View Full Version : Convincing a cumstomer to pay for a landscape plan.

08-08-2011, 07:53 PM
I have a customer that I have had for 3 years. We have done a lot smaller landscape projects on her property( $ 10,000,00 and under.) Last year she bought the neighboring property and has done a massive remodel. She also added a large pond less waterfall( 20' x 45'). I referred another company because we don't do water features, he then went after the landscaping even after I asked him not to. Anyways it is now time to do a large project consisting of the water fall, a large barn, riding arena and the addition to the estate.
I had a meeting with the customer and my LA and we discussed her wants and needs. We spent around three hours on the property. The LA then sent me a estimate for the plan consisting of a $ 800.00 initial plan and a $ 2000.00 final plan with multiple revisions included. When I contacted a her to forward the estimate she said she refuses to pay for a plan that she doesn't know if she will like before I ever even told her the cost of the plan.. I try to explain that we would make all the needed revisions to get it perfect and that we have to have a plan on a project this size. She then told me that the waterfall installer did the plan for free ( horrible and unreadable). How do I convince the customer to pay for the plan?

08-09-2011, 01:57 AM
The cost of the plan is credited upon their acceptance of your proposal, so effectively the plan is free. But in the event of them not accepting your proposal your costs are covered. Their are the people who you will find it impossible to sell landscape plans to if this is one of them and if you had communicated your requirements up front you could have avoided the lost 3 hours of your time. moreover She will have no problem finding a landscape contractor to give her a plan. So their is a need to strike when the iron is hot sell your service within the first 1/2 to 1 hour using your communication skills and portfolio or with a multimedia presentation of all your past work. bring reference's with you and evidence of your skills. limit your time their to discussing only her "direct" wants and needs 3 hours is a long time to find out later she will not pay for a plan.

08-09-2011, 06:44 AM
Thanks for your response Stillwater. I understand that its is up to me to sell this customer on my service. You have to understand I did communicate the need for a professional plan with the client. She was in the middle of a massive remodel and also insisted that the contractors parents walk the property with us to get their advise. This a 52 acre farm, I have told her that we also need take offs for the irrigation system, which consisits of an 18 zone system at the house, two zones the front gate, three zones at the barn, two zones the guest quarters and what ever is needed to water the waterfall. She is a long time maintenance customer and I am the only person that knows where all the valves, shut off etc. are. If something happens to me it would be tuff to deal with. Our meeting took 3 hours because we had to many peoples feed back and a lot of interruptions. I guess I guess I need to do a ruff sketch and get this to some one to do a color rendering.

08-09-2011, 11:01 AM
If this is a large plan, you can break it up into phases and have a rough plan for every phase and present her with phase 1, doing this will minimizes your labor upfront while getting feedback. What ever you do have a accounting for your office hrs.

08-10-2011, 10:55 AM
Ok, as a consulting designer I would be pretty annoyed to have spent three hours wandering the property with some dingleberry who had no intention of paying for my services. How did you present this appointment to the homeowner? Did she have any idea of what the expectations were, that this meeting would result in a design proposal?

That's problem #1. All I do is landscape design and consulting (no install, no maintenance), and I learned early on that before I leave my office I need to explain "this is where I start getting paid." Because believe it or not, I had a few sales calls where, after an hour of walking around with them, they say "oh wait - you mean I have to PAY for a design?"

Anyhow, problem #2 is that your LA should have been selling himself the entire time. Generally, reluctant prospects start to warm up when they realize how much time goes into each phase of the design process and how well thought out the drawings are.

Problem #3 is her concern that she won't like the design. Lady, after three frickin' hours I think I have a sense of what you're after. But - why not offer to do a meeting before things are totally finalized, so she can be sure she's happy with the direction things are going? I charge for that time, but people are willing to pay it for the peace of mind.

At the end of the day, problem #4 may be that she's just someone who is mentally incapable of grasping the value of a professional's time. Those people exist, and I don't waste my time trying to sell to them. Since you have an ongoing relationship with her, I would tell her "look, you're a long term client and I value our relationship, and I want you to have the most gorgeous home in town AND have a great experience getting it done. We need to start with a plan to do that. If you're not comfortable paying for a plan but you're able to get someone else to provide you a plan, I am more than happy to look at it. If it's a good plan, I will provide a proposal; if I see problems with it, I will discuss those with you and we can decide how to move forward."

08-10-2011, 05:58 PM
Papercutter has it right.
Your LA should be explaining the difference between what he does and what the green-side-upper who did the waterfall does.

