When a contractor tells me they hired a guy with the perfect sales personality, it scares me to death. One of the greatest myths regarding sales is that good sales people are blessed with the blarney stone and are talkers. Selling is a skill of listening, not talking. Ever notice the more the customer talks, the more the customer buys. People like to feel understood and know you are listening to them. Listening and connecting with people builds trust. Intelligent introverts can make great salespeople.
Too many people confuse selling with social niceties. Being nice to people is important but will someone really pay a premium for your services because you both like the same sports team or think it is hot outside? I doubt it. Selling is about communicating value to your customer. You can't communicate value until you know what they want.
Spend the first 5-10 minutes of each sales call asking broad questions. Try to find out what is driving the project. Are they going to move? Do they entertain a lot? Do they like to piddle around in the yard or hate yard work? Dig, dig and dig a little more. The more information you gather, the better.
2. You don't listen.
Most of us think of ourselves as not being judgmental, but when it comes to your trade, you are probably more prejudice than you realize. As you walk up the driveway, have you ever thought of what would look nice and started developing ideas? Probably so, and that is prejudice. You have no idea what the customer wants, and here you are working on the project. The more technical, prideful and competent you are in your profession, the more prejudiced you might be. Even if you are correct, you must first listen and educate the customer prior to dumping your ideas on them.
I walked into a hardware store to buy a drill bit. A young man with a trainee badge approached and eagerly took me to the appropriate area to demonstrate a specially tipped bit that could be used hundreds of times before dulling. It was normally $24.99 but was only $18 today. My reply was that I had a $2 hole. He looked at me like I was crazy and reinforced what a good deal this was as I could use it hundreds of times. I replied, not for me, as I only needed to make one hole. People buy drill bits for the kind of holes they need, not the actual drill bit. There is no way to know their need unless you ask.
3. You don't ask.
Most contractors don't want to seem pushy. That is understandable but asking for the order is not pushy, it is just common sense. When you walk into a restaurant, does the waiter ask what would you like to order? Sure he does. When you walk up to a hotel counter, does someone ask if you would like a room? Sure they do. You don't think they are rude or pushy. You went there with that purpose in mind. You are a contractor. People called you because they had a need. Simply ask, "Would you like for us to put you in our schedule?"
The author is president of PROOF Management Consultants and PROSULT Networking Groups. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today's economy is rippled with uncertainty. One day, consumer confidence is up and things look promising. The next day, bad economic news casts a dark cloud over the outlook. In uncertain times like these, it may seem natural to pull in your horns – take shelter until things look more promising. But, that's exactly the wrong thing to do.
There are still plenty of potential customers out there. Right now, your smartest move is to ratchet up your marketing efforts while your competitors are slacking off. When the smoke clears, you'll be stronger than ever and your competition will be wondering what happened.
Here are seven ways to help build your landscaping business on a tight marketing budget.
Use the telephone wisely.
The responses clearly indicated lost opportunities. More than 78 percent didn't bother to ask for the caller's name. More than 55 percent took eight rings or more to answer.
According to the researchers, many spoke so rapidly that the caller had a difficult time understanding what was said. Less than 10 percent answered the phone in a way that made the caller feel welcome.
To harness the power of the telephone as a potent business tool, you must regard every ring of the telephone as a marketing opportunity.
Chances are that all or most of the callers to your number will be met with an answering machine message. That makes your outgoing message a critical marketing tool. Here's how to make best use of it:
Here's how it works: John, a landscaper, works out a cross-promotion arrangement with Jim, a plumber in the same town. Each agrees to hand out brochures or business cards of the other's business to each homeowner they visit. The cost? Nothing more than the cost of printing.
Combinations for cross-promoting are limited only by the participants' imagination. Cross promotion may include such tools as window signs or posters, discount coupons or personal referrals.
Put networking to work for you.
A stranger from a listing in the Yellow Pages, or someone you know – perhaps a neighbor or the friendly fellow you met at last week's Rotary meeting?
Service organizations such as Kiwanis, Lions or Chamber of Commerce are populated with entrepreneurs and professional people, and most are as anxious to meet you as you are to meet them.
Capitalize on your flexibility.
On a temporary basis, less profitable work is better than no work at all.
Grab your share of the best publicity – free publicity.
So, how do you go about getting a piece of the free publicity pie?
First, you need to learn what makes a good story. Then you need to learn how to sell it your local news media.
Your news item doesn't have to be of monumental importance to gain a free spot in the media, it just has to be "newsworthy."
