Sales and marketing are combined in the business world for a good reason. For true business success, a company needs to have sales and marketing plans that work together. Even more important, sales and marketing teams need to work closely together to find success throughout the life of a lead to convert the lead into a customer.
By equipping your sales team with strong sales and marketing tools that are consistent throughout all your marketing initiatives, your customers are exposed to a solid, unified branding experience. This creates an overall sense of trustworthiness and security during and after the sales process that helps transform customers into promoters of your company.
The customer experience
It may seem obvious, but the better your company can make the overall experience for your customer, the higher the likelihood your sales team will be able to close a sale. The customer experience starts when a potential customer is first exposed to your roofing company, often through your company's website. The journey continues when that potential customer is converted to a lead and eventually progresses to a sales call.
When your sales team is ready to meet with a potential customer, appearances matter, so be sure to supply your sales team with professional shirts bearing your company logo. Be sure your vehicles are clean and branded. A photo identification badge also adds reassurance your company is legitimate and safety-conscious.
Before an initial meeting, it also is good practice to secure and review aerial images of the property and its roof system. Aerial imagery reports can be powerful marketing tools for your sales team. Customers are impressed when your company takes the time to use available technology to prepare for on-site visits by researching the properties and identifying potential areas of concern. By preparing ahead of time, your salesperson will not be caught off guard on-site by a roof that presents special challenges.
During the appointment, your salesperson should invite the customer to walk around the outside of the property or, in the case of a commercial property, join the building owner on the roof as long as there is safe access to the roof. This provides an opportunity to verify concerns that previously may have been identified through aerial imagery and also offers a chance to review and educate the customer regarding what has been seen on the roof and how it will be handled to his or her greatest benefit.
Customers want to do business with a company that will be there long after the job is complete. They want a company they can trust to address any issues that may arise and one that will be there to handle routine service calls. During sales visits, share information about your company's service and maintenance programs and be prepared to review manufacturers' warranties that accompany the roofing products being discussed for their projects. Build trust and assure the customer the company will continue to offer excellent service for a long time by sharing the history of your business along with testimonials from satisfied customers.
Close the sale
Every salesperson wants a one-trip close, but sometimes it doesn't happen. This is why follow-up is critical. The more touch points your company has with a customer, the higher the chance of closing the sale. A customer's experience from his or her initial inquiry through the sales call sets the tone along with the expectation of how the job will proceed if he or she chooses to hire your company. If there is no follow-up after the initial meeting, it could leave a bad impression in the customer's mind regarding how the installation experience will proceed.
An email immediately following the presentation is a nice touch. Simply thanking the customer for his or her time and mentioning something unique or interesting that was discussed during the visit related to the common ground that was established helps add a personal touch. For example, share a link to a website that is of mutual interest or may be a good resource for the customer. Links to a manufacturer's website and potentially a visualizer tool can be included in the email, as well as a copy of the image that was taken of the home or building from the curb. Emailing soon after an appointment shows responsiveness and provides one more chance to strengthen the relationship.
The sales call is a reflection of your company's brand, and if it does not mirror your marketing and operations standards, it will cause confusion, even if only on a subliminal level, with the customer. When branding is consistent throughout a customer's experience, it develops a deep sense of trust and loyalty.
Evaluating the customer experience on an ongoing basis creates an opportunity to work with the sales and marketing teams to determine what is being done correctly and what could be done better. Also review how the use of technology throughout the sales process is making for a better customer experience while differentiating your business.
Most customers are tech-savvy and want to work with companies that can communicate with them in the manner they prefer—whether in person, on the telephone, through email or text, or even social media. Be sure to equip your employees with the right tools, such as smartphones and/or tablets, to enable them to work and communicate effectively and rapidly from the field. Many contractors carry Bluetooth printers in their trucks to provide paper copies of proposals if requested.
Sales tools also should be evaluated regularly. Does your company have a standard presentation style and process followed by each salesperson? Does it mirror your marketing efforts and branding? Taking the time to evaluate the tools your sales team uses and periodically reviewing them for branding, professionalism and consistency is critical for creating an overall excellent impression of your company.
After the sale
After a job has been sold and the installation is complete, it's important to maintain an ongoing relationship with your customer. Ideally, you want to turn your best customer into a promoter—someone who raves about your company. Maintaining customer relationships is an important part of gaining referrals, testimonials and recommendations that will help build your business and make your customers the best part of your sales team.
