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Connie
03-20-2001, 04:10 PM
Wondering what you guys do/say when you meet the client, who wants landscaping, for the first time? I basically ask them what their looking for and take measurements and then I do a design. But most of the people have no idea about plants and really don't know what their looking for. Also the design... I explain the design to them but I don't think many of them can picture what it is going to look like. Do you guys have the same problem? How do you explain it? What do you guys ask in the initial meeting?
Thanks

Green Finger
03-20-2001, 05:00 PM
When you have new landscaping customers, that's when you have to become the "ARTIST".

I try to get a feel from the customer. I ask questions and get a "THEME". Once I get the "THEME", I get a rush and run with the idea. Customers are always happy when you take control.

I alway notify the customer of plans and changes. If they want to change something or suggest something I always try to incorporate their ideas with mine. (I try to blend the two ideas together) Because, after all it's the customer that's paying. (if we have conflicting views I'll just explain to the customer from a "professional's" stand point what's better)

Bottom Line, if they don't have an idea you just run with it.

Stonehenge
03-20-2001, 05:16 PM
It is difficult some times. Through my local landscape assoc we have plant brochures that I give to the customers and have them thumb through so we can hone their tastes a bit more. I alsi explain to them that I don't want to take up their time and my time creating something they aren't going to like, so it's important to get an idea of the tastes they have, their likes/dislikes.

Show them pictures of completed works, yours or others, so they might spot something they like and say 'THAT'S WHAT I WANT.'

The other good thing about this is, the more time they spend with you hammering away at this design, the more ownership they begin to take in the design, the 'thicker' your relationship becomes with them.

And sometimes I walk them around the yard and stick out my arms high and wide and say - 'This is where I wanted to put that big tree,' and then stand like a statue with arms at sides and say 'This is where I wanted to put that pyramidal Arb'. You get the idea. Then they start to visualize in their heads.

Another option is take a try at the various software out there designed to help this very thing.

SCL
03-21-2001, 10:47 AM
As Stone says, "See the tree, Be the tree" :).
New construction is a blast. Its like an open canvas. Get some pictures of previous work, your own or retaining wall co. they always show nice landscaping.
Another factor to consider is asking your customer if they have a budget or idea of how much they want to spend. They always give you that look like you want all their money then. But explain that this might be the difference between $30 globe arbs or $200 globosas. Just a thought.

Stonehenge
03-21-2001, 11:24 AM
SCL you bring up a wonderful point -

I've had people, when I inquire about a budget, tell me 'You just make the drawing, and we'll tell you if it's in our budget.'

I try to get them to look at this process a different way - it doesn't always work, but it does help sometimes.

I tell them, rather than have everyone make a crap shoot about what you can afford, and everyone, customer included, wasting a lot of time with companies and bids that are either way too low or way too high, with the lowest price winning, why not tell all the companies you're talking to what your budget is?

Once everyone knows, they will all have to come up with a design that fits your tastes and is within budget. Then you can better compare apples to apples. A better guarantee and reputation and design here, a cheaper price here, the stone we really like here, that cool ornamental with this one, and on and on.

That way they have much better information with which to make a decision.

It's a long-winded explanation, but when it works, they'll tell you what they had in mind to spend. You hit that mark and you're halfway there.

steveair
03-21-2001, 11:43 AM
Hello,

One of the beuties of this business is being able to tell the customer "what they want"

I don't believe, however, this can happen right away.

As I am getting more and more jobs under my belt, I start to see a trend. I believe, that over time, it is possible to have clients call you and say "we've seen your work and want you to do our project"

Kind of like a painting. People don't walk into a art store and say 'we want a picture of a tree with birds and clouds all around it'. They walk into a art store, see something they like, and buy it.

Over time, you build a reputation much like a fine painting. They see your work, know what/heard what you have done, and know what style and level of work you do.

Think this is one of the greatest things about our business. There are a lot of guys out there who can do landscaping, and a lot of them are Real good at it. However, if people like YOUR work, then they will want you to do the job.

