What Can Visiting a Car Dealership Teach You About Closing Quotes After Roof Inspections?

Assessing a roof is easy. Assuming you have the basic technical skills, which are not difficult to learn, analyzing a roof and determining what deficiencies are present, what needs to be done, what can wait, all of that, really isn’t that hard to do.

So, why do so many roofing contractors have trouble selling the repairs their reports recommend? (And when they don’t sell the repairs they often think the problem is with their report format). Let’s see if we can bring some clarity to this.

Years ago, in my role as roofing consultant, I had a client give me a copy of an assessment report performed by a roofing contractor with a quote for about $36,000 of recommended repairs to correct deficiencies they found on a shopping center. I had also inspected the roofs and I agreed that everything they presented was a legitimate deficiency. So, what did I recommend to my client? I recommended we do none of it!

Let me give you a bit more information about the roof. In the three years that my client had owned the 84,000-square-foot shopping center, they have never had single roof leak and the well-installed gravel surfaced built up roofs were about eight years old. Do you really think a building owner is going to spend $36,000 on an 84,000-sqare-foot shopping center that had never leaked?

When you drop your car off at the body shop to have them fix a scratch on the right rear quarter panel on your car, you don’t expect them to fix the scratch, repaint the whole car, install new rims and tires, tint the windshield and upgrade the radio.

Tip 1: Most roofing contractors doing assessments produce reports and quotes “recommending” way too much work.  Just because something on a roof isn’t perfect doesn’t mean you have to fix it, at least right away. For instance, just because that EPDM wall flashing is starting to bridge, you and I both know it isn’t going to rip open for at least another three or four years and perhaps longer. (And there are exceptions, sure, but if you are on the roof regularly, monitoring it, there is no chance you won’t see it coming.) When you quote the repair of those flashings, it is the same as getting a quote to “install new tires and rims, tint your windshield and upgrade the radio” when you took your car in for that scratch on that right rear quarter panel.

There is another factor that comes in to play. When you dropped your car off at the body shop and when you see a quote to do all that unrequested work, you know you don’t need it. That isn’t the case with the typical building owner and his roofs.

The typical building owner, property manager, facility manager, building engineer, asset manager knows less about roofs than your receptionist. Think about that for a minute. While there are exceptions to this rule, they are few and far between. Do you know what that means? It means that they are not going to understand the report you produce. You can tell them what a flashing is and they will nod their head up and down. That doesn’t mean they understand. If you, instead, asked them to explain to you what a flashing is and you listen to their answer you will quickly discover that they have no real idea what a flashing is. But here is what they do know: They don’t need to spend $36,000 on a shopping center that doesn’t leak. Since they can’t understand your report, they just do none of it.

Tip 2: If you give them a laundry list of things to choose from, they will often choose “none of the above. ”So, make sure you explain why each of these things is necessary and the possible consequences of not doing them.

Tip 3: “Sell” your assessments as a way to manage an aging roof. While we can all agree that roofs should be inspected regularly, let’s also agree that the roofs that most need to be inspected regularly are aging (or problematic) roofs. Especially when you are trying to start work with a potential new client, point out that it is often possible to cost effectively extend the life of an aging roof, and the best way to figure out exactly if that might be possible and how to do it is with a formal assessment. Importantly, this also gives you a context for understanding what they are after and makes it much easier to avoid the issues mentioned in both Tips 1 and 2.

Let’s say you decide to buy a new car. You walk into the dealership and lady behind the desk says, “Just a minute, I’ll get somebody for you.” Shortly, a mechanic in greasy coveralls comes walking out the service area, wiping the grease off his hands with a rag. He walks you over to a car on the show floor and says, “You should buy this one. It is a real good car.” That isn’t how it works? Really? (And, do you think that mechanic should be surprised when you don’t buy that car? Then why are you surprised when your estimators only sell one in five estimates they put out for repairs?)

Does the professional salesman you actually buy your new car from know as much about how that car works as the mechanic? Probably not. Then why do you suppose auto dealers use salespeople to sell cars rather than mechanics or others with excellent technical expertise? Because salespeople know how to sell. In our industry, we routinely see commercial roofing service salespeople closing over 60 percent of their sales. Once you made the adjustments recommended in the first three tips, if you are not closing 60 percent or more of your service estimates coming off assessment reports, you need to follow the advice in Tip 4.

