Sales success secrets

A roofing contractor shares how he built a successful sales team

On Sept. 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma impacted southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane bringing destructive winds and damaging flooding. Our sales territory was turned into shambles, and it seemed as though every homeowner and building owner in the area was scrambling for help. Within four weeks, we had received 26,800 requests for estimates or emergency repairs. At the time, our sales team consisted of five people who were completely overwhelmed. The immediate steps we took proved successful and led to more than 10,000 jobs. Here is how we transformed our sales team into a highly effective division.

Customer service

The first thing we did was make our dedicated customer service representatives part of the sales team to help with customer communications, sales response and follow-up. A local Marriott hotel was all but destroyed after the hurricane, and many hotel employees were furloughed and left scrambling for jobs. We hired about 20 of them to join our customer service team. Customer service was once the place onboarding started for office positions, but now it needed to become the best-run department in the company. Here are a few of the key changes we made:

  • All calls, faxes, company emails and digital communications came into the customer service team as a distribution center for communications. This provided a check and balance to ensure no messages were lost or dropped.
  • We created an estimate call script, organized information and developed expectations for a positive sales experience between salespeople and customers.
  • Our salespeople were given three-hour blocks to perform estimates and sales presentations. Depending on the type of estimate, repair versus reroof and location, the time block could be shortened by an hour allowing either a three- or four-hour block per day. The time between blocks allowed for follow-up calls and visits, email replies and other administrative items so salespeople did not fall behind or use time off trying to catch up.
  • All appointments were confirmed 24 hours in advance. If a customer did not provide a positive confirmation, the appointment was pulled and another put in its place. This kept our salespeople efficient with no unnecessary downtime.
  • Salespeople could not change anything on their schedules. Everything was handled by customer service. This prevented double-booking and allowed for prioritization of activities.
  • Customer service representatives trained one hour per week to ensure their skills were sharp and consistent. Once per month, the training was with our sales trainer to ensure maximum effectiveness.
  • Estimates were put on salespeople’s calendars the night before by the sales manager. Similar to a football team, the sales manager put the right player in the right position for the right play. Based on roof type and service mix, the sales manager could assign a salesperson who had been on a hot streak selling a lot of shingle reroofs, for example.
  • The customer service team called each customer the day after an estimate to ensure the salesperson followed the steps we require at all estimates and to gather the customer’s satisfaction. No selling or attempt to sell is performed on this call; it is simply to check on the salesperson’s performance. If a salesperson falls short of expectations, a new appointment is set with another salesperson.

Sales managers

By far, the sales manager position is the most difficult and most important position to fill. These are the hardest-working, most dynamic individuals in my company. They must be disciplined, personable, relentless, eager and socially smart. To run a truly efficient organization, a company’s sales win rate should be between 40-60% and have the highest pricing in the market. To achieve this level of perfection, a sales manager works more hours than anyone else and is never off duty. Here are some of our sales managers’ key duties and responsibilities:

  • Assigning leads must not be delegated. No one knows a sales team’s capabilities better than its sales manager. It takes intimate knowledge of the territory, salespeople and market environment to assign leads so an instant connection occurs with a customer. By assigning leads every night, a sales manager can maximize lead win rates by putting the right salesperson in the right place at the right time.
  • A sales manager does not sell, ever. A sales manager is compensated based solely on what the sales team sells. There is a partnership that occurs between the sales manager and the salespeople, and they are equally focused on success.
  • Tag teaming estimates is the primary way a sales manager can see how each salesperson is performing. By accompanying a salesperson on an estimate, a sales manager will increase the chance of winning the job because he or she can help guide the conversation and pick up where the salesperson is missing a customer cue. The goal is to spend time with salespeople who need more training, but each should be evaluated every other week at a minimum. No fewer than nine tag teams are performed each week by my sales managers.
  • Training meetings occur two to three times per week and are completely focused on the sales process, not housekeeping. The topic usually is focused on what the sales manager found needs work. The entire team is engaged, and scenarios are rehearsed. This way, everyone learns. Training meetings start on time and end on time.
  • Although able to be delegated, the sales scorecard is the sales manager’s responsibility to maintain. These numbers indicate where to spend more time. Looking for any drop in numbers, a sales manager will spend more time with that poorly performing salesperson until the numbers are on a positive trend. People are not perfect, and it is difficult to maintain a high level of discipline long-term. A sales manager is there to notice a rut before it is deep and pull a salesperson out of it early.

Recruiting and training

Despite traditional roles, I would never let a human resources manager hire a salesperson. Most new hires come from a sales team referral. We have found great success with recent college graduates who played collegiate-level team sports. One might believe it is because they are likely to have the desire to win, and that could be part of it. However, I believe the real reason is they are used to practicing.

We practice two or three times per week, and we need individuals who value training and use it at game time. Having no prior roofing experience is a requirement. Talent, work ethic and discipline are the main attributes we look for in a salesperson. Our training program takes about two weeks per roof system, two weeks for our processes, two weeks for our sales system and two weeks for shadowing. Because we install several types of roof systems, our training typically lasts 12 weeks before a salesperson is released to run his or her own leads. This is much longer than most sales training systems and is quite an investment. We believe the results are worth it.


As mentioned, sales managers are paid a percentage of what their sales team sells with no salary or base. Each salesperson is given a salary during training. It is ridiculously small and not something someone could live on. That pay level is maintained until their monthly commissions exceed training pay. At that point, they are moved to full commission. So often pay systems are made extraordinarily complicated and create confusion. Paying off the gross sales amount makes it easy to calculate and keeps the salesperson’s focus on the customer, not on how much money he or she will possibly make. We have been running this sales pay system since 2004 and believe it is the best compensation structure for sales.


The sales managers decide all marketing efforts. This is not to say our sales managers do marketing. Rather, sales managers must approve and have input into marketing campaigns. Because sales managers are out in towns, up on roofs, reviewing each won and lost job, talking to the sales teams, listening to estimate calls, talking directly to customers, pricing jobs, etc., they know what is working and what is not.

In my company, I run the marketing functions. Together, our sales manager and I meet every Monday at 9 a.m. for 30 minutes to review marketing projects and plans before meeting with our marketing agency at 9:30 a.m. This constant focus on sales and marketing prevents the blame game that can occur when goals are not met.

A stronger team

Through adversity comes strength. We are proud of our sales performance, and without strong sales managers, this would not have been possible. Most of the ideas I discuss were learned from the Rodney Webb Buy-Limbic Sales System, I encourage you to consider implementing the system and see how it can improve your sales efforts.

Ken Kelly is president of Kelly Roofing, Naples, Fla.

For an article related to this topic, see “Under your influence.”


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