Mike Damora is the sales manager at Roeland Home Improvers, a roofing, siding, and window company in Rockaway, N.J. Roeland employs three salespeople and has embraced the iPad in its sales presentations.

Replacement Contractor: A few years ago you put a plan into effect to change the way people at your company sell. What's different about how you sell now?

Mike Damora: We've gotten away from typical tactics of price drops. We want the homeowner's sole incentive to be that they see the value of what we bring to the table and see our expertise. We're selling our workmanship, our customer service, and the management of their job from cradle to grave. The focus is on design — not a transaction but a happy customer for life.

RC: You've also made technology central to selling?

MD: We used to use laptops but not as standard practice. About two years ago the owner of the company, Arnold Roeland, gave me an iPad as a thank you for a great month. I took it home and I thought: You know ... this thing would be really good for in-home selling.

A week later I had my photos and presentation materials on the iPad.

Digital Advantage

RC: How did that change things?

MD: Like a lot of people in the industry, we like to show clients a lot of before and after pictures. But keeping an updated photo file is time consuming and a pain in the neck. Now everything is digital.

You take a digital picture. The quality is superb. You put your pictures on the iPad. Instead of sorting and updating twice a year, you can do it as often as you want. All our salespeople have them. They all share data. It's immediate, cost effective, and timely.

RC: Is your sales presentation different because of the iPad?

MD: One big difference is that you have a congruent story from one house to the next. It's a story that's always going to be the same. It keeps the reps in sync.

The portability is a huge advantage. If you're in a Wi-Fi area, for instance, and I need to send you something, say a picture of the house you're going to, I can do that. And it resonates with homeowners because you're not carrying in photo books, a presentation book, all these extra collateral materials. You walk in with a clipboard and an iPad.

Design Focus

RC: What else has changed?

MD: We often plan for two visits, and sometimes three. Our salespeople are called design consultants. They email the homeowner before they go to the house. They send a picture of themselves and some information about the company, including links to online reviews.

We don't tell a company story because we're an Internet company and they've done that research. They know about us before we ever walk in the door. Besides that there are more important things to talk about when we get to the house.

RC: Such as?

MD: Design. What's the best thing for the house and what we can do for the homeowner. That first meeting might be 15 minutes or half an hour long, tops. We rely heavily on design software.

RC: So you're not closing on the first visit at all?

MD: It depends on the product. We do roofing, siding, windows, and kitchens and baths. If it's a roof, for instance, that's simple. That's where the iPad comes in. If it's a roofing job, we would have measured the roof electronically, using Pictometrycbtardcfwwbueawrytyd. I take that photo and put it on the iPad. When I'm there, I say: This is your house and then I show them the aerial view. I show how many squares the roof is.

We have a [Microsoft] PowerPoint [presentation] that consists of about 10 slides. And 85% of the time we do an attic inspection.

iPad Learning Curve

RC: Was there resistance from your salespeople to using iPads?

MD: The reps all took to the iPad. It's an effective tool. The learning curve is back at the office when the design consultant puts together the proposal. We currently use three different design programs. So reps need to put in estimating results, design the job, and send the proposal.

RC: What kind of educational process has this involved?

MD: You need some basic understanding of how to use word processing, email, and MarketSharp  [CRM software].

It sounds simple, but you get someone in his mid-40s to mid-50s who wasn't on that tech wave and just knows how to do basic things and it can be like asking him to do Chinese algebra. So you have to spend time and teach [salespeople] how to use [the technology], and test them — which nobody likes to do.

RC: How does design capability translate to sales advantage?

MD: We start by asking a few questions. For instance, what do you like about the current exterior cladding? The No. 1 answer is: I don't like anything.

We ask why they want new siding. It could be to enhance curb appeal, because it offers a good return-on-investment, [because they want it to be] maintenance-free, to update the house, or all of that.

We take a digital photo and come back with some design concepts based on the conversation. Then we start an email dialogue. Whatever changes the homeowner wants are a mouse click away.

With kitchens, when I'm done designing it on CAD, I send the homeowner a link and then walk them through the new kitchen, looking at ceilings, floors, tile.

RC: What's the effect of this on your closing rate?

MD: You see less people, and you run fewer leads, but because of the technology your average sale goes up dramatically. Bigger ticket, bigger margin. It's all in the design work. Do they always go for the upsells? Some do.

But if you don't persuade people to step up now, they may in addition to a new roof want that siding job in six months or a year. So it's not about tonight's transaction, it's about repeat and referral.