1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation about fertilization strategies for success with the experts at Koch Turf & Ornamental in the Fertilizer Application forum.

    Dismiss Notice

Hiring a salesman??

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by chrisvinky, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Sure. I'll bite.

    First of all, there's already been some excellent advice about not hiring friends. I'll just clue you in to what everyone else here already knows and the O.P. apparently does not - Don't hire friends! That always ends badly!

    Second, paying strictly commission is usually a bad deal for everyone. It sounds exciting at first. But one of two things are likely to happen. One: it won't be as easy to land accounts as this guy thinks it is and the bonus money won't add up to as much as he was dreaming of. Then he loses interest quickly once he realizes this and finds another job that pays better, more reliable income. Or Two: he starts landing jobs but he's underbid them because he really had no clue what he's doing in this industry and he's just more excited about landing a job and getting that bonus than he is making sure that he has bid the job correctly. So now you're paying big bonuses for jobs you're losing your a$$ on, and you don't even realize it for 6 months.

    My third thought is nobody builds a business this way. You don't hire full time sales people at the Solo Op. stage. You hire people and teach them to do what you do (mow, handle the route, etc.) and then once they're trained YOU step up and start doing the selling. Doing it the way you describe is like putting the cart before the horse. It doesn't work like that.

    Fourth, I totally disagree with the premise - that a lawn care / landscaping company should have dedicated sales people. I think the best sales people do way more than just sales. They are project managers who have worked their way up so that they understand production times at your company so well and they are good enough to both manage crews and land jobs for the crews to be doing. In other words, they're going on sales calls, landing jobs, scheduling the jobs, overseeing the crew that does the job, making sure the job gets finished correctly, and then collecting the payment for the job. But knowing production times is the real key here. Dedicated sales-only people don't know production times. They've never worked in the field. They're just guessing. You need the sales person to have experience! And you need someone who is involved with the customer throughout the whole process. Someone the customer can build a relationship with. Customers don't like it when the guy who sold them the job disappears after the sale. That pisses people off. Half the time, they hired you because of YOU. They liked YOU and wanted to work with YOU. Not just be passed off to someone else at the company because "you only do sales."

    There are 4 of us at my company in charge of sales. But all of us are also project managers too. 2 of us on the landscape design/build side and 2 over on the maintenance side. We're in touch with the customer as long as they are customers of ours. We're doing way more than just sales. People like that. Relationships is a key part of any business.

    I met with a good friend of mine recently who runs a local company that does $50Mil. in annual sales. Very successful company. They have a whole slew of sales guys. And that's all they do is sales. I met with him recently because we get together to compare notes a few times a year. I asked him recently, "So your sales guys never work with the customer after the sale is made? Doesn't that piss people off???" His answer surprised me. Just because he was so honest. He said, "Yes, as a matter of fact. It does. And we're changing that. It's been done that way for years." (my friend just joined the company 2 years ago and is 2nd in charge of the whole company now, so he's been facilitating a lot of change lately). He went on to say, "We're in the process of changing our business model to be more like the way you do it. Where the guys that are selling the jobs will be the same guys overseeing the project from start to finish. People like that better." I agree. That's how we've always done it. But it's good to see that even REALLY large companies are starting to learn that too.

    Another premise that I disagree with is that hiring a salesman is the way to drum up more business. I guess it could drum up some business that way - just by cold calling businesses and such. But it's kind of backwards. The real way to drum up business is to do more marketing / branding / advertising. Drive business your way rather than chasing business down. All throughout my business, I've always focused all my spare time on marketing / advertising / branding. Whenever I wasn't busy, this is what I'd focus all my attention on. If I was broke and couldn't really afford much, I found ways to market that didn't cost very much money. But I was always focusing on doing something to get our name out there more - not cold calling or dropping in and bugging people who may or may not be wanting my services.

    One final tidbit for you: I only ever hired additional salesman / project managers only when I was to the point where there were so many calls coming in that I couldn't handle them all myself. THAT'S when you should be hiring someone to help in sales. Not now.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
  2. chrisvinky

    chrisvinky LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 355

    It normally would be time for selling right now but with the warmer temps, it has thrown a curve ball to us! we are beginning to mow this week. I've never been good at selling. I sent 1000 postcards to a targeted route about 3 weeks ago and had one call. We have a county of 30,000 where we live and I can think just off the top of my head of about 10 different outfits that mow. Some are larger, some one man shows. Competition is tough! It seems most people who have their yard mowed have somebody and are reluctant to change unless they are just unhappy with the service. I have a couple of apartment complexes and done some commercial work last year but lost the commercial work this year. There's not much industry here or commercial work except for some banks, restaurants, etc. Really no industrial type work. I'm sending in a bid on two banks next week and a cemetery.
    My friend is a preacher and knows a lot of people so I thought he could get me some residential jobs but he wants to concentrate on going after big acreage and industrial complexes 30 miles away. Not sure what to do.
  3. chrisvinky

    chrisvinky LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 355

    Jim Lewis, I sent you a message. Thanks for the candid advice.
  4. billpiper

    billpiper LawnSite Member
    Messages: 82

    I completely agree with JIm. Most of my selling was in commercial printing in my earlier years. Yes we sold printing - at least that was the end product. But what we really sold were solutions to problems, using our knowledge of the process and materials to create a successful product for our customers. We sold service. i spec'd the job, sometimes quoted the job, sold the job, then pushed it through the plant and followed up to make sure the customer was happy with our work. I had a plant manager tell me once that I was suicidal about servicing my customers. I did not consider that to be an insult.

    New and smaller operations in any industry alays have a hard time affording marketing and branding, but Jim's right, cold calling is a waste of time. A cheaper way of marketing is networking - ask friends and family for their business and referrals. bet if you make a list, you know 200 people who are potential customers, and that you have not contacted most of them. Why don't you ask your friend for referrals? You could even pay him a referal fee when you get a new contract.

    When you sent out that 1000 post cards, did you follow up by phone or in person? You said you weren't good at sales, but to me, being good at sales is being honest and open. I never really had a "sales pitch". I told them who I was, who I worked for, showed a couple of samples to prove we really could print, then asked them about their business and let them talk.

    It seems to me that doing business is sort of an up or out type of thing. If you aren't growing, you're losing ground. marketing and sales gets you up.
    Last comment. Most people would rather buy from the "boss" than a salesman or employee.

    Good luck

Share This Page