The sales process in any business is something that is always being worked on. It is difficult when you are first starting out to perfect sales and get that traction of getting some jobs signed up. It goes without saying that this is crucial to your business. No sales means no work which in turn means no money coming into your business and as a result no business.
This is why sales is a skill in its own and just because you are a skilled landscaper does not guarantee that your business will be successful. You need to be a jack-of-all-trades when you are first starting your business until you have the resources to hire people that are better than you at certain tasks within your business. Until that time, you need to work on your sales process.
In this post you will find the sales process from before the customer ever finds your business to the point where you get the contract signed and how you should present your business and yourself. This is a sales process that has worked for us in our business and has been developed over many years and discussing with many other landscapers about how this process could be refined.
This will prove to be a great resource for you in improving your sales process or just confirming what you are doing. However, another great resource is networking with fellow landscapers and talking to them to see what they are doing. It is important to note that no two customers are alike and you will need to know your customer to tailor the sales process to them.
It is a process of constantly working to improve upon yourself, your business, and your sales. Keeping committed to this process will help improve the sales coming into your business with time and implementation.
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How to Sell Landscaping Services
The sales process begins before you meet your customer to the point where you have the contract signed and a deposit in hand. There are a lot of things you need to consider during this process including how you will present your business and yourself. This will create an image for the customer about your business which will either be negative or positive. Needless to say if you have a positive image associated with your business you are more likely to sell a job.
We discuss this process in detail in the remainder of this post and how you can work on improving the process and making it as easy as possible for your customer to choose you over your competition.
Before the Customer Finds Your Business
Like we said, the sales process begins before the customer finds out about your business. This is because if a customer cannot find your business then there is no conversation with that customer in the first place. This is why marketing is so important to the beginning of the sales process.
We have several posts on the subject of getting your business in front of potential customers including these methods:
- Networking with asphalt or other landscaping companies.
- Contacting your local suppliers regarding their referral program.
- Going door-to-door or distributing flyers / mail-outs.
- Letting everyone and anyone know about your business.
- Working on social media marketing.
- Creating a website.
- Improving your business’ search engine optimization.
- Joining referral websites.
- Using online and offline ads.
Getting your business in front of potential customers then opens up the conversation, but without the customer finding out about your business and the services that it offers the conversation never begins. That is why this step is so crucial.
Choose a few of these strategies to really focus in on to get more leads into your account rather than trying every single method. For example, if you are tech savvy then perhaps you may want to try your hand in search engine optimization and social media marketing. If you are a people person, get out there and network with businesses that could send you some qualified leads. Combine these methods with a couple of other methods on the list and you could be well on your way to opening conversations with several customers in no time.
Regardless of whether or not you are tech savvy, your website should have some sort of online presence. Somewhere online that you can refer your customers to or where customers can find you. With an increasing amount of people searching online rather than offline for their landscapers, it is important that you have a presentable online presence with some of your past work to show off. This is the first impression for your customers when they find your business, so you want it to be a good one.
If your business is bringing in referral-based leads, then this is already a great first impression. It takes a experience with yourself or your business for somebody to pass your business on to the next person. This is what makes these types of leads so valuable. Without any work on your end you are already off to a good start before the customer reaches out to you.
Once that customer reaches out to you, then the next part of the sales process begins.
Once the Customer Finds Your Business
What happens once the customer finds your business is they contact you. Whether email or phone call, you need to promptly respond to them. This can be extremely difficult, especially when you are first starting off as an owner / operator. You will likely feel like you are working non-stop, but this is what comes with starting and owning your own business.
We hear from customers so often saying that the contractor that they reached out to never got back to them. Regardless if you are too busy to take on the customer or not, you need to take the time to call them back or email them to let them know your status. It is common courtesy and will help in improving the brand of your business.
If you think the customer is not looking for something that is in your work scope, then call or email them with somebody that they could contact. They will appreciate this and maybe one day come back to you for work that is in your work scope. These small actions will improve the image of your company in the long run and it is worth it to stay on top of.
If you are absolutely booked up for the year, perhaps you may want to set up an email auto-responder or a new voicemail message letting customers know that you are completely booked up for the year and are booking into next year and if they want to proceed to email you further and you will get back to them in a business day. This will help diminish the customers that want to book you immediately from bugging you.
The customers that do reach out to you and you pick up the phone or answer an email will want to be dealing with a professional. Answering the phone with YOUR BUSINESS NAME and YOUR NAME SPEAKING will start that sense of professionalism rather than answering the phone and saying “YEAH!” Like we said, first impressions matter. Emails are the easiest way to communicate with a customer. You can create a draft that can be copied and sent to any customer that reaches out to you with areas that you can edit to tailor it to that specific customer.
Whether email or a call, thank the customer for reaching out to your business for their services. Find out their name and use it during that call to make the feeling more personal. From this point you want to ask the questions that will help qualify the customer and to see if you should be spending your time to meet with them or not. Things you should ask include:
- What kind of work are you looking to have completed?
- Have you begun looking at what you want installed?
