Competition was getting tough, so he'd decided to make some changes. On the marketing side, they involved new methods of generating leads and better lead tracking. On the selling end, the sales process itself was revamped. Reps would first inspect the attic for moisture damage from leaks or inadequate ventilation, then climb a ladder to measure. Inspecting the attic let the company position for service and expertise.

In addition, no longer would reps scribble a price on the back of an envelope or a business card and just drop it through the mail slot. Instead, after inspecting and measuring, they would prepare a detailed proposal and arrange to sit down and discuss it with the customer.

These changes produced a near-instant uptick in both leads and sales. Not everyone, however, was happy about them. One salesman in particular proved resistant. When the owner, for instance, took the salesforce to a series of marketing and selling seminars, the salesman got up and walked out.

“They asked everybody to take a seat at a table to talk about some topic and he just said he wasn't into it,” the owner says. “We looked around and he was gone.”

The salesman told the owner he didn't have time to make attic inspections, and that customers didn't know or care one way or the other. “I'll do it if the customer asks me,” he told the owner.

“What customer is going to ask you to do an attic inspection?” the owner shot back. “I want an attic inspection performed with every estimate.”

The salesman was someone who had once owned his own roofing company. He'd gone out of business in a recession, then worked for the owner on and off for almost a decade. He was the leading man on the salesforce and was taking home six figures.

Still, he continued doing things the old way. “I would hand him a 3 o'clock appointment, and I'd come in at three in the afternoon and he'd be sitting [in the office],” the owner says. “He didn't want to meet face-to-face with customers. I was paying $200 a lead, and he was wasting my money.”

It was suggested that the salesman change or move on. He moved on.

After he left, the owner says, the sales organization became “more team-oriented” and “the whole pulse of the company became better.” In addition, the numbers — sales ratios and volume — increased for the other reps.

“He'd been making me unhappy,” the owner says, “and making the team unhappy.” The owner's one mistake, he says, was waiting so long to let him go.

Jim Cory