That simply means there is something about your or your business that the public might find interesting. Here are some newsworthy story ideas about your business:
The media isn't going to come looking for you. While it isn't necessary to have a "contact" in the local press to get your share, it doesn't hurt. That's another reason to put networking to work for you.
Shoestring marketing techniques such as these may not seem as challenging or exciting as other methods for building your business, but they can be an effective and inexpensive way to add dollars to your bottom line in this tough economy.
The author is a freelance writer based in Abington, Pa.
Editor's note: This story was the September cover story. For the digital edition of the magazine, click here.
Earlier this year, Newsweek listed the Top 20 most useless degrees. And sitting close to the top at No. 2 was horticulture. (Don't feel bad, journalism was No. 1.)
The ranking was based on data that included the industry's median starting salary ($35,000), median mid-career salary ($50,800) and percentage change in the number of jobs from 2008-2018 (-1.74). And the ranking reiterated many of the reasons university and college horticulture programs say they're having trouble attracting students – the public's perception is salaries are too low and a degree is, well, useless for a career that could involve planting and mowing.
"Parents are sending their children to business school – the business schools are swelling," says Roger Harris, professor and head of the horticulture department at Virginia Tech University. "There's a perception that people don't know what horticulture is ... and there's a perception that they can't make a good living, which is totally false. Our students are making near the top of the college, as far as starting salaries. They're working for competitive companies."
Advancing programs. As federal and state budgets were cut, it's no surprise the trickle-down effect of that tightening hit hard many universities and colleges. Hort programs have seen budget cuts as high as 19 percent. Those who haven't seen decreases have worked with flat budgets, which essentially equates to a reduction.
The cuts have meant the loss of faculty, extension and research programs. It's meant horticulture departments merged with other departments. And it's meant an increasing number of programs have looked externally for non-state sources of funding.
For example, at Penn State, tree care companies and the fruit and vegetable industries have helped pay either for teachers' salaries or operating expenses. A trend Rich Marini, professor and head of the horticulture department, hopes the rest of the industry catches on to.
"The nursery and landscaping industries have been almost totally non-supportive in the past," he says. "I think the future for the landscape and nursery programs at most universities (is) as tenured track people retire, they will probably be replaced with – as long as we have enough students – instructors, nine-month appointments, instructors with one to three year contracts."
The changes in recent years haven't all been gloom. Departments retooled to meet the needs of incoming students and the industry.
A glimpse of how things have changed in the last decade: Michigan State University added a Sustainable and Organic Horticulture concentration. Virginia Tech's landscape contracting students receive a minor in entrepreneurship.
Colorado State University changed the name of its landscape horticulture major to environmental horticulture and added a landscape business concentration. Why the change?
"There were two main reasons: One was that name better reflects the nature of the program in a broader sense," says Steve Wallner, professor and head of the department. "When you're talking about the curriculum and what those students are interested in and hope to wind up doing, it really is all about outdoor spaces and outdoor environments, so environmental horticulture made sense from that point of view. Secondly, we thought it would be more appealing to students from a recruiting sense."
Texas A&M University designed a degree with less science and more business and design skill emphasis in hopes to draw more students to the program. "The biggest change in the last five years has been our new BA degree program which has brought in some talented students that we would not have attracted previously," says Tim Davis, former head of the horticulture department.
Of the schools Lawn & Landscape spoke with, the answers about whether the student population was decreasing or increasing were mixed. Many department heads said their horticulture majors have declined in enrollment, but landscaping majors or concentrations in landscaping, viticulture, enology and organic ag have held steady or increased. (See sidebar above.)
Since receiving PLANET accreditation in 2003, Brigham Young's landscape management program has seen enrollment increase from about 75 students to about 200. During that time, production horticulture was also eliminated, said Phil Allen, professor of landscape management.
Virginia Tech had about 150 undergrads in its hort program 15 years ago; the numbers dropped steadily for years and recently stabilized around 85.
Harris says he pinpoints a few reasons for the decline – similar reasons multiple department heads gave.
No. 1, horticulture isn't seen as a "professional" industry to many.
No. 2, land-grant universities with large engineering and business schools have raised the entrance bar and put caps on the number of students, making it difficult for students interested in any field to get accepted.
No. 3, the number of students transferring from community college systems or two-year programs has declined. "I think the community college system is suffering a little bit," he says. "I think people are deciding to keep working instead of going to school because it's an economic thing – they don't know if it's worth it or not. The hort programs that were feeding us a little bit, some of them have been discontinued – community college programs."
