One man's trash is another man's treasure. Isn't that how the old saying goes? Perhaps that explains why some contractors frown at a forecast of inclement weather while others rejoice. Bad weather hinders the typical replacement contractor. Postponed or delayed installations, cancelled canvassing shifts, and weak attendance at outdoor events are all valid reasons to be disheartened by rain, hail, wind, or the wrath of severe storms. On the other hand, a certain type of remodeling contractor, often referred to as a "storm chaser," celebrates snowstorms, looks forward to rain, and prays for hail, the heavier the better. That's because this type of contractor has a systematic approach to marketing and selling storm-restoration contracts. They're able to market and sell such contracts for a full year following the date of damage to the property. In many cases storm chasers generate upward of a million dollars in profitable contracts from a single severe storm.

Beyond Misconceptions

So if that's the case, why don't more contractors take advantage of this opportunity? They're held back by misconceptions that have them believing it would be difficult to adopt and assimilate storm-restoration work in their current business model. Here are the two biggest misconceptions:

  1. Margins are too narrow to make a reasonable profit. This may be true if you're analyzing it from the standpoint of what you currently pay marketers, salespeople, and installers. But in the world of storm damage, you have insurance companies with systems for fairly compensating contractors for the work they'll need to perform. They typically use a software program called Xactimate, which methodically calculates the fair market value that insurance companies are willing to pay homeowners as reimbursement. And although this replacement payment is often far less than some retail contractors typically charge, the cost of sale is far lower and so yields respectable profits. There are large and profitable organizations all over the U.S. that make insurance work their primary focus.
  2. The process is wholly foreign to what I do and know. Storm chasers go to market using similar marketing methods, such as canvassing, telemarketing, billboards, and the like. But the message they send is entirely different. Take a minute to listen to a recording of this cold call I made while working with a storm-restoration contractor. This type of unique marketing message is based on a free damage inspection versus a free estimate. The sales process is also different. The steps to the sale begin when the salesperson arrives to perform the inspection. He or she comes equipped with a ladder and a digital camera to thoroughly inspect and document potentially damaged areas. The key is to look for damage or anything that looks like damage, new or old. Often contractors are able to get old damage approved because there's no way to prove one way or the other exactly when the damage occurred.

How to Sell a Storm Job

Once damage has been found it's time to show this to the homeowner. Explain that it's important to take corrective measures to get the repairs made immediately. Address the homeowner's fear of loss, and use the new roof as their hope for gain. Take control of the situation. Ask the homeowner to locate the name and contact information of their insurance agent so you can have them schedule a time for the adjuster to come out and investigate the claim. It's imperative for the salesperson to be there when the adjuster comes out. In many cases, your presence alone will lend credence to your cause. In other scenarios it may be necessary to point out your discoveries to increase the overall dollar amount that the insurance company is willing to award.

This often results in the insurance company approving the claim and releasing at least a portion of the funds to the homeowner or contractor. The smart salesperson will have acquired a written commitment for the business prior to the meeting with the adjuster, so that the remaining paperwork is just a formality.Obviously this business model is different in many ways from that of most replacement contractors. Don't let that scare you. It's a profitable business proposition if you understand and are willing to master the differences. For those who do, there's a huge opportunity to develop a separate division that handles strictly storm restoration. One or two marketers and a well-trained salesperson could yield an additional million dollars or more in annual revenue. Not to mention the addition of another hundred or so satisfied customers grateful for renovations made at the insurance company's expense. That's one hundred cross-selling opportunities.

?Sales and marketing consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company salesperson and owner. E-mail him or call him at 888.447.3969.