Selling smart irrigation

Getting clients onboard with more efficient – and sometimes more expensive – technology means showing them the ROI.

April 14, 2011
Lindsey Getz

Judith Benson, president of Clear Water PSI, says there are a couple approaches to getting more residential customers to buy into smarter irrigation practices. It can certainly be tricky considering the technology and services can be more expensive. But it’s something that her company has learned to do.

The first thing an irrigation contractor should do on a property that may be a good fit for smart technology is a complete assessment. “You need to qualify to your client what their water usage is and as a result, what the savings could be,” says Benson. “The truth is it’s not always going to generate savings. If you have a very conservative property, the smart technology could actually increase their water use and would not result in any savings. But for those properties noted as an upper-end consumer, you should be able to easily identify return on investment for their water use. Before you do anything else, you need to show the client that information.”

Getting the ideal contract in order is also critical. Benson says that performance-based contracting is something to consider on these properties, but admits it can be a matter of trial and error. And that can be risky. But she says that once you get the confidence, a performance-based contract works very well. “You just have to do your homework to sell it,” she adds. “That means showing the ROI. Then you may be able to hand them a full package.”

But even after that happens, Benson says you can’t just install the technology and walk away from it. In fact, she says that’s one of the biggest mistakes that irrigation contractors can make. They assume the new technology is self-sufficient. “In Florida, we can have some severe weather changes and the condition of a landscape can be altered within a week or two,” she says. “You have to expect that you’re going to need to do follow ups. And you have to build into your contract enough profit to cover the expenses involved with follow-ups. That’s an area where contractors can lose money because they thought the technology would handle itself.”

Contractors should also realize that learning about some of this new technology can take time. Benson says that diving in can be a big mistake. “You’ve got to be familiar with the technology before you start risking a $25,000 landscape,” she advises. “Start out small and work your way up – just make sure you know what you’re doing. You also need to realize that there’s a lot out there. You don’t need to go with the name brand just because you’ve heard of it. Consider looking past that and exploring the options. There’s some really interesting technology out there today.”


This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Water Works e-newsletter. To continue reading about Judith Benson and Clear Water PSI:

A stream of opportunities: Judith Benson started her business with her husband’s truck and a lot of drive. That passion paid off.

Fresh ideas: Judith Benson offers trends in the irrigation industry.