A bright spot is that even with a national unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent, horticulture students are finding jobs. The number of job offers might not be as high as they once were, but there are still positions in most areas.
"I encourage students to consider areas where supply and demand ratios are very favorable, and areas where the demand is greatest include irrigation, and the account manager trainee type position and also plant healthcare or tree healthcare and arboriculture," Allen says. "Those areas we could triple the number of students we have and every one of them could have multiple job offers when they graduate."
Recruiting students. From an industry perspective, Kory Beidler, technical training manager at The Brickman Group, says he hasn't noticed a difference in the number of students graduating nationwide, but the competition among companies trying to recruit the students has become fiercer.
"There is more big players nationally or even regionally that now have resources to do recruiting, where maybe 10-15 years ago there were only a few of us that really could spend the money or have the resources to go after colleges," Beidler says. "Now they have a representation (at colleges and job fairs), so that's why the competition has increased."
Another trend companies have seen is a change in graduates' expectations.
Beidler says he has seen an increase in the number of students interested in design, estimating or management jobs right after graduation, but there are only so many of those positions available, and especially within a commercial landscape maintenance company like Brickman.
"There is less eagerness among current college graduates to go into more physically demanding jobs," says Gordon Ober, vice president of recruiting and development for the The Davey Tree Expert Co. "Many of today's college students are also not as eager to work longer hours or pick up and move far away from home. Also, upper ranking students are not as willing to start at the bottom to learn the business and work their way to the top. They want a defined, short-term roadmap for advancement up and out of production positions. They expect to start as management trainees, account representatives/managers or supervisors."
Still, those in the industry say the quality of student being produced is still high.
Brett Lemcke, vice president of R.M. Landscape and chairman of PLANET's Student Career Days says the students he runs into at the annual event and at job fairs are the ones companies want to recruit because they show a real effort and enthusiasm for the industry.
"The quality (of students) is very strong," he says. "They're new to the industry, so they have a lot to learn but, at the same time, they're willing to learn. They understand why we're all here and what the business is about."
Experience in the form of internships is one thing Beidler and Ober say they wish more graduates had on their resumes. The solution to that is two parts: Colleges requiring students perform internships in the field before graduating and more companies offering the opportunity.
William Vance Baird, professor and chair of Michigan State University's Department of Horticulture, says internships should extend to high school students, which would give them an early experience and connection to the industry.
"Most of our students get interested in majoring by having some positive contact with horticulture," he says. "The best recruiter is someone who gives them a chance to do something more with plants than dig holes and/or pull weeds all day; then they see that this can be a career. If companies can provide summer employment for high school students that is varied in scope and includes a few days shadowing the bosses, for example, or a trip to an industry event like an expo or a field day, it can really open their minds to what is possible."
Attracting students. Many of the barriers the industry faces when it comes to attracting young people aren't new. And some department heads and industry folks say even if an influx of students were interested in the industry, depending on their concentration, there may not be jobs. Still, moves need to be made to change the perception and draw more students to the industry.
From the university and college perspective, they're trying to brand the industry as technical and professional and with resurgence in all things organic and eco-friendly, departments are pushing the message that the horticulture industry is a steward of the environment. They're not only going after high school students but those already on campus that are undeclared.
"Students are interested in making the world a better place, making a difference," Baird says. "Stress the positive contribution to the environment and quality of life made by our industries."
But they can only do so much without the industry's help. Many department heads say higher starting salaries would help. As well as the industry playing a larger role in helping high school students – or even younger – understand what it is the industry does.
Marini says when he arrived at Penn State he thought he had an easy recruitment solution, just visit high school science classes and college fairs.
"I quickly found out that we weren't allowed to do that," he says. "There are so many college recruiters attending high schools trying to recruit students that the high schools limit the number of times any university can visit them. So if Penn State can only go into a high school once, they don't want the head of the horticulture department going."
There are initiatives taking place with high school and middle school students – PLANET is involved with Future Farmers of America and has put together recruiting pieces and worked with state associations to promote the green industry – but every company can be part of the process, Lemcke says.
"Contact local horticulture programs or get into high schools and just talk about, as business owners or managers, the success you have, how fun and creative your jobs are and start pushing (the industry) that way," Lemcke says. "As industry people, if we can go after (schools) and say, 'Hey, I'm available, sign me up for whatever,' that would help with momentum, getting people on board and filling up these classrooms."