For now, however, you obviously can't wait until that day comes become you just won't make any money. So, you have to sell to pay the bills. I would start with the ideas the others have mentioned, but firmly believe that over time, you build your company on reputation and style more than anything else. Until then, just go in there with a good attitude, willingness to comprimise, and do good work, and eventually the sells will come easier and easier as the days pass.

steveair

diginahole
03-21-2001, 06:00 PM
Remember the old adage about first impressions? We must use this to our advantage. Many of us will go on the first call and don't leave much of an impression on our prospective clients. Almost all of our selling should take place at this meeting. Be sure that both Mr and Mrs homeowner will be present. Start the meeting with some small talk; "what do you do for a living" "how do you like the neighbourhood" "what a nice location you have found here". Build a friendly rapport with your prospect.
State your agenda for the meeting "Here is what I would like to do tonight. I'd like to tell you briefly about my company and then spend most of our time defining your requirements." Create the desire in your customer to have YOU do their landscaping.
Use pictures or sample plans to start defining what the customer likes pointing out how some of the small extras shown really add to the look. Ask tons of questions, but try for ones that can't be answered with just yes or no. "What is Important to you? Low maintenance, a seasonal change in colour?" "What overall look do you want?" Pay close attention and take notes (there will be a test).
Ask questions to determine their decision making process. Find out who makes the decisions. Find out exactly what they expect from you. Ask what it will take for them to sign a contract with you. Most important of all ask how much money are you planning to spend.
Once you understand everything the customer needs in order to go ahead with a contract sell them a landscape plan. Show your customers the benefits of having a plan. If you can't sell them a landscape plan what chance do you stand at selling a full landscape job.
Close the call, be affirmative, excited and assumptive. "I understand exactly what you want".
Tell them how great this is going to look. Express your conviction that you are the best person for the job.
Tell them what is going to happen next and excite them about the next meeting.
Get a conditional commitment "If I can do all the things we have discussed and stay within your budget, is there any reason you would not do business with us?" This will get them used to saying yes to you. This is their last chance to state any additional requirements so when you return with the proposal there will be no surprises.
Now go get em tigers!

Lanelle
03-22-2001, 12:41 AM
What a great response to a great thread. So many think that knowing how to landscape and identify plants is all that's necessary. Knowing how to establish a rapport with a new client and how to sell is of critical importance. Without sales ability, not much chance to show what else you can do.

SCL
03-22-2001, 11:11 AM
Digin brings up several good points. Some real basics are show up in a professional looking vehicle and just be pleasant. You can't imagine the amount of people who comment on our nice looking truck and its professional appearance. Lord, its an 88 F350 that we maintain and keep painted and lettered. Or we take our Wrangler. Muy wifes involved and while she's not the most personable person with me sometimes :) she is super with talking to customers, especially the ladies, and getting a general idea of what they want when it won't sink through my thick head. Watch car salesmen type talk as people get real defensive.

Rex Mann
03-22-2001, 09:56 PM
We take pretty much the same sales approach as Diginahole. We may do a couple things in a diffrent order but it is the closest I have seen to what we use on any landscape website.

Bond-rapport
find out why they want the work done(the real reasons)
uncover the budget(a must)
decide if you are a fit with what they want and vice-versa(not everyone can be our client)
If yes-do a proposal


We use an UFC, up front contract, with people on the phone. We tell them how long the meeting will take. What will happen at the meeting. What they need to bring. Also, what we will bring. And, what the outcome of the meeting will be. This gets rid of allot of "shoppers". If they are not willing to invest the time with you, why should you invest your time.

Connie, a good professional sales training class may be of use to you. It would pay for itself if it helped you get one average sized job.

Connie
03-23-2001, 05:42 PM
Thanks for all your replies... that helps out. After you guys do find out everything about the client and then do a design... is their any special way you explain it to them? Show them pictures of plants and what? I've also got the Sierra computer software where you can scan the picture of their house in and go from there, but they have generic plants and not the real ones. Thanks for all your help

diginahole
03-23-2001, 09:15 PM
Try local retail nurseries for their catalogues. Usually they can be had for $0 - $6. It will be loaded with local varieties.