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  #21  
Old 10-15-2012, 10:56 AM
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lawnkingforever lawnkingforever is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimLewis View Post
We never give estimates without meeting with the client in person. Even if I could see their entire property in perfect detail over Google Maps (which isn't possible), I wouldn't do it.

The reason is that we don't win jobs based on price. We're more expensive than most of the other LCOs in town. If someone is just calling various companies, trying to get an idea of prices, they are price shopping. We're not going to win that game. So it's a total waste of our time. If they are not willing to spend 30 minutes with us looking over their property together and going over our various services, then we're not going to give a proposal - period.

We win bids when clients can meet with us in person, get a good feel for us personally, our appearance (our trucks, uniforms, business cards, estimate forms), how prompt we are, how comprehensive our service is, and we have some time to impress upon them that we really know landscapes. eGive me 30 minutes with a customer and there's a 50-50 chance I'll land that account. But if we give a price over the phone, it's more like a 5% chance.

If we get calls or leads like that, we just explain to them that we only give estimates in person and would love to meet with them. If they don't go for it, we wish them the best of luck and move on to another call.
I agree. I always meet with a potential client before giving a price. I need to walk a property and meet with the homeowner to discuss various things so I know we are on the same page. A phone call can usually weed out a Pita, but a face to face will always weed out a problem customer. There way to many factors involved to give a price over the phone by using Google maps.

1. Is there dog crap everywhere
2. What is the width of the gate, if there is fence.
3. Is the edging overgrown on the sidewalks.
4. Do I need to use a pushmower on part of the yard.

There are other factors as well that I need to see in person. The size of the property is not a huge factor for the average residential yard. Getting the square footage of a property or looking at a Google map is useless to me. I have limited slot openings so I like to be 100% certain they are a good fit and are potential long term customers. Now for larger properties Google maps could be a useful tool. It still would not replace a face to face. My service area is pretty small and I keep a very tight route so driving out for an estimate is not a huge deal.
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  #22  
Old 10-15-2012, 12:28 PM
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JimLewis JimLewis is offline
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I guess the difference is what market you want to be in. At some point, we all have to choose whether we want to be in the cheapskate market or the market for customers who are a little better of and really want quality, reliability, and reputation over price.

If you're main customer base is the cheapskate market, you can really only compete on one level - price. If yours is the lowest, you get the bid. And if that's your market, I guess a look at Google Maps may be helpful.

I know some here on Lawnsite don't really have a choice. They live in an area of the country where there just aren't a lot of rich people. So if that's the case, you don't got much choice, I guess. You're stuck pandering to cheapskates. That sucks. If it were me, knowing what I know now, I'd move to an area that had more rich people. But I understand some people are stuck in a depressed area and the only option is to compete on price.

But the rest of us who have plenty of more well to do people within driving distance of our house, have to choose. And if you're serving the upper end market, then drive-by's and over-the-phone estimates are not wise. You don't want to compete in that market. That's a loosing game. Let the pikers fight over customers like that. Work on getting calls from better customers who not only are willing to meet with you in person - but actually WANT to meet with you in person. That's your golden opportunity to shine.
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  #23  
Old 10-15-2012, 03:12 PM
MDLawn MDLawn is offline
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Location: Western NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimLewis View Post
I guess the difference is what market you want to be in. At some point, we all have to choose whether we want to be in the cheapskate market or the market for customers who are a little better of and really want quality, reliability, and reputation over price.

If you're main customer base is the cheapskate market, you can really only compete on one level - price. If yours is the lowest, you get the bid. And if that's your market, I guess a look at Google Maps may be helpful.

I know some here on Lawnsite don't really have a choice. They live in an area of the country where there just aren't a lot of rich people. So if that's the case, you don't got much choice, I guess. You're stuck pandering to cheapskates. That sucks. If it were me, knowing what I know now, I'd move to an area that had more rich people. But I understand some people are stuck in a depressed area and the only option is to compete on price.

But the rest of us who have plenty of more well to do people within driving distance of our house, have to choose. And if you're serving the upper end market, then drive-by's and over-the-phone estimates are not wise. You don't want to compete in that market. That's a loosing game. Let the pikers fight over customers like that. Work on getting calls from better customers who not only are willing to meet with you in person - but actually WANT to meet with you in person. That's your golden opportunity to shine.
This and making sure you are not afraid to walk when a sincere "No" is given. Most likely it's a price thing and too many guys just buckle and give in and drop a price just to have an account or the feeling bad about themselves because they recieved a no. Been there and NEVER will do that again. It's nothing but a losing game at that point. Just shake hands thanking them for allowing you to run an estimate for them and move on. If you immediately drop price you've shown that you're willing to drop prices at the hint they say no or put up a struggle. What do you think will happen when they want the bushes trimmed, beds mulched, leaves collected, etc...? "Deals" can happen when multiple services are desired and paid up front. That way both the customer and contractor get something. They may get a little off in price and you have a money in the bank.

