Attendees wait for the Feb. 22 opening of the International Roofing Expo at Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. About 6,900 attended this year’s event. Image courtesy of International Roofing Expo.

NEW ORLEANS - Unseasonably chilly and windy weather didn’t seem to affect attendees of this year’s International Roofing Expo. Maybe, like much of the city, they wanted to celebrate the recent upset victory of the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Maybe they just wanted to go somewhere at least a little warmer than their hometowns. Maybe they just wanted to party on anything-goes Bourbon Street. But attendees proved they were still happy to get away for a few days in the Big Easy.

Official attendance for the Feb. 22-24 show at the Morial Convention Center was 6,915. This was the first roofing expo held in New Orleans, although sponsor the National Roofing Contractors Association held its annual convention there in 2003.

In a time when the construction industry overall is facing 25 percent unemployment, show organizers said they were happy with the turnout.

“We are very pleased with the number of attendees and with the enthusiasm they brought to the buying and selling activity on the show floor,” said expo director Donna Bellantone. “Exhibitors enjoyed the steady traffic as they introduced hundreds of new and innovative products to high-caliber decision makers.”

The 2010 International Roofing Expo had a section dedicated to metal roofing suppliers.
The views of those perusing the show aisles as attendees were similar.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few new innovations and improved products at the show,” said Roger A. Wallace of Architectural Metal Roofing Sales. “This was well worth the trip and I do intend on attending the next show.”

Derek Lindsey of Infinity Roofing & Siding Inc. said he saw the industry’s future at the International Roofing Expo.

“The show was a great success this year.  There were a number of new exhibitors that are sure to play a role in ‘the next generation of roofing,’ ” said Derek Lindsey of Infinity Roofing & Siding Inc. “The new technology was simply amazing.”

Many attendees said they were equally impressed with the 43 educational seminars organizers offered.

“I found this year’s seminars really beneficial,” said Douglas Yeaman of Pacific Tech Construction.  “In this difficult economy the more knowledge and information I have, the better prepared I will be to keep my business going.”

Keith R. Keller of Roofing Solutions LLC said all workers from his company learned something at the show.

“Everyone from our field staff to the executive level came away with more knowledge,” he said. “It was truly worthwhile.”

Contractors discuss sheet metal and metal roofing machinery at the Tennsmith booth, part of the expo’s “metal marketplace.”

New exhibitors

This year brought 380 exhibitors to the expo’s trade show - 77 of which were first timers or companies that had not exhibited in more than three years. More than 91,000 square feet of exhibit space was used for the show.

A number of longtime exhibiting companies said they were happy with this year’s show.

“Both the quantity and sincere interest level of the attendees at the IRE was excellent this year,” said Kate Baumann of Mule-Hide Products. “We have exhibited for 25 years and this was one of the best shows for Mule-Hide Products.”

Jack Henderson of DCI Products agreed.

“The quality of the attendees at the (expo) was extremely impressive,” he said. “The enthusiasm we experienced by the attendees to get the country back on track with home improvements and construction in general was equally as impressive.”

Larry Devitt (right), marketing manager with Hart & Cooley’s Commercial Products Group, talks about the company’s new four-by-four skylight, which debuted at the International Roofing Expo.

Why people buy

One popular session was hosted by motivational speaker and business consultant Paul Montelongo Feb. 23. A former roofing worker who is now running his seventh company, his session, “Selling Value Rather Than Price,” started off by explaining why most customers buy from a company.

Sometimes, it’s price, he said. Other times, it’s because they like you. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re only competing with other roofing companies for customers.

According to Montelongo, you are competing against Ritz-Carlton hotels, Starbucks coffee outlets, Mercedes-Benz dealers and even Southwest Airlines for the public’s money.

“These companies have influenced customer service to a whole new level,” he said.

The U.S. government may say the country is in a bad recession, but Montelongo isn’t buying it.

“Recession is a state of mind,” he said. “Prosperity still abounds. It’s up to you to find it.”

To prove the point, Montelongo mentioned CityCenter, a 16.8 million-square-foot, $11 billion development that opened late last year on the Las Vegas Strip. The development contains 4,800 hotel rooms and 2,400 condominium units. It opened despite the United States and Las Vegas suffering through the worst recession in decades. 

Business consultant Paul Montelongo told roofing contractors Feb. 23 that they are competing against the best purveyors of customer service.

Ensuring value

The key, Montelongo said, is to ensure buyers see value in your product or services.

“Most salespeople and business owners only think they know what merit their business has,” he said. “I don’t care what business you’re in. You’re selling the perception of value.”

For example, compare a Timex watch to a Rolex, he said. Both keep accurate time, but the Rolex is a status symbol that costs thousands more than the common Timex. The value of a Rolex, despite the cost, is worth it to its target buyers.

Roofing contractors need to create a similar value in the minds of customers.

“Perception is for sale,” Montelongo said. “The greater the perception of value that you can build for your product in the mind of the consumer, the more you can charge.”

Contractors who think the market sets prices are wrong, he added.

“You demand the price,” he said. But to do that, you must create “an outrageously blatant, memorable experience.”

Demonstrate value by over-delivering on your promises. If you say you’ll complete a project in 24 hours, get it done in eight. It will impress customers, and they remember how you make them feel more than what you say. 

Another way to show value, he added, is to establish yourself as an expert in the industry.

“People want to do business with experts,” Montelongo said. Interactions with them are memorable.

He suggested writing for local newspapers and industry trade magazines to establish your expertise.

On average, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice or study to become an expert on something, Montelongo said. Even if you don’t quite have that much experience, your customers could still consider you an expert, at least when compared with what they know on a topic.

But you’ll likely need to do more. If most companies in your area send salespeople dressed in dirty jeans and T-shirts, have your company’s workers show up in business suits.

“You will attract what you project,” he said.

For reprints of this article, contact Jill DeVries at (248) 244-1726 or e-mail