Drone to 1K Season 2 / Episode 2: Sinuhe Montoya from DroneQuote

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Sinuhe is Founder of DroneQuote a company that specializes in helping roofing and solar companies better understand what’s happening on a roof through drone survey imagery.

Sinuhe started working installing solar panels on new roofs for residential and commercial purposes. He had to get on roofs to take measurements and conduct surveys and was afraid of heights. In thinking there had to be a better way, he bought a small drone with a camera and started seeing potential and benefits such as being able to:

  • Take far more accurate measurements and SELL better
  • Get a better understanding of what was happening on the roof AND save time
  • Pay more attention to details because fear of falling didn’t prevent him from noticing details
  • Stay SAFER!

“My first $100 drone was very rudimentary; it taught me how to fly a drone and allowed me to open my mind to the concept of utilizing a drone. There was an opportunity and I learned from it.”

When Sinuhe learned he could transmit an image to a receiver, he needed something more sophisticated, so, in February 2014, he sold his motorcycle to buy a real TBS (Team Black Sheep) drone for $3,400. That first drone lasted until the day he crashed into a pine tree, falling 30 feet to the ground and smashing it into smithereens. Lesson learned for anyone just starting to get into drones…don’t overestimate your confidence because you will pay through the nose!”

David:  So, at that point, you’re working for a solar installer and using the drone to make your life easier in your current job, right?

Yes. The drone, Sinuhe says, enabled him to generate more sales, which made him more sales commission by using it—it paid for itself—but his company wasn’t paying for him to have it.

“I realized that I had something on my hands that nobody was using for that purpose. I was also speaking with well-to-do clientele. When I entered a house whose living room was the size of my entire house, I shifted from trying to sell solar to learning what that person did to be successful.”

Almost everyone said they became successful by starting a business. The seed was planted and Sinuhe started saving money to start a business. It took him two years to get his ducks in a row and leave his company to set out on his own.

David: “Smart. When did you shift from working for the solar company to starting your own business? What was your plan? How did you get your first paying client?”

Sinuhe started his business in 2017. For him, it’s not until you open your doors for business that you find out what’s going to work. You Droners.io was his original model. He said, “I’m going to build a website that’s going to help people find drone pilots, yet I kept getting calls from people in the solar industry asking me to inspect a roof. So I shifted my focus to inspecting roofs wholeheartedlyand that was really where we started making money.

“So you figure out what’s working, what’s not, where your opportunity is, and then shift your focus that way. With this model, I was getting paid right away for the service.” 

David: “How did you build that up to where people knew who you were? Did you have a lot of contacts from your days selling solar? I know you’re brave with cold-calling—for people out there who may not be as comfortable cold calling, can you walk us through a mock cold call? How do you get past the first minute of awkwardness where the other person is trying to figure out what you want?”

Sinuhe makes it a point to be active on social media where he found solar companies and large roof installers. He cold called… and cold called… and cold called—which turned into opportunities. Sinuhe says,”

“A lot of people see cold-calling as intimidating, but It’s in your head. It’s the person’s job to answer the phone and it’s only awkward if you make it so. You avoid that by doing research on who you’re going to call before you call them. If you get the right information, you have a WARM call.”

Sinuhe mentions his most important cold-call points:

  • Ask if they have a moment for you to offer to help them with something.
  • Mention something you saw on LinkedIn. Reference a person and use their language, so they know you understand their company and pain points. You’ll earn their interest based on your ability to understand some of their pain points.
  • With the person who answered the phone, make it sound as though you’ve already talked to the person you’re trying to reach in the past.
  • When you get to the person you want, mention a topic they posted and offer the opportunity to help with something specific; in this way, you’re not talking about something they haven’t thought about or planned for.
  • Use open ended questions, such as “What is something that troubles you? What challenges do you face on steep roofs?. LET THEM TALK!
  • In due time, offer a solution, such as, “I can survey your roof in a much quicker manner and more than likely at a lower cost to your company.”
  • Even if you don’t understand the industry. If you’ve done your research, you can learn—it’s all research-based. Be willing to learn.
  • You’re going to hear “No, I don’t need your services. Thank you.” Look forward to the NOs. Count how many NOs it takes to get to YES! With every no, you’re one step closer to your YES!
  • Ask if there’s anybody they know that would benefit from your services. You may get some leads. It’s worth asking because the worst they can say is no.

David: “What did people pay you for a typical job at the beginning and what product were you delivering?  What does it take on your end to do a residential home? What data are you capturing and what do you need to process?”

Sinuhe was usually charging about one $50 to $200 per flight for roof inspections, depending on the size. Now, for a large commercial building, it can be $500. For a residential home, they do a drone survey gathering details on air conditioning, service panels, water and gas lines, proximity of trees, etc. He’s using the drone to create an orthomosaic map image of the property with accurate measurements. 

David: “How many jobs are you getting from solar companies? For larger scale, you can hire other pilots, but if you were going to fly all those by yourself, what’s the average you’re charging per job?”

It depends on time of year. Solar slows down at the end of the year but during the summer months, they do 50-75 jobs a month. For an average sized house, he charges $150 and if he plots his route efficiently beforehand, he can be very efficient and do 5-6 jobs a day.

David: “What other customers do you have for this type of service besides solar companies? Do you use a promo video of your guys working?”

According to Sinuhe, roofing companies are a tough nut to crack because they want boots on the ground. They are more receptive because they can see the value. They’re getting hired by roofing and solar companies who’ve already sold the job and want to get the roof survey completed so they can move on to permitting or plans.

David: “Moving forward, where do you see the biggest opportunity for people who want to use their drones for roof inspections? What tactics do you think people should be looking into in the future?”

Sinuhe sees big opportunity in the solar space because it will has shown strong growth in the last 5-7 years and will continue to grow. He believes if they continue to bring down the acquisition cost to the customer, decrease the survey and installation costs, they will continue to be an attractive asset.”

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