The author is an associate editor at Lawn & Landscape. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Editor's note: This story was the September cover story. For the digital edition of the magazine, click here.
Downtime is a killer. When equipment is laid up in the shop waiting for maintenance, it's like having an entire crew call in sick.
You scramble to find a "fill in" and take a productivity hit as you realign schedules and cobble together a fast Plan B to get the day's work done.
"In the service business, you can't get that downtime back," says Tim Schnabel, president, Aggieland Green Lawn & Tree Care in Colorado Springs, Colo., and College Station, Texas. "You have to buy the right equipment that gets the job done most efficiently with the fewest headaches and problems."
Buying smart takes some practice, and most of us make mistakes before we figure out the art and science of purchasing. We have preferences for certain lines/brands, and there are numbers to crunch.
But if you're in the buying mode these days, Todd Pugh says equipment dealerships are ripe with promotions. If you have the cash or you can get financing, you can get some pretty good deals," says the founder and CEO of Todd's Enviroscapes in Louisville, Ohio.
This month, Lawn & Landscape spoke with three firms to learn their equipment best practices and winning purchase strategies.
A unified approach
"We need to be quick to make decisions," says Pugh, founder and CEO of the company he started when he was 14 years old. (He incorporated in 1996.) "In the past, we could sit and actually project and budget our equipment needs – we could say, 'We are going to add three mowing crews and this is how much equipment we will need.'"
Today, Pugh might need to add a couple of crews mid-season. Commercial clients are waiting until last minute to contract work in order to save money. Contract administrators have been laid off. There are national buying groups making decisions. But despite all this, business moves much faster today, Pugh says.
That's why Enviroscapes runs unified fleets – same color mowers, same truck brand, same name on hand-held equipment. "That way, we can create stronger vendor relationships, training time is reduced because the guys are used to the same controls and operations and there is less stocking of parts," Pugh says.
Buying the same lines from the same dealers improves purchasing efficiency. And that means Pugh can make last-minute decisions to support business growth that occurs mid-season, or any time, for that matter.
Of course, equipment purchasing wasn't always so organized at Enviroscapes. Pugh says there is a learning curve, and when he first got into the business he bought any equipment that was a good deal. "I had Isuzu trucks, Chevy trucks, International trucks," he says. "As your business begins to grow, you end up working around your fleet of equipment – 'We need this truck on that job' – because the vehicles are so different. But they were a good deal."
A fleet of disparate mowers and a mishmash of vehicles got Pugh through the early years, until he could begin unifying his fleet. Before, "We were working around dinosaur-type equipment that I was emotionally attached to," he says, recalling his first vehicle: a Ford 3000 tractor and loader with a 10-foot flatbed trailer. "I didn't have my driver's license yet, so I drove that all through town."
Pugh rotates his trucks – there are 65 of them – every seven to 10 years, or every 100,000 to 150,000 miles. He made an arrangement with his dealer to trade in mowers every two or three years. "He is basically setting a guaranteed buy-back price, so you could consider that a lease," Pugh says.
Meanwhile, paying attention to details ensures that Enviroscapes' fleets work hard for the business. Three mechanics work for Pugh, and they handle all mower repair and truck maintenance. (Once the business hit $1 million, Pugh decided to hire the first service technician.) "You need a mechanic when your landscape guys are doing repairs when they should be landscaping," he says.
He switched to synthetic oil in vehicles and equipment, which costs more but requires fewer oil changes – less product, less labor. The company has an on-site fuel station, and employees are responsible for cleaning equipment and vehicles daily and ensuring proper tire pressure.
Equipment is the No. 2 expense after labor at Enviroscapes, so managing the expense is critical to the company's success, Pugh says.
"Equipment is a huge factor in the profitability of the business," he says. "Once you decide on your fleet, you have to be disciplined and stick to your plan."
Primed for productivity
"We are fresh at the end of the day, where traditional methods run us ragged," says Tim Schnabel, president of both Aggieland Green in College Station, Texas, and Integrated Lawn & Tree Care in Colorado Springs, Colo. "While ride-on spreaders require more technical skills, having them in the fleet attracts a higher-quality employee that really finds the equipment is a challenge they enjoy."
At about $9,000 per ride-on (Schnabel pays cash), this is not a purchase he makes on a whim. "We look at ratios," he says, noting that overtime hours and the concentration of customers in a given area of town are analyzed. "We look at how well we have grown in that current year, and if those factors push us toward maxing out technicians, then we will add another vehicle."
