Winter Roofing Sales
We’re heading into that time of year again…
That fresh hail storm from the spring or early summer is now 4, 5 or maybe even 6 months old.
The out-of-town adjusters have all but left town. The neighborhood that once boomed daily with the constant clacking of nail guns have fallen eerily silent. The sun falls ever faster from the sky while the colder breeze bites away at your motivation.
My oft-repeated, though totally unscientific, observation is that 9 out of 10 people fail to make a living in roofing sales… and that’s when they start selling under the best of circumstances! Fewer still are those who can pay the bills selling roofs through the Fall and Winter.
If you’ve never been through the off-season in roofing sales, you may be wondering why it is more difficult. Well, here’s why…
When a hail storm is fresh, there’s an increase in movement and motivation. The average homeowner will look around and see their neighbors getting a new roof. Motivated that they might be missing out on something, they’re more likely to move on the opportunity. Insurance adjusters and roofing contractors will keep a neighborhood buzzing with activity for the first several months.
A homeowner would either have to be blind or deaf in order to miss all the activity. As the movement slows down, due to more and more people either getting a new roof or rejected for a new roof, there’s just naturally less activity. Less activity leads to even less activity.
Once you lose momentum, it is hard to get it back again.
I won’t belabor this point, but adjusters are brought in to town to do a job (e.g. inspect roofs, pay claims, etc.). Once that job is substantially done, they leave. When these adjusters leave, so does the momentum.
When the sun goes down at 9 p.m. in the summer, you can spend a lot of time out knocking in the prime hours (4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) each evening. While I personally never knock after 8 p.m., it isn’t unusual to finish up an evening appointment and then happen to meet a neighbor out walking their dog. Those casual evening sidewalk conversations flow naturally.
Unfortunately, as the sun begins to set earlier each night, so do your chances of striking up a casual evening conversation. Knocking doors is almost impossible when the skies are dark. Eventually, you’ll be out of sunlight by 5:30 or 6 p.m. each night. That doesn’t leave much time for prospecting as you watch homeowners race safely into their garages knowing you’ll never get a chance to talk to most of them.
Bears are not the only creatures that hunker down and hibernate through the winter.
The fireplaces are lit, chocolate chip cookies are in the oven and cups of steaming hot chocolate are slowly sipped while dreams of the holidays inch ever closer. When the lights and decorations go up, your name will be on the naughty list if you dare to knock that door.
Not to mention, there’s something that feels inherently wrong about getting a homeowner to open their door on a cold and windy day. They slowly crack open their front door as the cold wind rushes past you into their warm home. Dry brown leaves chase through their entry and you stand there shivering, delivering your best cold weather pitch.
Yes, it is hard to make a living during this time of year.
Nobody would blame you for going back to your old job. As a matter of fact, that’s what I usually recommend. It is much better to eat and pay your bills than to suffer through the winter hoping for another hail storm in the Spring.
Actually, there are Fall hail storms. The veteran sales guys know they’re an extra blessing. The changing weather brings with it the possibilities of extending fresh hail through the winter months.
If you’re in an area with fresh Fall hail, count yourself blessed. You might even consider moving there if you’re the type to travel because there’s nothing like working fresh hail.
Should You Work Winter?
What if there’s not a Fall hail storm?
Well, that’s going to make things more difficult. Without fresh hail, I would personally want to consider three variables before making any kind of decision about what to do about making a living in the winter.
#1 How long has it been since the last good hail storm?
#2 What percentage of roofs have been replaced?
#3 What’s the winter weather like where I’m working now?
If you’re working off a March hail storm, that’s a lot older of a storm than a June hail storm. A March storm likely won’t have much left while a June storm may have enough meat on the bones to pick at through the winter.
You know in your gut what percentage of roofs have been replaced after a storm. My general rule is that anything North of 80% means you are done. That last 20% is hard pickings. They’ll have to sell their home and fail the inspection, or start leaking, in order for you to have a shot at anything past the 80% red line.
