When I do sales seminars for roofing contractors I am always surprised at the number of salespeople who do not introduce themselves to the neighbors of their clients. It’s not uncommon for me to find that less than 5 percent of the participants make it a point to knock on the doors of the three to five homes across the street and the homes on the left and right side of their new client. Some of you might refer to this as “clover leafing.” What is amazing is that when I ask those participants how often their door knocking activities turn into an appointment, every single hand goes back up. You can’t argue with that type of success. Even though only a small percentage of contractor salespeople do it, every single one of them consistently gets at least one appointment because of it.

Now before you conjure up negative images of the door-to-door vacuum or encyclopedia salesperson you need to understand the difference between what those salespeople do and what I am suggesting. Unlike the door-to-door salesperson, it is not your goal to try and sell them something — because that may result in an unfavorable response. Your objective is to simply tell them who you are and inform them that you will be working in the neighborhood. You should go on to tell them what you and they should expect from your work crews as it relates to the way they will respect the neighborhood. Assuring the neighbors that the work crews will not start work before 7 a.m. or blast loud music feeds the perception that you are a professional company who looks out for the best interests of their clients. Giving them your card and encouraging them to call you if they have any questions or concerns is a positive way to set your firm apart from the others and leave the homeowner with a positive first impression. Most people are going to expect that the guy knocking on the door is going to tell them how great his company is and try to sell them something. You need to shatter their expectations by doing the complete opposite of what they expect.

If they seem receptive to you, you can then try to offer them a free brochure that will provide them with some information that is beneficial to them. I’m not suggesting you hand them your list of the top 10 reasons why you are the best contractor in the market. Instead, I would encourage you to provide them with a brochure that contains information that is valuable to them. For example, tips on “how to choose a professional roofing contractor,” or “the benefits of a roof inspection,” or “why ice dams may be a symptom of a much bigger problem” is something that will help to position you as the expert and leave the homeowner with a positive first impression.

I’ll give you an example. Early this spring, I had someone knock on my door while I was eating dinner with my family. I was pretty mad because my travels don’t give me many opportunities to eat with my family so I jumped up ready to jump all over whomever it was that was bothering us. When I answered the door, I was met by a gentleman who apologized for bothering me and went to tell me that he was a landscaper who was going to be an extensive landscape makeover for my neighbor across the street. He wanted me to know that it might get a little bit dirty but assured me the road would be cleaner when he left than it was when he started. He then handed me an article he wrote for the local newspaper and told me, “I can see you have some large, old trees on your property; here is an article I wrote that gives some simple recommendations to keep them healthy.”

I answered the door wanting to rip his head off, and in the end I found myself thanking him for interrupting my dinner. The difference came down to his approach and the fact that he didn’t interrupt my dinner to try to sell me his service or convince me to set an appointment. He left me with such a positive impression that he would be the first person I call when I need a landscaper.

But the story doesn’t end there because he came back. At the conclusion of the project (which looked great, by the way), he knocked on my door to thank me for our patience during the project and gave me two certificates for a free car wash at the local gas station. He explained that driving down the dirty street probably got our cars a little bit dirty and they didn’t think it was fair that we would have to pay to have them cleaned. He then went on to say that he’s doing a survey of the neighbors to get a feel for the types of landscaping projects they might be considering in the coming months or years. I was shocked. Who was this marketing genius? He spent $10 for two car washes and further developed his relationship with me to the point where I gave him my project wish list, telephone number and the approval to contact me next spring to talk about those projects. It was brilliant!

As a roofing contractor, you could conduct your post-project neighborhood survey and tell the neighbors you are raffling off special promotion that gives one lucky neighbor $500 off their next project or a free product upgrade, for example.

When you consider the high cost of generating leads, doesn’t it make sense to be territorial about the neighborhoods you work in? Taking a few moments to introduce yourself to the neighbors is a cost-effective way to build brand awareness, establish rapport and be the neighbors’ first choice when they decide to hire a roofing contractor.