Best Practices for Increasing Your Sales Closure Rate - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Best Practices for Increasing Your Sales Closure Rate

Just like a hitter with a lot of RBIs makes his team more likely to win baseball games, having a salesperson with a higher sales closure rate can help your company succeed. Increasing your sales closure rate requires you to take a look at your sales process and see where things are going awry.

It’s hard to calculate just how much time and money is being lost when chasing leads you aren’t able to close. Having a poor sales closure rate can result in forecasting problems, causing you to pay premiums for rentals or equipment and you can end up scrambling to hire enough workers.

“It’s hard to quantify, but I can tell you there have been times in my sales experience where somebody didn’t close on time, and we ended up losing tens of thousands of dollars of actual profit on the job,” says Neal Glatt, managing partner of GrowTheBench. “Because we couldn’t perform and then we got fired and we didn’t get paid.”

Know Your Ideal Client

The first way to improve your sales closure rate is to focus on selling to your ideal clients. Jud Griggs, a landscape design/build sales and marketing consultant with The Harvest Group, advises every company to determine who their best customers are and where they have the most success.

“Instead of having a shotgun approach, where you’re sending bids out for maintenance or construction work or bidding for design work,” Griggs says. “Focus on what is your ideal client. Where have you had all your success in the past? That’s your sweet spot.”

Glatt adds that by sticking to your target market they are the ones who value what you have to offer and are much more likely to close.

Qualify Your Leads

You might think the sale always ends up falling through at the end, but you’re actually most likely to lose the sale at the beginning.

“It’s at the beginning, you just don’t know it yet,” Glatt says. “You can learn everything right at the beginning before you invest any of that time or effort, but we don’t. People don’t ask, ‘What’s your budget?’ People don’t know how and when they’re going to make a decision. They don’t ask those qualifying questions up front.”

Kevin Kehoe, founder of Aspire, says you need to qualify the lead up front to see if they have the money and the time for the project. When they do, it indicates seriousness and you have a high likelihood of not closing if they’re not qualified. When asking about a person’s budget, tact is necessary.

You can address it after building some rapport with the client and then explaining for a similar project what the price range is and where they see themselves falling.

Glatt says you shouldn’t provide a proposal unless you’re sure you’re going to win the job. He says good salespeople will have to ask a lot of questions in the beginning but it will help you discover if they are a good fit.

“Do you want to be rocking a 20 percent close rate, or do you want to tell 80 percent of people who call you that they don’t get a proposal?” Glatt says. “What’s going to make the difference for you in sales?”

Glatt says sales only fall apart at the end due to one of three things.

“Either they didn’t have a compelling reason to buy that you discovered, or they didn’t have the money to buy what you sent out or they didn’t have the ability to make the decision the way they were supposed to,” Glatt says. “It’s always one of those three.”

Make A Good First Impression

During the qualification phase, it’s also important to make a good first impression.

“With the qualifications, it’s not just, did you qualify them to time and money,” Kehoe says. “But did they like you? Did you come across as someone that was not a salesperson?”

“First impressions are everything,” Griggs says. “You want to really dazzle the client. You really want to make sure that they remember you. Again, our goal is to not just be a number, but you want to make a great impression.”

Griggs says it’s important to listen and understand what the prospect wants and advises taking notes to capture their key desires. Kehoe says you can come across as credible rather than pushy by asking good questions.

“I always tell salespeople, ‘Listen, it’s not what you say that sells it, it’s the questions you ask that makes the client feel like they get more in control of the process and that you’re not pushing something on them by describing how great you are, or how much they need it,’” Kehoe says.

Build a Relationship

Griggs says one of the keys to setting a sale up for success is to build a relationship. Rather than starting off with a sales pitch, find common ground to talk about. He says the prospect’s barriers will start to come down when you build a relationship.

“Don’t be a salesperson, become a consultant,” Griggs says. “You actually want to educate them on why you’re proposing this or that or why you’ve designed it a certain way. Educate them on the horticultural aspects or the best practices. Let them know that you really know what you’re talking about. Become a consultant and educate the customer first, then the sale will take care of itself.”