Generally, Schnabel adds one vehicle per location per year to its fleet. "We are pretty aggressive when it comes to making sure that we have the right vehicle and equipment," Schnabel says. And the company doesn't leave buying decisions to chance. Before purchasing the first ride-on, Schnabel visited with companies that used various types of ride-on spreaders. "We were able to talk to their technicians, and work on the equipment," he says.
He discovered a preference for the zero-turn hydrostatic, ride-on spreaders with more customization options. Since moving to ride-on spreaders, the company has also invested in ride-on aerators. And, Schnabel has also changed up his vehicles by purchasing a 14-foot box truck that is customized with a back-mounted ramp and side doors that open up for loading product by forklift. "We are protected from rain, from theft, from all of the elements," Schnabel says.
Schnabel says over the years he has learned to buy equipment based on efficiency because downtime is futile. In the past, the older trucks technicians once drove required loss productivity and frequent trips back to the shop for repairs. "We always look for equipment that will make us the most money in the long-term," he says.
But he plans on getting up to 12 years from each truck, and pumps on spray rigs are rebuilt each year to keep them in tip-top shape. "We used to wait until we had a problem with a pump, but in our case, it's easier to rebuild them every year to prevent something from happening in the field," he says, relating how keeping pumps in stock and backup equipment available in case of a breakdown prevents downtime.
What Jacobi stresses at AgriLawn is equipment accountability. All equipment is barcoded and each piece "belongs" to a truck. "We know at any time which truck is missing equipment and every piece is tracked for repair that way," he says.
A white board in the shop notifies managers if there is a problem with any equipment or vehicle. "We work hard to make sure that employees know it's their responsibility to communicate issues," he says, noting that accountability is emphasized at team meetings.
As for purchasing decisions, Jacobi sticks to the same brand equipment so he can minimize the number of parts he stocks. A fleet/facility manager manages all preventive maintenance, and Jacobi's goal is to maximize the life of all equipment and vehicles – and when he does buy, to bring in a few at a time.
Jacobi is careful to consider the long-term before driving any vehicle off the lot. The last time the company purchased three trucks, Jacobi decided to buy diesel models. At the time, diesel cost less at the pump. "Even though we knew we would pay more upfront for the trucks, we figured we would save money fueling up," he says.
"The following year, diesel prices ended up being higher than gasoline, and it has been that way ever since," Jacobi says. "We learned not to be short-sighted when making decisions like that."
It's time for Jacobi to retire some of his 12-year-old vehicles in the fleet. But those trucks won't go to waste. "We'll put some trucks into other uses – such as making an aerator truck out of older trucks," he says.
Being resourceful speaks to accountability. "We make sure any buying decision makes financial sense," he says.
Editor's note: This story was the September cover story. For the digital edition of the magazine, click here.
Every landscaper has a different style when it comes to selling work. Some are high-end with glossy garden photo displays. Others sketch up ideas on the back of a napkin. Some live for the chase and love to pitch ideas on the fly. Others are great closers. Whether you're the main salesperson at your company or you have a great staff, you need to keep that pipeline full of work to keep growing.
We spoke with five landscapers across the country and asked them to share their secrets to selling success. Read on and please, steal one of these ideas – or all of them – for your own company. – Chuck Bowen
Market conditions: There's a different vibe this year in Lancaster County, Pa., and Jarod Hynson, president of Earth, Turf & Wood, says his business is "definitely busier." In fact, when we talked to him in June, he had sold out for the rest of the summer. "The market seems to be fairly sustainable," he says. "We live in a semi-conservative area, so we see that (potential clients') funds are still there."
Sales strategy: Hynson is not interested in being everything to everyone. In fact, when industry colleagues suggested years back that he expand his services and diversify, he decided not to take their advice. "It's impossible with the size of our business to be good at every single service, so we are strictly design/build for high-end residential clients," he says.
Client education is an important part of the sales process, and Hynson presents prospects with a workbook that takes them through the design/build process.
Idea to steal: Focus on what you do best and teach clients how you work. By doing this, Earth, Turf & Wood's sales are up 54 percent from last year and 2011 is the third biggest growth year in the company's 12-year history. "We have a good enough reputation that clients return to us," Hynson says. "While there is a recession, when push comes to shove, I believe our clients want the job done correctly and they realize the value for the dollar in a well-built, constructed back yard."
Market conditions: Lee Buffington, president, sees an uptick in residential construction and a desire by homeowners to maintain the property they've got. "More homeowners are not selling or building new homes, they're keeping what they have and enhancing it," he says. But, the sales cycle is growing "further and wider" than ever before and more educated buyers who surf the Web are now tougher negotiators.
