Differentiation is a popular buzzword in business today, but what does differentiation look like when it comes to the roofing sector and, more importantly, what does that mean in the minds of homeowners?
During the recent annual Owens Corning Roofing Platinum Conference, Adam Bensman, founder of The Roof Strategist podcast and selling system, shared insights on how roofing contractors can effectively differentiate their businesses by tapping into emotion and the “comparison creature” that resides inside every person. Bensman is also a consultant who works with Owens Corning’s sales teams.
Different or More of the Same?
Ironically, in their efforts to stand out from the competition, businesses often rely on a handful of strategies that are widely used by an entire industry. Considering these realities, it’s time to develop a differentiator that competitors cannot replicate. And that means a closer look at a company’s brand and the people living out it as they interact with customers. It’s time to tap into the power of feelings that arise during the buyer’s journey.
Connecting Through Trust and Emotion
Bensman believes in approaching competition by leveraging trust-building and tapping into consumers’ feelings to win the comparison game. He said today’s roofing businesses are competing in the new “feeling” economy. Fueled by a blend of social media and the innate tendency to compare options, today’s feeling economy is driven by buyers' emotional experiences when engaging with a person or brand.
Sentiment is king in today’s consumer landscape, where people wear their feelings on their sleeves, and raw emotions serve as currency. To underscore this point, Bensman noted how Facebook prompts users to select a feeling from 140 options. And that’s just getting started. Bensman remarked that more than 3,300 emojis — from “curious” to “mind-blown” and everything in between — are available for consumers to convey their feelings.
"'Mind blown' is a lot more powerful than 'wow' when remarking on service,” he said.
The emojis at consumers’ fingertips make it easy to translate the power of emotion into digital currency, which is shared with the larger world on social media, including how homeowners feel about brands and companies.
Putting a Value on Trust
“Trust” is an essential component when it comes to consumers’ decisions about purchasing a roof. Trust is tied to a range of sales rep behaviors, from whether a rep shows up on time, takes the time to explain an estimate and a willingness to answer all questions to the customer’s satisfaction.
Bensman shared an example of a homeowner who selected a contractor based on his willingness to explain how quarterly hikes in interest rates could increase the cost of delaying a roof replacement.
The homeowner emailed the contractor explaining that she wanted to work with his team instead of another contractor because he took the time to explain how higher interest rates could affect the cost of her investment, despite the competitor’s estimate being lower.
Factoring Trust into the Comparison
People automatically make decisions by comparing options. When choosing roofing systems, buyers can’t “sample” a roof and typically have limited experience in roof purchasing. Thus, the choice often comes down to comparing not the actual product but the sales experience presented by different companies.
Again, there is an emotional component to the comparison process as homeowners consider the experiences they have with different companies. Comparison and emotion work together, and Bensman noted that contractors could come out on top by creating a stronger emotional experience than their customers.
“Fear is OK, and so is a little stress or discomfort,” he said. “In fact, tension is what keeps people engaged in the process.”
What does such tension look like? It may be talking about the financial consequences of putting off a replacement for a year or two.
For example, a quarterly rate bump from 7-12% could equate to the cost of a roof doubling in cost every five years — meaning a $20,000 roof today would cost approximately $40,000 in five years.
Such “hard” conversations can go a long way toward building trust. Beyond economics, explaining the process involved in building a roof can help establish trust. Introducing visuals, tools, or interactive models can further educate homeowners, and clarity of communication is essential.
“You can lose deals by explaining things the wrong way,” said Bensman.
Cultivating a homeowner’s trust and confidence requires the patience to navigate the process at the customer’s pace. Few homeowners are experts when it comes to roofing, and they may not know what questions to ask.
Helping a homeowner make sense of different contractors’ estimates can differentiate a contractor. Bensman shared an example of a sales rep who explained to the customer:
“I want to help you compare those estimates side by side because, unfortunately, estimates aren’t necessarily apples to apples. My objective is to help you make an estimate you’re comfortable with, even if it’s not with me.”
The next day, the contractor received an email from the homeowner saying: “I want to go with you. Your willingness to help me understand the difference between these estimates even if I didn’t pick you . . . well, I knew you were different and truly wanted to help me.”
Feeling the Differentiation
A sales rep is charged with helping contractors make a comfortable decision as they go through the comparison process. Building trust and creating stronger emotional experiences with homeowners can differentiate in a way that is hard for any competitor to replicate.
“Many people think you must be 99% different than your competitors," Bensman said. "But I think contractors can win by being 99% better at creating a strong emotional experience and 99% better at leveraging the comparison that customers naturally make between a company and its competitors.”
Viewed through this lens, the 99% better relates how the sales team delivers the message, supports the customer, answers questions, and builds trust versus gadgets, technology, or marketing. However, tools and technologies can support the remaining 1%.
An enduring debate among sales professionals is whether it is better to be the first or the last presentation in the decision cycle. According to Bensman, timing does not matter – it’s all about the comparison.
“If you’re first in the house, you get to set the benchmark for the comparison,” he says. “If you’re last, you have an opportunity to stack up better than the last guy.”
Ultimately, customers will compare trust and factor in emotion to differentiate among their choices and select a contractor. Contractors who invest in building homeowners' trust and helping contractors feel empowered in the decision process can leverage a powerful differentiator.