During the proposal or negotiation phases of the sale, if the client has objections, don’t just launch into an explanation. Kehoe says it’s better to let them know they asked a good question or follow up with a question of your own to truly understand what they’re concerned about.

A sale can fall through when a salesperson gets too salesy when dealing with the objection phase.

“They start bringing in proof statements about how good they are and how they’re dependable,” Kehoe says. “I think that doesn’t help build the relationship and trust with prospects who at that point in time may actually truly be on the fence.”

Follow Through

If a lead has reached out requesting a proposal, you need to be timely with your response.

“I call it the Amazon effect,” Griggs says. “People want it now. They don’t want to wait. And if you can’t provide it now, meet your commitments. If you’ve told them that you’ll have a proposal back or design back in a week or two weeks, make sure you meet that time commitment.”

Griggs says it’s best to exceed their expectations by saying you’ll get back to them in a week and then get back to them in four days.

“Typically, it’s the first person that responds and the first person that provides proposal is the one that typically is going to get the project because customers are excited,” Griggs says. “They want to they want to get going.”

It’s important to set expectations with your client at the beginning so you know how long it takes for a decision to be made and can hold them to that timeline. Kehoe says companies should take advantage of the various CRM systems can send out notifications of when it’s time to reach out again.

Glatt says it’s more about following through to make sure you close on time, rather than following up. In the discovery conversation, you need to set these deadlines, so you’re just touching base on what’s already been discussed.

“When we assess salespeople, we see how good they are at following up, and the people who are really good at following up actually score lower on the sales assessment,” Glatt says. “I don’t want somebody who’s phenomenal following up, because somebody who’s great at following up doesn’t mind being in that position. I want somebody who’s going to be better at asking tough questions so they don’t have to follow up.”

If a prospect has given you an unreasonable time period, you need to let them know why you can’t do it in that short amount of time and give them a different timeline.

Ask for the Sale

Another point in the sales process where things can go wrong is at the end when the salesperson fails to actually ask for the sale. Kehoe says around 60 to 70 percent of salespeople never truly ask for the sale.

“They just hate this idea of rejection and they think that they’ve done enough in the other three phases in terms of qualifying, in terms of putting together a good proposal, in terms negotiating that the prospect at that point in time is just going to say, ‘yes’ and say, ‘when can we start?’ and they just often don’t,” Kehoe says.

Griggs also says he’s seen many salespeople fail by not asking for the sale out of fear of being told no. He suggests phrasing it by ‘Can we lock you into our schedule?’ or ‘Is there anything we haven’t addressed before going forward with the project?’

Kehoe says they often ask ‘Is there any reason why to not go forward with this?” He emphasizes the next step is for the salesperson to be silent.

“Count to 10 if you have to,” he says. “Let them speak.”

Kehoe says you simply have to get to a point where you don’t mind rejection and don’t take it personally. Salespeople who are successful see no as the next step, rather than the end.

Accountability and Coaching

Even though you can’t close all your sales 100 percent of the time, Glatt, Griggs and Kehoe all agree that salespeople still need to be held accountable for their sales closure rate.

“If you’re closing 10 percent of your contract sales and 30 percent of your enhancement sales that would indicate they’re not doing a good job somewhere along the line,” Kehoe says.

Kehoe says often says a poor sales closure rate is the result of behavior or attitude. If it’s behavior, the salesperson may think what they’re doing is right or were never taught the proper sales process. If it’s attitude, the salesperson might not be working hard enough or takes no for an answer too easily. He says the answer will become obvious when you dig into their sales pipeline of what sales they lost and why they lost them.

Glatt says that goal setting should be individualized, perpetual and grow over time. He says sales closure rate isn’t the most important KPI, as he is far more concerned with someone’s daily activity.

“I hold them accountable but that’s not what I judge them by,” Glatt says. “I judge them on are you improving, and are you doing the daily minimum required behaviors to get to your goal.”

Glatt and Griggs stress that it’s up to the owner or sales manager to provide the proper training and support for their sales team rather than throwing them in a sink or swim situation.

This article was published in the November/December issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Landscape Professional magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.