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MDLawnman
09-12-2006, 10:28 PM
I took a call from a prospective client last week. He said a few things that immediately caught my attention and made me proceed with caution.

First Red Flag: He has "2 to 3 acres" that he needs to have mowed.
Reason for the Flag: EVERYONE knows exactly how much land they own.

Second Red Flag: "I've gone thru 2 lawn service companies this season."
Reason for the Flag: 2 lawn services in one season? WHY?

Third Red Flag: "The job will take three hours each time you mow & I'll pay you $90."
Reason for the Flag: Besides not being enough money for the hours/job, it felt wrong to have a price dictated to me.

(To finish this example he was not at home when I drove by to give an estimate. I called him on his cell phone and he told me that he had already hired someone else and wanted to know what I would charge for comparison. I told him that I did not want the job and thanked him for calling)

Professional sales people (car salesmen specifically) receive training in what to look for in a potential client, what to say, how to act, etc.

What are the Red Flags that you look for in the mowing / lawn care business that warn you of a potential problem, or indicate a potentially great client?

stumper1620
09-12-2006, 10:38 PM
I need it done today. big time red flag, be ready to mow a hay field.
somebody let it grow too long.

LLandscaping
09-12-2006, 10:49 PM
I need someone to cut my yard my mower is broken down. I want my yard cut once a month. I like it when a potential customers ask what I charge for an average lawn. I need my lawn cut today. These are just a few of the Red flags that I look for when talking to a prospective customer. It they call wanting an estimate I usually explain the way that we do business. It helps to weed out the people that are just wasting my time.

AL Inc
09-12-2006, 10:50 PM
You hit on a couple of good "red flags". I always ask who was doing the lawn prior and why they weren't happy. The responses usually will give you an idea of their expectations. If I know it was a hack outfit doing the lawn, I will give the potential client the benefit of the doubt. If it was a reputable company that does nice work, that is a red flag. When people say "they just stopped showing up" or "they went out of business", that means one of two things: The potential client had a hack doing the lawn, and they want to pay a low price, or they annoyed the reputable company enough that they quit...ie not paying their bill, etc. I've learned just to ask questions and listen to people, not try to show them how much I know. I try to just trust my gut.
I usually can see a PITA on the first meeting, but you never know. As far as a great client, that is even harder to predict, IMO. I've had people who I was sure would be great accounts turn out to be nightmares. I've had people I was leery of turn out to be great accounts.

Rons Rightway Lawncare
09-12-2006, 11:36 PM
I do get picky in some instances, but I can't begin to tell you how many accounts I have picked up and kept, that I thought were going to be very VERY short term accounts. One of the ones I did today I have done for going on 4 years and I was hired to do the lawn for only 1 to 2 months while the man got better after a operation he had. He got better, but figured for the little amount he can pay me to do it, his time is worth more.

Red flags..... Hmmmm....what the guys above said all ring bells to me!

Rons Rightway Lawncare
09-12-2006, 11:37 PM
I am new to the lawn care forums.... What is a PITA?

dlm17
09-12-2006, 11:53 PM
Ron, Pain In The A--

procut
09-13-2006, 12:05 AM
Acting extremly interested in your insurances. I had a residential customer demand to see proof of my insurance and the limits of coverage when I first showed up, asked about when it expried ect. Very suspisious IMO.

Uranus
09-13-2006, 12:12 AM
One red flag for me is when they tell you how much they paid LAST year. What are they thinking, lawn mowing prices dont go up. Maybe we should give a price for the next five years. LOL!

mojob
09-13-2006, 12:20 AM
Acting extremly interested in your insurances. I had a residential customer demand to see proof of my insurance and the limits of coverage when I first showed up, asked about when it expried ect. Very suspisious IMO.
The customer probably works in the insurance industry and knows how important it is for the contractor they hire to have insurance. Lets say your mower kicks out a rock and hurts the neighbor. If you don't have insurance guess who the lawyers will go after. That's just a smart customer. I wouldn't worry, unless you don't have insurance that is.

Chop Stuff Up
09-13-2006, 12:40 AM
"the dog won't bite you, you can put him in the cage when you cut"

procut
09-13-2006, 12:41 AM
The customer probably works in the insurance industry and knows how important it is for the contractor they hire to have insurance. Lets say your mower kicks out a rock and hurts the neighbor. If you don't have insurance guess who the lawyers will go after. That's just a smart customer. I wouldn't worry, unless you don't have insurance that is.
Possibe, but I took it as "oh look here is someone with lots of insurance I can sue."

Rons Rightway Lawncare
09-13-2006, 12:43 AM
Ron, Pain In The A--


Thanks! I should have known that was what it was! duh!

General Landscaping
09-13-2006, 12:47 AM
Sometimes it works out... but this is one that puts me a little on edge.


