ROSEMONT, Ill. - Metalcon is billed as the trade show about metal construction, but this year's event could have almost been mistaken for a "green building" event.

At Metalcon's trade show, MetalForming Inc.'s Chris Rodgers shows how to use the Schlebach RBM


The so-called sustainable construction movement was everywhere throughout the Oct. 4-6 event, including a "Green Island" of environmentally friendly and renewable products on the trade show floor. Rick Fedrizzi, founder and president of the U.S. Green Building Council, gave the show's Oct. 6 keynote speech. And several sessions focused on the group's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which awards points based on the number of sustainable building practices used.

It just shows the growing acceptance and interest in the metal market, said Claire Kilcoyne, show director.

"When we started Metalcon 15 years ago, a small percent of architects and builders understood the value and beauty of metal," Kilcoyne said. "Now metal is the most sought-after building material, because it's durable, recyclable and has unlimited design possibilities. That draws a greater variety of people wanting to know more about metal and how to use it, and a broader spectrum of exhibitors to this event."

This year's show, held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill., drew more than 6,500 people. Many of the 700 exhibitors said they were pleased with this year's event, including Comeq Inc., a White Marsh, Md.-based distributor of metal-fabricating machinery.

"We got a lot of business at this show," said company salesman Don Letourneau. Comeq was exhibiting the Geka Hydracrop line of iron workers.

Organizers say more than 6,500 people attended this year's Metalcon, Oct. 4-6 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill

Sell the ‘value'

The show featured 38 seminars, including 21 new topics and speakers. As always, several sessions covered metal-roofing issues. Among them was Canadian Bill Moore-Gough of Bil-Den Home Improvement, who spoke during the Oct. 5 seminar, "Residential Metal Roofing: Selling the Value."

When trying to sell metal roofing with homeowners, Bill Moore-Gough has a few dos and don'ts:

  • Do make small talk.
  • Do try to visit every person in his or her home.
  • Do sell your company's expertise.
  • Mention available discounts, but don't give "ballpark" estimates.


Bill Moore-Gough of Bil-Den Home Improvement encouraged metal-roofing contractors to be a little flexible on price to increase sales
Moore-Gough said those rules have worked well for his Whitby, Ontario, construction company. He estimates that his company has installed close to 3,000 metal roofs on residences in the province in the last 14 years.

Since the initial price of a metal roof is typically much, much higher than an asphalt one, Moore-Gough said sales people may have to work harder to qualify leads. He instructs his staff to meet with potential customers in their homes whenever possible. It gives them a chance to make friendly conversation about how long they've been in the house and whether they plan to stay. It also gives them a chance to see how they treat their home - people who don't keep their house up are unlikely to want to buy a metal roof, Moore-Gough said.

Jerry Iselin of Tacoma, Wash.'s Metal Roof Specialties told salespeople not to be overly aggressive. He also doesn't like to discount his prices.

Qualify

Such qualifying is important, he said, not only for the company, but sales staffers as well.

"If you feel it's a real good shot, there's just that extra little charge from salespeople," he said. A proper sales presentation should take more than an hour, he added.

And every staffers sales book should include information on the company's community involvement, such as work with Habitat for Humanity, food drives or service clubs.

"The people that you're selling to love it," he said.

You should include thank-you letters from satisfied customers as well as complaints. Be sure to include copies of follow-up correspondence that shows how the problems were resolved.

"Those are worth their weight in gold," he said.

He also advised talking about the evolution of building materials: how wood siding led to aluminum, which was replaced by vinyl, or how single-pane windows were replaced by insulated thermal panes. It helps customers understand why metal roofs cost so much more than traditional asphalt ones.

However, at the end of the presentation, avoid answering customers' requests for an estimate of the project's cost, Moore-Gough said.

Ron Pegg shows how to use the SMARTcut swing-beam shear from Ras Systems. A sheet-support system safely leads blanks. The parts-sorting function moves cut pieces to the front or back.
"It took a long time for us to realize ... we were set up by our competitors" when we did that, he said, adding that customers who ask such estimates are just interested in the lowest price.

But most customers do expect a discount, he said.

"If you show them your cost, they're going to assume you have 30 percent (profit) in there," he said, adding, "It's a fine line. Nobody wants to be out there working for nothing."

Moore-Gough also said to make sure sales staff understands the roof installation process enough to talk about it knowledgeably.

"You need to know installation. It's not something you can just ‘buzz' over," he said. "You want to let consumers know that this takes a professional and you're the professionals."

If salespeople do their job, even if they gave a discount, profit margins should still be high, he said.

Another way

A later seminar, "Pricing for Profit," offered more tips on ensuring contractors make money installing metal roofs.

Jerry Iselin is president of Metal Roof Specialties Inc. in Tacoma, Wash., which he says grosses $1.8 million annually. His business model differed from Moore-Gough's. Iselin said he found it difficult to run a metal-roofing company as anything other than a stand-alone operation.

But his 27 years in the industry has led him to some surprising conclusions, he said. For example, there are a lot of opportunities in rural areas, which are often perceived to be lower income.

"There are a lot of metal-roofing contractors who are very successful in rural communities," he said.

Iselin also said he's been encouraging his salespeople to try more so-called "soft" selling.

"I believe consumers today are incredibly bright," he said. "We don't force that ‘slicker' (selling) style down their throats."

And the company does not offer discounts, he added, although Iselin said he's considering offering small ones.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail devriesj@bnpmedia.com.

Sidebar

Exhibitors show off products at trade show

There were plenty of items of interest to sheet metal contractors among the 70,000 square feet of exhibits Metalcon brought Oct. 4-6 to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill.

Among them:

Big Ass Fans, a Lexington, Ky.-based company, was promoting the Powerfoil, which features a 2-horsepower motor and a patent-pending airfoil design. Company officials say it offers enhanced efficiency and its wide-angle coverage means 17 percent fewer fans are needed to cover the same area.

North American Blocker is the distributor for the Wuko Eco Clipper, which it was showing at its booth. The Wuko fixes easily to a table or ladder, and allows for clean metal cuts, officials say.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.'s Wheeling Corrugating Division was showing its Loc-Seam steel-roofing panels and SpectraCote "cool roofing" colors. The Loc-Seam panels offer durability and easy installation, according to Wheeling, and SpectraCote offers a variety of energy-saving colors.

The CL4920C is the latest cut-to-length machine from Roper Whitney of Rockford Inc. Designed to cut sheets and blanks from steel coil, it includes feeding, slitting, straightening and cutting systems in one unit. It uses five straightening rolls for improved performance.

The TurboShear HD was the latest product from Malco Products Inc. The HD, which stands for heavy duty, allows operators to make up to 18-gauge steel cuts using just one hand. The HD cuts straight or left and fits most 14.4-volt or larger drills.