Outdoor living space add-ons have become quite popular among Americans seeking to enjoy their properties to a much greater degree during the last decade.
Matt Jefferies, owner of Get It Done Enterprises in Toronto, says your work is your best advertising. “When a homeowner sees their neighbor’s home transformed to a beautiful landscape it motivates them. Once they see what you can do and are excited to have you do the work it makes the selling process much easier.”
Here are some tips from top landscape professionals on how to approach homeowners, what to do and what not to do to interest them in add-on projects and then how to close the deal.
Sizeable investments. Mike Pennington, project manager for Lakeridge Contracting in Canada, says that homeowners signing on for smaller outdoor projects can sometimes feel as though contractors have minimized their project and that they have not received the service they deserve.
“Here at Lakeridge we regard every client and every project the same, whether it’s a budget of $1,000 or $180,000. This attitude helps us close many sales calls where others have failed,” he says.
Pennington says he fears some contractors may lose sight that a project of any size is an investment by the client in his or her property, and they want the contractor to view it as being just as important as they do. “No matter the size, each project completed creates a larger client base and properly treating a client with a smaller project this year may help you be the sole source contractor for larger projects in upcoming years,” he says.
Jonathan Muirhead, owner of Greenline Lawn and Landscape Services in Las Vegas, says explaining to the customer that the add-on project will not only improve the look of their yard for years to come, but also that having a quality landscape installed is a good investment. It will improve the re-sale value of the home, and helps it sell quicker compared to a yard with an unfinished or unusable space.
Revenue opportunities. John Welch, president of John Welch Enterprises of Victor, N.Y., sells add-ons on a daily basis to complement a hardscape installation. The firm also fields calls and sells add-ons to jobs where customers are facing problems with their existing landscapes and they are not sure where to start or what needs to be done.
The firm relies on advertising, direct mail, and the Internet to reach out to existing and potential customers. Recently, the firm dove headfirst into social media. “But most importantly, we are who we are today due to customer referrals.”
Welch also advises landscape professionals not to try and sell “impractical items” that will likely not be utilized or enjoyed by the homeowner. “When dealing with add-ons, the focus needs to be on the customer’s needs and lifestyle. Keep your focus on the design and do not lose sight of that while trying to make a high-dollar sale.”
Joe Trinh, co-owner of Western Pavers in San Diego, says to look at add-ons as a solution to a desire the homeowner may express. “That will get you the package sell,” he says. His firm finds clients through various sources of marketing, including referrals. “You should not push a project onto your customers. They will come to you,” he says.
Know your clientele. The minute you think you’re meeting with someone who has no clue about what you do, is when you can get yourself in trouble.
David Orsini, owner of Orsini Landscaping in Rotterdam, N.Y., says homeowners that can afford outdoor living space projects are educated and have a good idea of what it takes to do such a project.
“You can’t fool people. You need to be able to look them in the eye while talking to them,” he says.
“You need to have good design concepts and ideas, be very knowledgeable and answer any poignant question truthfully and honestly. I don’t look at myself as a salesman. When I’m meeting with people, they know I’m sincere in my suggestions and recommendations. You have to be able to listen. Often, good ideas on projects come from the homeowner and I get some of the credit because I installed it. But an idea or suggestion that they had actually sparked the end result.”
Jeffrey Taphouse, owner and operations manager of Pristine Acres in Arlington, Va., says the best opportunity to sell small- to mid-sized jobs to homeowners ready to spend is to arrive at the appointment with your reputation for quality, service and fair pricing in hand. “These homeowners typically are willing to spend more time negotiating and meeting with multiple contractors. This may be their first big construction project, so they will spend a lot of time researching and investigating, or they may be seriously relying on a return on the investment down the road, so they approach the process cautiously.”
He says many customers will have more on their wishlist than their budget will allow. Having the experience to tactfully negotiate through compromises can be the deciding factor on whether or not a firm lands the project. For a contractor to have success selling to well-educated and selective customers, he or she must come with references, be willing to provide several material options or phasing options to meet different budgets, and always guarantee quality of craftsmanship and service.
Jefferies always tries to offer the client as much as possible up front, letting them know how far the landscape professional can take a project. “In this day and age, lighting and water features can add a lot of ambience to a project. If you do not offer these things up front they can be difficult in many cases to install after the project is complete.
“If you don’t offer these services ahead of the commencement of work, you can appear unprofessional trying to add them after the fact due to the ease of installation prior to adding your aggregate base.”
The author is a freelance writer based in Hartford, Conn.