- Do you have a budget in mind?
- What is the timeline that you would want this completed?
These are just the basics and helps you decide whether or not you should continue the conversation with them in an in-person meeting or if you should pass them onto another one of your contacts. For example, some projects are just out of your scope of work or the customer’s budget is unrealistic or they want the project completed by yesterday. If it is not possible for you to do, do not string them along. Let them know and move on politely. Have some contacts on hand that you can refer people to at all times.
If this a customer you want to meet with in-person, ask them if they would like to meet to further discuss this project. If you charge for your consultations, you need to make that clear. Any other charges like design or second consultations can be discussed in-person. Provide them with a time frame that you do your consultations or tailor it to a time that works best for them. Thank them once again for reaching out to you and let them know that you will reach out to them on the day of the meeting to confirm the time once more.
Stay organized and use your phone or a physical scheduler to schedule all of your appointments. Missing an appointment without providing prior notice is a sure way to worsen your company’s image and not a good start for any customer.
Just as the customer is interviewing you in this first conversation and when you meet in-person, you should be interviewing them and getting a feel for the type of person they are and what they are looking for. This will prepare you for a meeting with them and this will be discussed further in the coming sections.
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Before the Consultation
Based on the questions you asked the customer regarding their project, you should prepare yourself with whatever materials you require. I always keep a box of each of the manufacturer’s product brochure that I install just in case. For example, I have my hardscape manufacturer’s brochure, lighting brochure, fire and aquascape brochures, and some others that are kicking around that are less used.
From your conversation, you can decide which ones you should bring with you and you should have a nice binder to carry them in with some paper and a pen to take notes as well as a tape measure with you at all times, as well as any other tools that you use to complete your quotes. Being prepared speaks volumes to the type of person you are and how the customer will envision the project being completed. Having a tablet that shows off your portfolio is also an added benefit to presenting yourself to your customer.
Though it is not always possible when you are working on site and then meeting customers, you should be dressed to impress with a company branded shirt. This shows off your professionalism even further. If you are working on site and meeting customers immediately, then perhaps you should explain to them beforehand on when you first meet that you apologize for your appearance but you had to come right from the site. We did this for many years and every customer understood and actually liked to know that they were dealing with the person that was actually doing the install as well.
On the day of the meeting, call or email them to confirm that you will be there at the time that you discussed. This shows a sense of professionalism and helps remind both parties that you are meeting. I have shown up to meetings in the past only for the person to not remember that we were supposed to meet. I have also unfortunately forgot about meetings in the past. These situations can be avoided easily by using a scheduler and calling before the meeting to confirm the time.
Last, but not least, show up on time.
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During the Consultation
Up until this point you have had a couple of points to setting up a first impression with your customer. That includes them finding your business and then when they contacted you. Hopefully those two touch points went smoothly and have set you up for a great meeting with your customer.
From this point on, you are selling yourself and your business face-to-face. We covered in the last section what that means for your appearance and for your preparedness. Now we need to talk about what that means for yourself.
The number one thing when meeting with somebody when you are trying to sell them your services is confidence and knowledge. You need to make your case as to why you are the best and most qualified person to hire for the job. This begins when you first meet and you shake their hands while making eye contact with them and mentioning their name when you meet them. It continues by reviewing what they told you on the phone about the project they had in mind, discussing that project, and taking it from there.
Remember, you are the expert in this field. You know what is best for the customer. The customer likely does not know about grades and elevation. They may want a patio, but not understand that what they need is a raised patio. You need to explain that to them and let them know that is what they need and why. This way if any other contractor comes in to talk to them about the project and they do not mention needing a raised patio, red flags will go off in their mind. Continuing with this concept, you need to think about all the variables and provide them with the best solution.
This includes talking to them about drainage and the process that you follow for preparing the base, what materials you use and why, and suggest paving stones to them and why you recommend them. Talk to them about added features like a fire pit, pond, outdoor kitchen, or lighting. Let them know that it is always better to plan for these items in advance rather then deciding later that they want to add them. Let them know that this is an investment into their property and capture their imagination with a plan and showing images of the work that you can do.
Ask them questions about their expectations and really talk about their budget so that you know what they are working with. They will likely ask you what you think it will cost them. We try to avoid answering this question, as every job is different. We will sometimes provide a square footage price to let them know a ballpark estimate on what it may cost to see their reaction to this price, but still we try to get their budget first to know whether or not creating a quote for them is worth our time.
Let them know how long it would take you to complete the project, when you can schedule them in, what your expectations are for payment, and where you take it from there. Get their information and begin taking your measurements. What we usually do is get a feel for the customer on this initial meeting and what they want done. With those measurements, we create a quote of what it would cost. We get that quote to them within one business day. Sometimes when we return to our vehicle we plug in our numbers to our spreadsheet and send it to them right then and there.
We do this because it is still fresh in their minds and they are likely really excited about the project after discussing it with you. If you can catch them with their emotions high, they are more likely to be excited about moving the project forward. Sales is a game of emotions. Remember that you are selling them on a lifestyle. Using their backyard as an entirely new room of their home that is completely usable.
