Guest post by Duane Cashin, owner of Cashin Sales
As 2024 is well underway, it’s crucial to understand the unique challenges that lie ahead. This is not just another year; it’s an election year, and the economy is expected to undergo significant shifts. These factors will undoubtedly impact your business, particularly in the area of sales.
The economic landscape of 2024 is predicted to be a roller coaster ride. Economists forecast a period of economic uncertainty, which could result in your landscaping and lawn care buyers taking a more cautious approach. This means that your sales team will need to be more effective than ever in taking a consultative approach to selling your services.
In addition, 2024 is an election year. Historically, election years have been characterized by a “wait & see” approach from both corporations and consumers. This potential uncertainty of political outcomes often leads to delayed sales closures and hesitancy in making purchases and commitments, including residential and commercial landscaping and lawn care services.
Even in relatively stable times, you face a “commoditization” challenge in the marketplace. It’s very common for buyers to perceive landscape & lawn care companies to be the same. They view your services as a “commodity,” where the value you offer is no different than your competitors, that in fact you and your competitors are “interchangeable.”
However, it’s interesting that the two most common complaints that we hear in the industry from buyers requesting a bid or estimate are that they’re not satisfied with the communication or quality of their current supplier. So, obviously, not all landscaping or lawn care companies are the same!
It’s your sales representative’s responsibility to be capable of standing out in the marketplace. They need to have the skills necessary to differentiate themselves and your company from the competition.
So, how can your sales team navigate these challenges in 2024 and continue to drive profitable growth for your business? Here are 3 tips that could prove valuable:
Make the Most of the Discovery Phase
The most important and powerful phase of the sales process, whether it’s in commercial sales or residential sales, is the Discovery phase. This takes place at the very beginning of the sales process, whether it’s a residential sales rep fielding an inbound call or a commercial rep knocking on doors. This is where the “closing” process actually begins.
Why? Because the Discovery phase is where key questions are asked by the rep to get a clear understanding of what the buyer wants, what’s motivating them at this time to entertain switching providers, or beginning services, and how well qualified they are as a potential customer for your business. It’s in the Discovery phase where your reps set the stage and build credibility and trust in the eyes of the buyer.
Key information gathered in the Discovery phase is used in every other phase of the sales process. In the presentation phase, handling objections and ultimately obtaining agreement and closing the sale. See that your sales reps are capable of expertly executing the Discovery phase in each and every sales opportunity day in and day out.
Overall, there are 7 phases in the consultative sales process where reps have the opportunity to be perceived as professionals and offer them the chance to establish trust. As noted above, the Discovery phase is the most important and most powerful. The second most required skill is overcoming objections.
Whether it’s in commercial or residential sales, there are four main objections: “Your price is high.” “I’m going to get additional estimates.” “I need to think it over.” And, “I need to talk it over with so and so.” We know what the most frequently heard objections are, and we know how to respond to each one.
But the vast majority of sales reps are not aware of how to overcome these objections and if they have been introduced to the rebuttals, they are not frequently role playing them so they become both comfortable and proficient in their execution.
Manage Your Sales Team
The last suggestion that I have for you in this article is in the area of sales management. Whether your CSRs sell, you have one rep or 7 reps, someone in your organization must own the sales management responsibility.
Imagine if the owner of a professional sports team tried to reduce expenses by eliminating practices. He or she would direct the coach to post the plays on their website, give the players access to the gym, and a nutritionist, and tell the players “You’re an elite athlete, we’re paying you a lot of money, do your job and show up and win games”. What do you think would happen to that team’s performance? Right, that team would go down the tubes.
Running any size sales team is no different. Selling success, just like accounting, production, route design and applications, all have processes, require training, focus, and oversight. Make sure you have someone establishing goals, create an executive dashboard to collect and review metrics, and work with your reps to help them grow as consultative sales professionals.
2024 appears to potentially be a year of challenge. Use it to your advantage!
Put emphasis and focus on helping your sales team elevate their skills in articulating value and differentiating themselves, and your company, up to a new professional level. Set a goal to surpass your competition. As they follow their same old routine, take a different path. Strive to outthink, out work, and outsell them. Set a goal to be as “strategic” in your sales process as you are in virtually every other department of your company.
Remember, sales is the engine that powers your company and sales is a competition. Someone is going to win, and someone is going to lose. Position your sales organization to win at a new level!