Finally, the third variable is the weather. Some areas that are known to get a lot of hail, like Colorado, also have hard winters. It just makes sense that you can’t do a lot of roofing when there’s snow on the roof. Ice on the road makes it easy for you to catch people at home, but awfully hard to convince them to get their roof inspected.
We had a very mild winter in the Dallas area last year. As a result, our veteran guys were able to go sell and our roofers were able to roof. We were able to keep a little momentum going. It was nice for business, but the bugs this summer were terrible!
However, just a few years ago, when the Super Bowl was held in Dallas, there was ice on the road for two weeks straight. We did less than a dozen roofs all winter long. It was a very difficult time to stay in business because the weather was so bad. It isn’t usually like that around here, but it could be. You never know.
Here’s the bottom line… if you want to work through the winter, work as recent of a storm as possible where there’s plenty of roofs left to be replaced and the weather will stay good long enough to give you a fighting chance.
If you can’t do that, you should definitely go get another job until the next hail storm.
Winter Survival Truths
#1 Save Money
Obviously, that’s painfully obvious.
If you’re able to survive a few winters in roofing sales, you’ll learn to start saving money for the winter. You’ll put aside a few extra bucks when the money is flowing so you can’t pay the rent when the water is frozen.
You’ll start working through the summer with a greater sense of purpose; knowing that winter is coming will push you off the sofa when the sun is shining bright.
One of the biggest expenses we have in roofing sales is gas. Filling up the tank can be excruciating. It is like stuffing a $100 bill in a small little hole knowing you’ll never see it again… and you’ll have to stuff another one in soon.
You’ve got to save money and saving gas is the first place to start. Fire up the truck when you’ve got something to do that gives you a good shot at making money. Until then, the telephone is your best friend. Use it to set appointments, prospect and ask for referrals.
#2 Work Harder
The one exception to driving all over town is Saturday. If the sun is shining on Saturday, you’ve got to fire up the truck and work it all day long. In the winter, Saturday may only be a small window of focused opportunity, but it can provide enough combustion to get you through another week if you put enough pressure on it.
If you find something that is working (making money), don’t sleep until you’ve drained it dry of every dollar. Soon enough it will quit working, somebody else will figure it out or you’ll run out of time. You have to work harder in the winter because there’s always somebody just a little hungrier than you are.
#3 Work Smarter
Know your opportunities. Value each one according to it’s potential reward. If the potential pay is $100, don’t give it $500 worth of effort. You can afford to do that in the summer. Do that in the winter and your roofing sales career will be dead before Spring!
You’ll need to work hard regardless, but it is better to work harder on several big opportunities and miss most of them than it is to capture several small opportunities that won’t pay your bills.
Be especially careful with your margins. You can make up lost margins in the summer by turning enough volume. That isn’t true in the winter because the volume isn’t there. Be willing to walk away from marginal deals. Deals take time to sign, produce and collect.
Time is always money, but that’s especially true in the winter. It is better to spend an entire week searching for a deal with good margins than to waste a week closing out a job that only made you a few hundred dollars. Don’t do it. If you do, you’ll remember what I said.
Winter is not for the faint of heart.
If you have any doubts about your ability to make it, start looking for another job now. I’m not kidding. Nail down another opportunity while you still have enough confidence to make it through the interview… and enough gas in the tank to get there.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a step-by-step guide for surviving the winter months. Almost all of the same things that work in the summer, work in the winter. If you can’t sell by now, this isn’t the time to learn.
If you were able to sell this summer, do yourself a huge favor and write down all of the ways you made a sale this summer. Start by writing down every single customer (you do have that list, don’t you?) and the story of how you came to do business with them.
Identify your systems that worked, optimize your systems, perfect your systems. If they worked in the summer, they’ll work in the winter.
Work harder, work smarter, be wise with your money… and your time!
P.S. There’s been a lot of email lately on this topic and I want to provide as much guidance as I can before the winter gets here. Contact me by email or send a message through the Roofing Salesman Facebook page.