As we wind down another year and enter the fourth quarter of our calendar year — the quarter I will call the “procrastination” quarter for our customers — the question on most every roofing contractor’s mind should be, “How do I close up my outstanding bids before the end of the year?” It’s a frustrating time of the year no doubt, because not only does the customer tend to want to put off completing a reroof or repair job to the next year, but you may find yourself falling into the trap of accepting these stalls and “writing off” the last month or so of your year as well. I cannot tell you how many businesses each year simply give up and allow themselves to believe no business will be done in the final six weeks. In addition, and you may not have ever thought of this in this way, is that we don't simply want to move business from January and February into December for the sake of finishing strong this year. Finishing strong but starting the new year weak makes no sense at all, even in a seasonal industry like roofing.
So, how do you want to finish your year and start fast out of the gates of 2018? My experience on the sales side has shown me that more business can be done in the final weeks of the year than many other periods if the contractor chooses to make this happen. It really all comes down to creating urgency on the part of the customer. That’s simple, however it may not always be easy. In business and in life the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do…therein lies the proverbial rub.
In the roofing business, we typically enjoy a customer’s sense of urgency after a storm or other event that leaves them exposed due to leaks or other problems. Not all the companies I work with in the home and building improvement space have this luxury. You, however, don't need me to help you close bids and estimates that already have this sense of urgency. I suspect what would be most useful to you is if I could show you some ways that you could help customers who don't have a sense of urgency to get work done and those who would tend to put it off decide to get the work done sooner rather than later. That would help you finish the year strong and build momentum into the coming year to help grow and scale your business, wouldn't you agree?
So how do we create this type of urgency?
The first thing we need to understand is that we're essentially selling three things when we go on an estimate appointment.
- Why are you recommending the specific components, materials and type of installation or repair?
- Why choose your firm as the contractor?
- Why schedule the work today as opposed to next week, next month or next year?
Most of the contractors I do work with are good at selling the first two items on this list but fail to convince the customer of the third and most urgent item. They instead accept the typical stalls: “We need to think about this” or “We need to get other bids.”
Let’s first look at the core motivation that people have which helps them make a decision that requires an expenditure. At its foundation, customers either want to get more comfortable or eliminate pain. Which of these do you think is the greater of the motivations? Well if you’re still trying to decide, then consider how much money is spent every year on vitamin supplements versus pain relief medication. It’s a landslide decision, no brainer — people will spend far more and more urgently if we can identify the pain.
So, with this realization, we as the roofing professional need to help a customer identify the uncomfortable elements or pain points about the current situation.
If we can simply ask them what they like and what they'd change about their current situation it will get the conversation going in the right direction. People are naturally more “talkative” about negative things than positive ones so by asking early in the conversation you should get plenty of clues as to what’s annoying to them about their current situation. Ask deeper questions as well about these uncomfortable areas. For example, “Why is that such a concern for you?” or “What are you not able to do in the home as long as this problem exists?”
Another great question to determine the level of urgency is to ask, “So, let me ask you, if the roof is in the same condition as it is in 45-60 days is that a problem for you?” This is a great question to determine if they can “live” with the problem or something needs to be done.
Many contractors will look to use pricing specials and discounts to try and get business wrapped up by certain deadlines. If this works into your business plans and you’ve had success, then continue. Another way to approach this is to let the customer know of potential material and labor increases coming in the new year. In this manner, rather than discounting your work, you’re basically creating the same level of urgency and appealing to your customer’s desire to save money without discounting your work.
Another thing to consider is financing, interest free or deferred payment options. If a customer schedules the work before the end of the year they can take advantage of the special terms. This allows you to generate your full revenue amount while giving the customer flexibility and a clear reason to proceed now instead of later.
As we began, we proposed that we are heading into a season of procrastination. Customers are going to give us all kinds of reasons why they can’t move ahead with a decision. You’ll hear it when you ask for the work. They need to think about it or sleep on it or get more estimates. When this happens, don't be afraid to challenge the customer a little bit. Acknowledge the concern without endorsing it. In other words, there’s no earthly reason why you’d need to agree and respond with, “Yes, I think you should think about it.” Simply say, “I understand, it does appear however that you are serious about getting the work done right? Let me ask you, what specifically is it that you need to think about? Is it the quality of the work we have proposed? Is it the warranty or installation process? You know I bet it is the money isn’t it?” And now you have their bottom-line, the cost. This is something you can work with. What you can’t work with is the vague “think about it” response. Make sure you use the deductive reasoning logic we have proposed and the areas you list are indeed clear in the customers’ mind.
These are just a few things you can do to get business done sooner rather than later. Don't forget — sales is a numbers game. In order to get productivity, you must lead with activity. Stay focused over the holidays. Enjoy your family and take time, but stay active and don't let the “procrastination” of the season take over for you.