; this time we also had a lot of interest in our onsite roll-forming machines. Traffic was steady and we sold about half a dozen at the show. That’s nearly twice as much as usual.”
Apart from the show, Metalcon booked a number of speakers for educational seminars. The keynote speaker for this year’s conference was Kevin Kampschroer, director of the federal high-performance green buildings office under the U.S. Government Services Administration. He discussed the government’s efforts to make its building stock sustainable, and urged those in the private sector to make similar strides.
Among the educational sessions at this year’s show was Todd Miller’s “Relational Sales: Sell More by Selling Yourself.” A little bit sales training and a bit of Psychology 101, the president of Classic Metal Roofing Systems said too many people only “sell” their product but not themselves — and therefore fail to convince as many to buy as they could.
It’s easy to get lost in the sales crowd using conventional methods, Miller said.
The solution? Build better relationships with your customers and potential customers.
“In today’s day and age, people crave relationships,” he said. “I think it’s necessary that salespeople also stand above the crowd.”
According to Miller, you should be proud of your product and sales techniques.
“Selling residential metal roofing is a very high-integrity thing to be doing,” he said.
It’s especially important to differentiate yourself when selling it, Miller said. It’s not an inexpensive product and will never be able to compete on price.
In addition, the ease of researching products and companies through the Internet means consumers are much smarter and skeptical of sales tactics than in the past.
“They have a natural wariness of inviting someone into their home,” he said. “People do not buy from someone they do not like.”
That’s another reason why you have to sell with a mindset of helping the customer first; not earning your commission. Thinking any other way is setting you up for failure.
“If that is your mindset when you go into the home, you are not going to connect with the customer,” he said.
By building relationships with clients you minimize the chances of buyer’s remorse, Miller added.
Another key to success, he said, is knowing what the potential project will entail. If you are trying to sell a homeowner on installing a metal roof, try to learn all you can about the house and its existing roof. Check out what condition it is in, its pitch, and details such as whether or not it has skylights.
“You want to be as observant as you can of that project before you set foot in the house,” Miller said.
And like in any relationship, appearance counts as well. Ensure your employees and their trucks are presentable before they head out to customers’ homes.
“If you don’t have a clean vehicle, they can’t expect you to keep their yard clean,” he said. Also ask permission before walking on their grass.
And speaking of permission, he recommended using “permission-based selling,” which gives the homeowners the power to stop the sales presentation at any time. Asking permission as you go through a presentation also allows potential customers to “help” you by agreeing to continue, which really is to your benefit, Miller said.
“The more needy you can appear, the more they want to help you,” he said.
As they ask questions, be sure you take notes. Think of yourself as a doctor, and they’re patients, he suggested.
“You want to be their dentist. You want to be their doctor. You want to find their ‘pain,’ ” he said.
Adding personal stories to your sales presentation can help customers relate. Hopefully they will share similar experiences with you.
“The more you share, the more people will connect with you,” Miller said. “We don’t become friends with people we don’t know anything about.”