White Gardens
08-11-2011, 09:43 AM
I've had no problem selling designs, but......

I'm only using image editor designs with not much time or effort to knock them out, so my cost for the design is minimal and is always credited back to the client when they sign up for services.

If they want a true blue-print/auto-cad layout of all utilities and services around the property, including irrigation and plantings, then it gets pricy. 98% of the time the HO doesn't need a detailed design of the property so it isn't even brought up in conversation.

So yes, it's hard to sell a detailed design. Maybe you need to talk to the HO and see if you can find a balance in there and do an auto-cad design for the irrigation system and anything else of importance and then do just simple graphic designs for the rest of it.

08-11-2011, 11:00 AM
If you're comfortable doing a 50-acre farm with lots of pieces to the design, all with some photoshopped pictures, you've got some stones on you. Those colorform pictures are fine for a foundation bed at a tract home but they're not going to do a thing for you as far as making the entire project work as a whole.

I've learned something in the short time I've been in business: it's a heck of a lot more work (and less profitable) to try to beat and bang and bend your business to fit each customer than it is to seek out the right customers for the type of work you want to do.

The way I see it, your choices are 1) someone (her, you, the LA) is paying for her to get a design and you approach it in the way you're most comfortable; 2) you wing it as best you can off some scribbles and some paint marks and hope you make money and hope she's happy with it and hope you end up with something you can be proud of (or at least ok with); or 3) you let her find someone goofy enough to give her a free design and you offer a competing price on it.

08-11-2011, 06:57 PM
She is not comfortable dropping $800 on a plan if she does not know what will be in it. The alternative is to drop $50k on a landscape without knowing how it will turn out.

I have to agree that either she is a flake or your LA might be a really good designer, but not a really good design salesman. Have you considered bringing in another LA/designer?

01-30-2012, 09:27 PM
Stillwater is right on track with what I would say. The only thing I would add is that don't give her, or anyone, the option of unlimited changes to the plan, otherwise you'll never be done with it. When I sell a plan, I tell my client that we will do one major revision of the plan, but anything more will cost them the price of another full plan. This isn't to stifle anyone, but just to keep us on track, and keep the client motivated to articulate all of their desires up front.

01-31-2012, 08:40 PM
Old thread that was brought back up yesterday. But I'll add my two cents on how I handle this. I do the initial design consult at no charge, basically the walk around with the property owners to see what they are looking for and give my recomendations. I also get all the measurements and most importantly their budget (along with gauging their interest and likelyhood they will increase their budget. I then show them sample before and after pictures along with sample design printouts. I like to show them the before picture then the design so that they can imagine how the landscape job cameout. Then I show them the after photos so they can see how close it is to the design. Along with that I also show them a materials list for the job and calculations (without pricing), so that they see why the design is important. I find the clients are far less likely to question my design fee after doing the above. I do make sure to show them a simular design but nothing too close to their property.

01-31-2012, 10:26 PM
GIA, I love your signature line!

Executive Landscape
02-08-2012, 11:58 AM
Papercutter has given you almost exactly the same advice that I would, and we have alot of experience with $100,000+ installs. The fact is that designs that cost thousands of dollars are, for the most part, a thing of the past, especially when that client is not a referral from another client. Dont get me wrong you should be paid for a design every time, but this situation would require your client to be convinced that YOU need to design/install their project in order to pay what you are asking. The business world has changed, technology is better and competition is stiffer, and you and your LA are trying to approach it from where our industry was, not where our industry is. Your LA should of had a portfolio of designs and ideas that blew away your client and justified the design cost. People will not spend thousands on something they dont know that they will like, and that is completely reasonable. It sounds like during your 3 hour appt. your client did not buy you and your LA, it is important to know that your client is never buying a design, they are buying you and what they perceive to be your abilities. In this case you should suggest changes to the design(overall design, plantings, is it to scale) that they have and find out if they are happy with it, if your suggestions make sense to them then you are back in the game. We all learn these lessons the hard way, you will be better prepared the next time and that is a very positive thing. Keep in mind that your client hired you to do maintenance and therefore views you as a maintenance company, your competitor is probably specializing in design/install and that is how your client views them, that alone is a very steep hill to climb. Most clients would not hire their maintenance company to do a design/install of this size, that is also a reasonable thought process. If you want to be a design/install company then you need to make sure your clients are very aware that is your specialty and market your company accordingly. Best of luck to you, focus on one thing and be great at it!