In the residential roofing arena, some may think that because a homeowner already has a new roof on his or her home, he or she isn't going to need another roof for about 20 years. In this case, why would a roofing company nurture such a relationship? Because maintaining a relationship will lead to more business—not necessarily from that homeowner but from his or her friends, family and colleagues.
In 2013, The Nielsen Co.'s Trust in Advertising report found word-of-mouth recommendations are the most influential with 84 percent of respondents across 58 countries indicating word-of-mouth recommendations are the most trusted source when choosing business services.
By staying in contact with a building owner or homeowner, your company remains top of mind. When a friend or family member is in need of a roof system repair or replacement, that customer will be happy to recommend your company that just installed a quality roof system with no hassle. In fact, he or she probably will share the name of your salesperson because it was such a great experience. The goal is to have your customers talking about your company first, driving interest and trust.
Understanding how to stay in touch with a customer after a job is completed is important for the marketing team. There are many ways to accomplish this, but perhaps the easiest is to be sure to ask customers to sign up for seasonal or quarterly e-newsletters. Once signed up, keep customers interested by showing them your company is part of their communities by highlighting community service and employee accomplishments. It also is fun to include some nonroofing-related topics such as spring-cleaning shortcuts or sharing an employee's favorite recipe. Keeping the topics broad will appeal to a wider audience with varying interests.
Every customer's touch point is an opportunity to sell. Use periodic emails as a vehicle to offer referral bonuses to former customers. When a job is sold to a referral, give the customer a $50 gift card and offer the referred customer a $50 discount.
In addition to informational emails that are sent a few times per year, send special ones for various holidays. For example, send a happy Fourth of July email and share some fireworks safety tips, such as the importance of keeping backyard fireworks far away from a roof. In the months leading up to Christmas, why not pick a handful of customers each week and send them an email to let them know the measurements of their homes' or storefronts' rooflines to make buying Christmas lights easier for them, and be sure to mention to be careful installing lights on the roof so they do not damage the roof or, better yet, call you for help. They'll appreciate the personal touch, and they will tell people about it, creating word-of-mouth buzz for your company.
Whether commercial or residential, another great way to stay in front of your customers and make them even larger promoters of your company is through a service and maintenance program. Incorporating a service program facilitates keeping in touch with customers, at least twice per year, to schedule inspections and cleanings. The marketing team can keep them up-to-date with new initiatives or possibly additional services for their properties.
For past and future customers, regular emails also are a great way to sell maintenance programs. Educate homeowners or business owners about the importance of roof maintenance, whether cleaning gutters or prepping roofs for the changing seasons. Be sure to let them know about maintenance programs that can provide support to easily complete important tasks for them. Consider adding an offer such as a discount if they mention they learned about the program through a newsletter.
Be sure to ask customers to provide testimonials. The easiest way is to send a customer a thank-you email after a job is complete. Include a link to a simple feedback page that asks no more than five questions and provides a space for free-form answers. You may want to ask questions such as the following:
Add a checkbox at the end of the survey that is by default checked and indicates permission to use comments on your website or in social media. After testimonials are captured, be sure to use them! Keep in mind not every review will be positive. But negative feedback will provide your company the opportunity to address any issues within your teams and also to re-establish a good relationship with an unhappy customer.
Social media is where you share your company's excellent performance and work with the rest of the world! Be sure to gather before and after photos of customers' homes or businesses. Include a statement in service contracts that grants permission from the building owners or homeowners to your company to publish before and after photos of their properties. Positive statements in feedback forms are great to include with a post along with the before and after photos to showcase your company's great work.
Highlighting employees through marketing and social media also can create additional customer interest. These are the teams that sell, reroof and take care of your customers' properties. Customers build relationships with your employees and want to know how they are doing. Providing that window into the business can lead to the creation of long-term relationships with customers. Through social media, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with customers and create a social aspect with already good business relationships.
Make your business shine
Creating and maintaining promoters is an ongoing endeavor. Take the time to look at what your company is doing now to maintain relationships. Is contact consistent and engaging, or is it a bit overdone and annoying?
Be sure your marketing department is working with not only your sales team but also your service team and all managers to capture exciting customer testimonials or experiences. Attracting and keeping customers is what your marketing team should be doing, and closing sales should be your sales team's specialty. Together these teams will help transform customers into promoters that will help make your business shine.
Heidi J. Ellsworth is owner of HJE Consulting Group, Camp Sherman, Ore.