Remember that the customer is interviewing you for the project and you should be doing the same. Choosing the right customers to work with is just as important as getting the job. You can sink a lot of time into a customer that is overly involved or picky. Avoid these customers at all costs. When you are first starting this may be unavoidable, but when you get more leads into your business you are likely able to pick and choose the customers you work for.
Signs of this are obvious. Customers who are picky will know exactly what they want. This can be a good thing. But we usually ask them, “what if we changed it to be more like this?” To that a picky customer would say, “no, I know what I want.” Again, this is not always a bad thing. But just feel out the customer and understand if this is going to be a problem or not.
Early in my business I had a customer contact me who admitted that she had seen two other landscapers who decided they did not want to work with her because she was extremely picky. When she walked me through what she wanted done, it was simple enough. Except for the fact that she wanted everything to be symmetrical and admitted that she would be out with a tape measure making sure that everything was symmetrical to the 1/4″. When I pointed out that her backyard patio could not be symmetrical because she would have two steps on the far right sliding doors and one step on the far left sliding doors because of the difference in slope unless we created a raised patio, she almost had a meltdown she was so stressed about it.
We knew that this was not the customer we wanted to work with. We did end up sending our quote to her, but added an extra hourly rate that it would cost her if anything needed to be changed that did not meet her expectations. She did not like this, but then the next season contacted us for a new quote. She obviously could not find anyone to take her on as a client. I am sure we dodged a bullet.
Being aware of the client that you are working for is important. More “intense” people will want you to be confident in your decisions on the project. If they have a question, they will want you to be on point with an answer and be confident about that answer that you provide. More soft-spoken people will want you to match their tone when you speak to them and provide well-informed answers to their questions. They may not even ask questions, but if you provide answers to frequently asked questions, it will show your preparedness and qualifications as a landscaper and ease their mind.
Once you have all of the information that is needed, get the customer’s information and shake their hand while thanking them for their time. Work on the quote and get it to them as soon as possible. When I send the quote I also include any information that was discussed in the meeting that would be crucial to the project. I let them know that if they want to continue, I can create a design for them for X amount of money or we can meet again at my hardscape supplier to show them the different products that we can install. Anything more than this, I begin to charge for my time.
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After the Consultation
Once your quote is sent with all of the necessary information, it is time to wait for their response and perhaps answer any other questions that they may have. Generally I send emails with my quotes, but for higher-end jobs I will present my quote to them in person. Especially if I think that they are interested in hiring me for the project.
When I create a quote, I base it off of what was discussed and include that in my quote. If the customer said no to any features at the time, I create a quote with no features. However, I do remind them later that we could still add features to their project and let them know that I could update their quote. If it comes down to creating a design, I will generally include at least outdoor lighting in the design to show them what it would look like. Other features I may include are water features and possibly an outdoor kitchen. This provides them with a visual to further capture their imagination for their project.
If a customer does not respond to me within three days, I send them a follow-up email or I call them to make sure that they received the quote. This is just a friendly reminder to see if they received the quote. They will likely let you know that they received it and are just talking about it with their significant other or are pursuing other quotes. At this point you can let them know that you are available if they have any other questions.
From this point on, it is out of your hands unless you want to be pushy and remind them again in about a weeks time. We do not. We are not into hard sales tactics and respect the customer’s decision no matter how much time spent with them. We have had customers that decided to do the project themselves and call us mid-project to ask us to finish it for them and how much it would cost. We have even had customers do the project entirely by themselves and call us when they had a question they needed answering. We are happy to help because in a couple of those cases, it turned into them recommending us to their neighbors which became a sale for us in the end. It is always best to do what is best for your customer.
Once the customer is ready to sign a contract with you, your sales process is complete. You will show up prepared with a contract in hand that lists what is to be done and includes the payment details for the project with the down payment upon signing the contract. Any other questions are addressed at this time, and this is your time to assure them that their project is booked and ready to go. Especially when you are taking their money at this time.
This is when they are putting their complete trust into you and you need to deliver.
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There is a lot to digest within this post. If you dedicate some time to work on each steps within this process and implementing a strategy that works for your style and your business, then you will be working towards perfecting your sales strategy. Once this is where you want it to be, then you are likely signing up customers on a regular basis. At this point, you can establish this process as a system within your business and hire somebody to take over this part of your business for you if this is something you no longer want to do.
Alternatively, if this is something you enjoy then you can work on further perfecting this sales strategy. Recording how every meeting progressed, what the customer was like, how they contacted you and how you responded, when you met with them, and how the meeting went will help you analyze your sales strategy. You can then pick certain points within the process you want to work on further and refine from there.
There is one thing that you absolutely need to have to be a good salesperson, and that is professionalism. Sure there are many other things that you can work on to improve your sales and conversion rates, but if you are not professional then you likely are not ready for anything else. Remember that you are the spokesperson for your business and how you treat your potential customers is a reflection of your business.
We would love to hear about your sales process and how you may change what has been discussed within this post. Leave a comment below!