Sales strategy: People buy from people they like and trust. That's why Buffington reminds designers and salespeople to give presentations with passion. "We want to generate excitement and that desire for the client to experience what we put on paper," he says. "At the end of the day, if you can't get the client in the game, they will continue to sit on the sidelines and look at your proposal or go to someone else."
The best way to keep the momentum: Present designs immediately after they are complete. "You'll never be more excited than the minute you finish a design or proposal," Buffington says.
Idea to steal: Never take a lead for granted, and be the first to follow up. "Speed kills," Buffington says, noting that as time elapses between the initial inquiry and follow-up, the chances of securing that business fade. "Every lead that comes in, we approach with a sense of urgency to close the deal," he says.
Market conditions: Jeffrey Johns says coastal regions are the last to feel the recession and the last to recuperate. In 2007 and 2008, "business was still booming for us," he says. Today, foreclosures populate the beach community and the housing market is not picking up. The good news: Johns notices that clients are spending more money on landscape enhancements this year.
Sales strategy: After a revenue slide of 18 percent in 2009, Johns decided the company needed a fresh start, laser focus and new branding strategy. The solution: diving into maintenance, putting design/build and lawn care on the back burner and hiring a graphic design firm to help with a new logo, marketing strategy and Web presence.
Finally, after 17 months, the investment and energy in this project is beginning to pay off. That was after Johns increased his marketing budget to 2 percent of the company's gross sales. Direct mailers, newsletters and post-cards consume the bulk of the budget. "It's consistently putting Coastal Greenery in prospects' hands," Johns says.
Idea to steal: Johns hired an outside salesperson who focuses only on prospecting and securing business.
"He's out there in the community 100 percent of the time, building relationships, looking for prospects and gaining maintenance contracts," Johns says. "That was a huge move."
Visibility is the key to capturing market share. "We like to be seen on that property every week from an account manager standpoint," Johns says.
Market conditions: Demand for services is up, but there are fewer companies out there playing the field. "Things have thinned out over the years," says Chris DiSabatino, president, speaking of the Pick-Up Joes that flooded the market in 2008 and 2009. "There are only so many good players in the market that have the capacity to do the work."
DiSabatino maintained its workforce so it can handle the volume coming in the doors these days. "Last year was better than 2009, and this year is better than 2010," he says.
Sales strategy: DiSabatino stays in constant contact with existing clients and harvests referrals from this base. Plus, the company has diversified and has four key divisions: landscaping, hardscaping, masonry and tree care. "We cross-market those services," he says. This year, DiSabatino brought on a sales trainer to teach landscape designers a sales game plan. "Our landscape designers are very creative-minded people, and they may not have the desire to sell – it's just part of their position," DiSabatino says. "A professional sales trainer is really helping them with their sales skills."
Idea to steal: Focus on the client and take that first impression seriously. "We put the spotlight on clients instead of us and our company," DiSabatino says. "We really listen to find out what the client is looking for so when we do present an idea or a design, it's dead on."
Plus, DiSabatino's employees are always dressed sharply in uniforms, they drive clean vehicles and they show up to appointments on time. "You only get one shot at making a first impression," he says.
Market conditions: The Midwest economy has been "beat up pretty good," according to Jason Brooks, president of Jay-Crew Landscape. With the deterioration of the automotive industry and lagging manufacturing, many homeowners are jobless and focused on more dire expenses than landscape maintenance – like paying their mortgages. However, there are pockets of hope. One of those is greater Indianapolis, where Jay-Crew has expanded to capture more business. "For us, a 45-minute drive down the road gets us to Hamilton County, one of the fastest growing areas," Brooks says.
Sales strategy: By setting sales goals and tracking progress, Jay-Crew's sales force is held accountable. Before, Brooks' philosophy was that as long as everyone was working hard, the company was on target. "Our eyes have been opened and it makes a difference when individuals and the company sets goals." Weekly sales meetings keep everyone on track. It's all about creating a plan and executing it.
Idea to steal: The city where Jay-Crew is headquartered has a population of about 60,000 people. For years, Jay-Crew was churning out $1.5 million in revenue. But when Brooks was ready to grow, he looked beyond city limits and expanded his sales force's territory so they had a larger pool for prospecting. "This year, we are on track to $2 million," Brooks says.
The author is a freelance writer based in Bay Village, Ohio.