When they start talking about all the other business they can direct my way...... before I even go out for the estimate.

lawnwizards
09-13-2006, 11:04 AM
my biggest red flag is when someone calls for an estimate and they want it yesterday. i don't run right out after i hang up the phone to do an estimate. i schedule it when i'm already in the area. it just sounds shady if they have to have the estimate as soon as possible. usually a hay field, or theyre' having a party the same day.

lawnspecialties
09-13-2006, 02:52 PM
Sometimes it works out... but this is one that puts me a little on edge.


When they start talking about all the other business they can direct my way...... before I even go out for the estimate.

Almost all my business is from "word of mouth" or people seeing my work and asking for an estimate. I have NEVER gotten a single job from people who've promised big things from all their "contacts".

A couple other red flags:
1: If they're getting about three estimates, just keep your guard up. If they're getting more than three, all they want is someone cheap! Quality is not an issue. Run
2: They want you to price some work, but they'll purchase the materials themselves. :dizzy:

Liquidfast
09-13-2006, 03:02 PM
Almost all my business is from "word of mouth" or people seeing my work and asking for an estimate. I have NEVER gotten a single job from people who've promised big things from all their "contacts".

A couple other red flags:
1: If they're getting about three estimates, just keep your guard up. If they're getting more than three, all they want is someone cheap! Quality is not an issue. Run
2: They want you to price some work, but they'll purchase the materials themselves. :dizzy:


I agree. The ones that give you "future business" but never pan out.


I have a great story for this one. I had a customer last year for snow removal. She kept informing me how great of a location her property was and that I could put a lawn sign on her property for lawn care. (Granted, it was a super location).

She must have called me 5 times during the winter to clear her snow prior to her coming home cuz according to her, she lived at the highest point in our area therefore, she should be plowed first :dizzy: :hammerhead: .

Anyway, I drop off a proposal for lawn service and she acted like she never met me before.."Oh, my boyfriend does my lawn...sorry".

So, this year, I had my secretary call her and leave a message on her phone stating that since we had such a mild year last year for snowfall, all of our customers would receive this years price of .....get this...... $99 for unlimited plowing. Last year it was $325 plus $25 for the walkways...anyway, she called me 3 or so days ago E X C I T E D about the price and wanting to book ASAP. Well, I said: "Ma'am, there must be some mistake, that is the price but it is only offered to our lawn service clients.....your price would be $400 this year".

Believe it or not, she tried to tell me that I HAD to give her the quoted price cuz it was left on her machine. :hammerhead: :hammerhead: . I said, sure you can have that price, no problem, you are on our waiting list......end of call.

I felt like a champ.

HighGrass
09-13-2006, 06:43 PM
Here are some that I hear...

"The last guy bagged at no extra charge."

"But the guy last year only charged me $30"

"Can you roll up my garden hose?"

"Can you wait until next week to cash this?"

"Hi...I would like an estimate to cut my lawn? Oh and it only needs to be done every two weeks"

"Is there anyway you can mow on Fridays?"

"Can you haul some bruch away for me the next time you come?...it's not alot."

Non-Verbal Red-Flags

Increased amounts of lawn furniture.
Dog Crap
Kids toys all over the place
Fertilizer bags hiding in the garage even though the "swear" they don't feed their grass.

kmann
09-13-2006, 08:19 PM
The last guy just quit showing up and I don't know why. Got burned by that one once. The second time I did'nt take the job. Like they say" fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me".

YardPro
09-13-2006, 09:11 PM
Acting extremly interested in your insurances. I had a residential customer demand to see proof of my insurance and the limits of coverage when I first showed up, asked about when it expried ect. Very suspisious IMO.


sounds like a good client to me...
i wish EVERY client would require thier LCO's to provide proof of insurance.
it would surely weed out the nonprofessional competition and weekend warriors.

Rons Rightway Lawncare
09-13-2006, 09:14 PM
[QUOTE=HighGrass]

"Can you roll up my garden hose?"



"Is there anyway you can mow on Fridays?"




Dog Crap
Kids toys all over the place
QUOTE]

Brings me to a few of my pet peeves!

I hate having to pick up garden hoses. Sometimes I just say screw it and run it over enough to slice it, and if asked I tell them I didn't see it and that I had assumed they had it rolled up like it is supposed to be.

Dog crap.... Not much to say, but I don't like it either.

Kids toys. I tell them to pick that stuff up, I run over some of those toys too to try to send a message. Nothing like seeing how far a tennis ball will go when you hit it just right with a 61 inch Scag! :laugh:


Fridays though.... Alot of my customers want Thursdays or Fridays cuts. A friend of mine who does lawns started telling customers if they wanted friday cuts he could do fridays at a premium price if they wanted to pay it. A few did. I have one I charge a extra 5 bucks a cut for a friday cut, and it is not out of the way, I pass that house every day I leave out to cut. Elsewise I try to do my better properties on Friday, best to keep the higher dollar clients happiest right?

brucec32
09-15-2006, 02:06 AM
1. They call and want you to start mowing asap and don't seem interested in knowing the price first. (because they probably don't intend on paying you!) BEWARE of those who call on Thursday or Friday and want you out the next day to mow. They are rarely long term customers. They will say anything to get you to bail them out before their company arrives on the weekend, since they have called 3 other places and been told "no" to their request for a one-time mow.

