Dave Yoho: Why Sell Metal Roofing

Metal roofing positions itself as the fastest-growing product for reroofing.

September 02, 2014
Why Sell Metal Roofing

Today, there are shingles, shakes, and panels that look like slate or tile, all made of specially engineered metal. Homeowners are responding in a positive way to the diversity of appearance and their durability.
 

How long has metal roofing been in use?

A Buddhist temple built in the third century in Sri Lanka was roofed with copper shingles. The Pantheon, a major tourist attraction in Rome, was built in 27 B.C. with a copper tile and plate roof that was reroofed 1,000 years later. It yielded 200 tons of copper and 4 tons of copper nails (How’s that for monumental recycling?).

So what took it so long to become popular?

During the 1980s metal roofs were mostly installed on commercial properties—churches, industrial buildings, and barns. Home builders had access to inexpensive, effective roofing materials made from asphalt. In those days about 2 percent of residential roofs were metal, mostly “standing seam” or vertical metal panels joined with a raised seam. Asphalt roofing shingles were the product of choice, and when a roof needed replacing, it was usually with asphalt. Metal roofing was considered a choice for upscale, custom homes or for those with upscale budgets.

During the 90s the price of petroleum products rose—along with it asphalt (a petroleum product) became more expensive, narrowing the price difference between metal and asphalt roofing. At the same time manufacturers of metal roofing started introducing new types of modular products—distinctly different from traditional agricultural roofing or standing seam panels.

Today, there are shingles, shakes, and panels that look like slate or tile, all made of specially engineered metal. Homeowners are responding in a positive way to the diversity of appearance and their durability.

Who promotes and markets metal roofing today?

A driving force behind the popularity and use of metal roofing is the Metal Roofing Alliance, a Washington-based association.

“The growing interest and appeal of residential metal roofing is not an overnight success story,” says Tom Black, executive director of MRA. “We have an ongoing series of television ads directed at residential homeowners—showing the advancement of metal roofing and its many color and design options. These produce consumer leads which we forward to our contractor members. A new consumer-directed book, ‘Above All You Need A Great Roof,’ will go on sale in mid-September.”

MRA also produced a training series for contractors dedicated to “best practices” when selling metal roofing to residential homeowners.

“Sales and marketing methods were also developed to aid those without a roofing background, who can be taught the methods for running a profitable roofing division in an existing remodeling and home improvement company,” Black says.

John Kailian, president of Appleby Window Systems, a 40-year-old replacement window company in York, Pa., says, “We sold two or three asphalt roofs a year through each of our offices, but we never saw asphalt shingles as a major part of our product mix.”

MRA provided Appleby with leads, training videos, and a measuring and estimating system. Appleby also became licensed to use a special inspection kit and an electronic “in-home” presentation.

“Programs were designed by those who had an understanding of how mid-size-to-large companies with marketing and salespeople operate,” Kailian says.

Why invest in a business unrelated to your product?

“We know the window business, we own our own factory—we have a customer base and brand recognition,” Kailian says. “We attended an MRA program and met the manufacturer members of MRA, in addition to the educational materials they provide a manufacturer, which aided us in finding reliable subcontractors with years of experience to install the work we sold.”

“There are startup issues but once you get past the early learning curve, it operates like the other aspects of our business,” Kailian says. “The roofs are distinct in design and color. The fourth one we installed brought us a lead from a neighbor who was intrigued by the roof that looked like slate but was in fact metal. Frankly, we like selling a product which is lesser known. It gives us a sense of exclusivity—our asphalt roofing business was very competitive, while metal roofing gives us a decisive edge in our market.”

An opportunity for those not in the roofing business

Most calls to a roofing company come right after it rains. Every call is an emergency. Roofing companies love rain because it drives business. A leaking roof is every homeowner’s nightmare. Right up there with termites, a septic tank backing up, or faulty wiring. Homeowners think about the roof as little as possible, usually when it becomes a problem. Yet wouldn’t it be a good idea for homeowners to know when it might be getting ready to become a problem? The roof leak that reaches the point where water is coming into the house is serious. If left unchecked, water from that leak will stain sheet rock, warp floors, and ruin insulation. Plus, the possibility of mold has its own special headache.

A leak means either repair the roof or replace it. It’s far wiser to replace the roof when it’s in the last few years of its life than when it’s leaking.

Using roof and attic inspection to build the lead

There are companies that offer energy inspections advising homeowners how to save money by making their home energy-efficient. There are home inspectors who offer a service when a property is bought or sold to detect problems which may exist. Wise marketers of metal roofing offer inspections without charge—they can detect problems before they arise, then alert owners to conditions which can be corrected and will avoid more serious problems.

MRA produces a “customer care” oriented inspection format called Home Efficiency Loss Prevention (HELP, see PDFs below for more information). Companies are taught how to perform the inspections with effective, inexpensive tools that they can buy on their own.

A prime example of success with metal roofing is American Metal Roofs of Flint, Mich. Frank Farmer, president of AMR, was employed as a sales manager, then vice president of sales, for a large company selling windows, siding, and sunrooms. Approximately 14 years ago, Farmer founded his company, which sells and installs metal roofing only. His customer base comes from the same demographic to which he once sold windows.

“Each inspection uses a formatted report which takes up to 30 or 40 minutes to perform,” Farmer says. “This is followed by a ‘step method’ presentation, which includes findings of the inspection. We don’t attempt to sell a roof. We present a ‘roofing system’ which includes special underlays, our own ice-and-water shield protection program, and special mouldings and finish trim which we produce in our warehouse. Metal roofing is our only business, and we researched the market when we started and continue to research the needs of homeowners who will face reroofing decisions now or soon. We started over 10 years ago, and this year we are headed for $8 million in revenue.”

ABC Seamless Siding, Fargo, N.D., has four company-owned offices and 90 licensee offices operating under its brand name. The company has been in business for almost 40 years with thousands of customers in its database.

“We sell steel siding which is formed on the jobsite, yet we resisted going into roofing because of the higher workers’ comp rate,” says Lee Wegner, vice president of ABC. “All of that changed about four or five years ago. Now we produce steel roofing panels as well, our product is distinctive, ‘without seams,’ and offers various Energy Star-rated colors.”

Today, ABC Seamless Siding has a separate sales force, all trained by use of the Metal Roofing Alliance training system. The company sets appointments utilizing the H.E.L.P. inspection form acquired from MRA, and all specialists are trained to make inside (attic or crawlspace) inspections.

“Once we got past the indoctrination stage, metal roofing became an exciting part of our business; this expansion utilizing an independent sales team has created a major increase in our business,” Wegner says.

These examples are only a few of those companies who have developed a position in their individual markets that identifies them as successful marketers of an investment-grade roofing. PR
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Dave Yoho is president of the oldest, largest, and most successful consulting company representing the remodeling/home improvement industry. He has authored several business books including a forthcoming book entitled, “Above All You Need A Great Roof.” For more information, email: Dave@DaveYoho.com.

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