Tip 4: Hire a true sales professional to sell. When your payroll clerk and bookkeeper are both off work due to maternity leave and an auto accident, would you grab two guys from a tear-off crew and have them do the bookkeeping and payroll? If a couple of guys don’t show up on a Monday at the start of a large tear-off, do you send your payroll clerk and bookkeeper out to help with the tear-off? Then don’t expect the guy who you have assessing your customers’ roofs to also sell them the work you are quoting. Hire true sales professionals and watch your revenue grow.

By following these tips, the quality of your assessments will go up and so will your closing ratios.

How to Choose a Roofing Contractor

The greatest challenge for anyone responsible for any physical asset is how to keep it operating properly. The key is finding qualified maintenance providers to solve problems that are beyond our own abilities. With the advent of the Internet, our options are limitless. If we need a doctor, we Google the type of doctor we need and get a list of options. The same can be said for all other types of goods and services. But with more options, are we really getting more quality from these numerous choices?

Unfortunately, people and companies can make any claim on the Internet and, as long as they don’t slander anybody else, it’s perfectly legal. I get emails every day claiming to have a cure for cancer, obesity, hemorrhoids, etc., and all I have to do is log on to the website, enter my credit card number and the “cure” will be sent to my house within 72 hours.

Everyone knows this is a hoax, right? Yet more and more of these websites keep popping up every day. Clearly someone is falling for these frauds or there wouldn’t be any! But I digress. The topic of this article is “how to choose a roofing contractor”, not “how not to get ripped off using the Internet.”

Preliminary Questions

Consequently, if I have a roof leak, the first thing I will do is conduct a web search for roofing contractors in my area. I will probably look for ones located closest to my facility. I will call the company and say something like: “I have a roof leak. Do you fix those?” The contractor will probably say, “Yes, I can fix leaks.” I will then say: “Great! When can you be here?” And the rest is, as they say, history. Hopefully, the contractor I selected is licensed, bonded, insured and competent. As you can see, I didn’t ask any of those questions, so I really don’t know. But he must be good; he was listed on the Internet!

If he’s not licensed, there is probably a pretty good reason why he isn’t—he’s not a real contractor, just kind of a handyman. If he’s not bonded and there is a problem with the work he performs and he refuses to fix his mistakes, I will have no recourse to take legal action because he doesn’t have a bonding company backing his work. If he isn’t insured and he falls off my roof, he can sue me personally for causing him bodily injury.

Before any contractor comes out to your facility, make sure the company is licensed, bonded and insured. Always ask for the license number, bonding company name and number, and personal liability insurance policy number. Once you get this information, verify these numbers and providers. I once had a contractor give me his license number only to find out the number was made up! If the information checks out, set up an appointment for the contractor to evaluate your problem. Don’t set the appointment and then check out the company’s qualifications. If a roofer comes out, climbs on your roof and falls off without liability insurance, you are on the hook paying for “Mr. FastRoofs Inc.’s” medical bills or worse: he sues you for not having fall protection on your roof—not that you should know what that is—and rest assured you will pay his medical and legal bills!

Once you have determined a certain level of legitimacy, you should also check what other types of certifications the contractor has attained. I would determine whether he or she belongs to the Better Business Bureau. This is no guarantee that these companies won’t have problems, but it does show a willingness to be responsible once the work has been completed. Also, determine whether the company belongs to trade associations. A roofing contractor should be “a member in good standing” and belong to the Rosemont, Ill.-based National Roofing Contractors Association or one of its affiliates.

Don’t assume just because a company says it belongs to a trade association it does. I once dealt with a painting contractor that listed on its website belonging to the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America, Maryland Heights, Mo. I called the trade association and learned the contractor did not belong at all! In other words, if a contractor makes a claim, make a call and check it out—no matter what!

The Proposal

Once you have properly vetted your prospective contractor, call him and describe your problem in the most basic terms. Most people want to solve the problem themselves and then just have the contractor effect the change.

Customers often will call and say: “I have a lot of problems on my roof. Can you come out and give me a quote for a new roof?” I am sure many of you are reading this and are completely incredulous this happens but, be honest, it’s human nature to not want to seem ignorant. As a matter of fact, I find those with the most experience are quickest to opine on their problems when they really don’t have a clue as to what’s wrong with their roof.

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