2. They are overly chatty during the quote process. (they will stop you to talk every visit, delaying you)

3. They try to entice you with promises of doing the neighbors' lawns also if they get a good price (they are full of it and looking for a huge discount)

4. There is a "for sale" sign in the yard when you arrive to see the property. But they didn't mention it on the phone. (they're clueless about how the biz works and that you do not want to just replace them on the schedule in 6 weeks)

5. Before you even see the property, the individual (usually an older man) is telling you how to cut the lawn and what to cut it with. Expect a lot of friction down the line.

6. The person seems odd, crazy, overly aloof, or stubbornly cold and impolite, even when you try to lighten the conversation. (they rarely get better)

7. Be double careful about those who call you during the hottest part of the year. They may just want you to handle it till things cool off then they will ditch you.

8. They call for service on a high maintenance, nice lawn, but only want it cut on alternate weeks. (cheapskate, expects lawn to look perfect at a cut rate price)

9. Anyone who tells you the last fellow did their huge lawn for $20. (You're wasting your time driving out there, and even if they accept, they will consider you expensive and be on the look for your cheaper replacement, no matter what your rate)

10. Anyone who balks at your payment terms requiring prompt payment and wants them relaxed. (deadbeat who wants to run up a tab large enough to be able to hold you "hostage", where you have to keep mowing or they threaten to never pay)

Bonus: Can anyone who you have to give a collection notice to over their first payment. It's like showing up late to a job interview. They rarely improve.

topsites
10-13-2006, 12:55 AM
Fertilizer bags hiding in the garage even though the "swear" they don't feed their grass.

I never thought much of that one but I like it, it also brings up one of mine:

When they call about 'all-season lawn cutting service' but yet there is a lawnmower somewhere (in the garage or under the porch) and then ahhhh yes you know it: we got this little job over here (read: major PITA job) we would like a price on, etc, etc, etc... Ohhh yea yea sure, we need you to cut the grass ALL year uh huh...

On that note, I can usually tell you nowadays by the tracks in the turf what KIND of mower cut it last, whether 21", rider, or commercial (wb or z - I do have a time telling if it was a wb or a z, but it doesn't matter since they're both commercial)... This helps me along some as I don't have to ask as many stupid questions, I have learned careful observation is worth a thousand questions.

oldturf
10-13-2006, 01:04 AM
When they call and sound like they want anything on the cheap,I ask if they are shopping for the best price- when they say yes, then I tell them I accept new accounts by reference only.

topsites
10-13-2006, 01:06 AM
7. Be double careful about those who call you during the hottest part of the year. They may just want you to handle it till things cool off then they will ditch you.

Bonus: Can anyone who you have to give a collection notice to over their first payment. It's like showing up late to a job interview. They rarely improve.

7b. Be triple careful about those who call late september / early october for 'regular grass cutting service.' They may just want you to handle the leaves that fall in another cut or three and they will act lovey-dovey to endear themselves quickly as a regular customer (read: do their leaves cheap since they want you to cut the grass ALL next year), and as soon as the leaves are done they will ditch you also.

Bonus: Stop accepting year-round grass cutting services once the temps hit 90 (here that happens sometime in June). I am amazed by how the soaring thermometer sends the phone ringing, but why now... I done missed out on the cooler and busiest part of the season, right around half the year's cuts for that account are gone already.

DFW Area Landscaper
10-13-2006, 01:10 AM
Red Flag:

Them: How much do you charge to trim the shrubs and clean the beds?

Me: We charge $44 per man-hour, but we discount it to $36 if the client doesn't require that we drive out for a free estimate before we do the work.

Them: I guess I'll go ahead and have you get me an estimate. <<<<RED FLAG

Me: We'll have to put you on the waiting list for that. We only do free estimates when our workers have no other work to do. As soon as we have the estimate, we'll call you.

Yeah, right, like I'm EVER gonna drive out and get you that estimate.

Funny thing is, they never call back.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Island LawnScapes
10-13-2006, 03:04 AM
BIG RED FLAG, "I have a vacant rental, call me when you are done and I will mail you a check." sure I'll get right on it.

topsites
10-13-2006, 03:15 AM
BIG RED FLAG, "I have a vacant rental, call me when you are done and I will mail you a check." sure I'll get right on it.

You gotta watch the more subtle 'I have some properties...' as well, could be either / or thou, still...

WJW Lawn
10-13-2006, 07:44 AM
The biggest Red Flag for me is: I need it done today!!! Like Im going to drop everything Im doing and run out?? Is there a niche for Emergency Mowing? lol But yea...huge red flag for--MY LAWN IS 3 FEET HIGH!!

jim163
10-13-2006, 09:27 AM
BIG RED FLAG, "I have a vacant rental, call me when you are done and I will mail you a check." sure I'll get right on it.

screw people who own rental lots...had a guy call me in the spring sayin I had a guy doing it for $16 dollars last year can you beat it. O yea where is he?