Business Smarts: Sales Process Strategies to Keep the Ball Rolling - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Business Smarts: Sales Process Strategies to Keep the Ball Rolling

Ever wondered if your sales process is too slow or if your salespeople need to be more direct with their prospects?

Time is money, so it’s natural to want your sales team to be as efficient as possible when moving a lead through your sales funnel. However, if you serve the residential design-build market, you know this is a delicate business that goes beyond the client’s financial situation.

Average Sales Timelines

One question on your mind might be ‘How long is too long for a client to close?’ The good news is there isn’t a hard answer on this, but your cash flow and operational needs will dictate how long you can wait on a lead before moving on.

Wesley Arasmith, a landscape design consultant with Ed Castro Landscape, based in Roswell, Georgia, and Phil Steinhauer, CEO of Designscapes Colorado, based in Centennial, Colorado, both say their average sales timeline is four to six weeks.

Rob Ambler, president of Ambler Industries, based in Furlong, Pennsylvania, says it usually takes their company a month from first talking to a lead to closing a sale.

Because walking away too soon guarantees losing the sale, Steinhauer says he gives clients as much time as they need to decide.

After giving a client their proposal, Ambler will follow up in a week and see where the client is. If he doesn’t hear back, he’ll follow up three or four days after that.

“Then I’ll let it go for a couple of weeks and then at that point, I’ll just keep a running tab of people who haven’t decided,” Ambler says. “I’ll follow up with them every couple of weeks.”

Ambler says he doesn’t give clients a hard date to answer by and will rarely walk away entirely from a lead.

“I just understand that it’s a big chunk of money, and they’re probably weighing out what goes into it and weighing out their financial situations, so I try to be patient,” Ambler says. “I’m not real pushy.”

Ambler says it’s okay for the sales process to be long as it gives you a chance to build a relationship with the person. He believes in the importance of soft skills and breaking down barriers. When he meets a client, he looks around the house for some common ground they share like being a sports fan.

“It’s amazing when you get people talking about stuff that they like and they’re interested in how the walls break down and then it’s so much easier to sell what you’re selling,” Ambler says.

Strategies to Help Progress the Sales Process

Steinhauer says it’s important to be assertive but not aggressive with leads. When meeting with a prospect, set clear expectations early on.

“Try to get on the front end and set those expectations of if any point you are starting to feel uncomfortable or feeling like this is not a good fit, please let us know,” Arasmith says. “We should say back to them at the same rate if we see that maybe this is not a good fit or things are not working budget-wise or timeline-wise, I’m going to be honest with you and say the same thing.”

Ambler says he also encourages clients to let him know if they have selected another contractor or decided not to pursue the project.

Another tip to keep the sales process moving is to always schedule the following meeting at the end of the current meeting. Ambler says he also uses a handwritten thank you letter as a touch point between the two meetings.

“I think it starts in the beginning,” Ambler says. “Build that relationship. Do what you say you’re going to do, under promise and over deliver, follow up and just make sure you’re staying in front of the person as much as you possibly can.”

Ambler says that it’s also critical to be timely in your responses to prospects.

“I know we’ve lost some jobs because we didn’t get back either when we said we would, or fast enough,” Ambler says.

Responding to clients regularly and hitting deadlines helps prevent them from going with a competitor.

“I would say not following up is like the easiest way for us to lose clients, especially when they’re on the fence,” Arasmith says. “Because when they’re on the fence, they don’t usually get off by themselves.”

One tactic that can help prompt leads to make a decision is bringing scheduling to their attention. Arasmith says informing a client that they’re about to lose their spot in your company’s backlog can spark some action.

“I think people are forward-thinking and they’re like, ‘Okay, I want to get this done and I don’t want to be stuck with mud or I want to enjoy this next spring, I need to make a quick decision,’” Steinhauer says.

Steinhauer says one strategy that can get people off the fence is offering to move a project up two weeks earlier if they make a decision now.

“I’m not saying go in and discount the project but look at ways you can strategize to bring their costs down or help them get off the fence,” Steinhauer says.

One tactic Arasmith with use if he feels a lead might be getting cold is this simple nine-word email – “Are you still considering partners for this landscape project?”

He says this gives leads an opportunity to be honest and say if they went with someone else or is no longer considering executing the project. He says this straightforward email also revives a lot of their cold leads.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.