Jim has a large business and WAY more experience and I'm quite the small potatoes compared to him but I also would rather meet with someone. Often times you can dig enough to find out that maybe the contractor they had before was never there, did a horrible job, never answered the phone, etc.. I had one customer that said all those things, because I dug for them and he resistant at first, about his previous contractor and his main problem with them was they never returned phone calls or emails. They lost a good account because they failed to pick up their phone!?!?!? The best part was he was calling them to give them more business. He turned out to be a great customer who never argued price increases. I also made sure to answer his emails that day and not miss a beat with communication (I mean we all have smart phones that give you email??). I moved this past year and had to end business with him and he was actually genuinely upset because of it. I think the one thing I learned most from a sales job I did was that you have to ask questions and dig at them to figure out what they want, some don't want to say and others just don't know. If you just show up look around the yard and just give a price for a lawn mowing you could be missing out on extra work and sending mixed signals compared to a guy, such as Jim, who will really dig and explain things to help that customer. But cheapskates are just that and not easily changed and usually the more you meet with people the quicker you can tell it's not going to work out and then throw the price just so you can leave.

I don't think I'd ever use this tactic on my customers but in that sales job when a customer was genuinely interested in buying the piece but was whiny about price we were told to say "Is this just something you cannot afford?" Believe it or not more people would whip out the credit card or sign up for financing to prove you wrong.......

Last edited by MDLawn; 10-15-2012 at 03:18 PM.
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  #24  
Old 10-16-2012, 06:32 PM
Dave88LX Dave88LX is offline
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Location: Pasadena, MD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MDLawn View Post
I don't think I'd ever use this tactic on my customers but in that sales job when a customer was genuinely interested in buying the piece but was whiny about price we were told to say "Is this just something you cannot afford?" Believe it or not more people would whip out the credit card or sign up for financing to prove you wrong.......
That's funny, I had this almost same thing happen to me today. I'm just a homeowner looking to get a grading project done. Going to get estimates/information from three people and see who can provide me with the best value/services for the price point (not the cheapest price). We were BSing a little at first, he asked what kind of work I did. I told him I was a network engineer on a gov't contract. We get to looking at the yard, and he originally told me $1,500 for the front yard. He then said tell you what, if you pay cash, I can do it for $1,000 and have it done tomorrow. I told him I will have to decide what direction I'm going to go; his response was something along the lines of "What, you're a network engineer and don't have $1,000 to spend on this?"

I tried not to take it personally, as I believe I understand what he was trying to say. But, I'm also not hiring the first guy that shows up. I hate having to choose and then dismissing the others, but, you have to 'interview for the job' I suppose? I don't know.
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  #25  
Old 11-08-2012, 07:06 PM
andyslawncare andyslawncare is offline
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I use GoIlawn.com $4.00 per search; I use google maps as a close up look of the street view. Can take linear and sq. ft. measurements, save visual file, excell file, etc. Better than google maps because photography is taken when trees are dormant, and you can see through the canopy to the lawn areas. Very helpful tool. I've even blindly bid neighborhoods using this tool, since you can actually search a pretty large area around the searched property, as long as you understand the boundaries and know the addresses---for the second part of this, I used a video camera and rode through neighborhoods chanting off addresses and front foundation landscaping information in a way I could relay it to the overhead imagery. I sold accounts in January by doing this. Now I have a database of proposals for around 700 properties that I've never stepped foot on. I've sold pretty good landscaping jobs, maintenance contracts, and weed control accounts by doing this.
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  #26  
Old 11-08-2012, 09:51 PM
newguy123 newguy123 is offline
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I understand that some LCO's are hesitant to using google maps/google earth; and that some people would consider "those customers" that you use maps/earth on as low end customers. However that's not completely true. My customers, on average, own houses in the mid 300K's to high 400k's. I wouldn't call these low end customers, and yet I use maps/earth almost exclusively. If you use maps/earth paired with very specific questions to the homeowner, you could save yourself a lot of time/energy/money giving bids over the phone/email than driving in person.

At the end of the day do what you feel comfortable.
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  #27  
Old 11-09-2012, 03:16 PM
Catmann Catmann is offline
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Local tax parcel searches are very good, not perfect, but will give you a ballpark of what the property looks like. Zillow.com also will provide a close-up view with boundary lines. Not all areas have the same systems or detail of properties online, so you will have to find what you have in your area.

Regardless, you can use these tools to ballpark things, but I would always tell a customer that it is subject to an onsite visit. You could also ballpark the first cut/trim and tell them that you will provide a concrete number for all future visits after running through the property the first time. Sort of a trial run.
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  #28  
Old 11-10-2012, 09:18 AM
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lawnworker lawnworker is offline
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If someone was really pressing for a quick quote, using a mapping tool. I would give them a wide range based on a per cut price, while explaining the many variables that could reflect the range. Usually, the customer starts sensing I am not your "cheapest guy" mower man, and the conversation ends.

If it is someone that really cares about their lawn, quality service, and not looking for a one time cut. They will want to meet, or at least tell you to go look at it and give them a price.Most of the customers that are worth having, will not be in a extreme rush for a bid either. Typically a potential customer will wait a few days till I am in the area cutting others. I have found the more impatient people are also the ones that don't want to pay.

I can see how a more comprehensive company like Jim Lewis would really want to meet in person. The up sell and multi-offerings of service is easier to do face to face. Solo operators, like myself, find themselves in that gray area where they only want to do so many services, but still have to weed out cheapskates.
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  #29  
Old 11-11-2012, 09:17 PM
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ptjackson ptjackson is offline
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I know that there's lots of reasons that people want to visit the site in person, but if you want to quickly look at the property and do some quick measurements we did create a tool free for you to use.

http://servicevines.com/jobs/measureit

There's also an iphone version available in the app store.
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