The first thing Ric Sinclair checks out on a property when he gets out of his truck to meet a new prospect is landscape lighting. Does the residence have LED fixtures for uplighting trees, illuminating a pathway or accenting outdoor features? Or, do the plants stand alone?
Sinclair, senior sales representative at Hulihan Territory in Atlantic Beach, Florida, might be visiting the property to provide information about an irrigation system or welded pump – two of the other services the company provides. But he’s always taking an opportunity to mention what else can be done to enhance the landscape, and lighting is one way to maximize the investment an owner makes in landscaping.
“I think you really want to approach lighting from a safety and security standpoint,” Sinclair adds, relating that this resonates with the high-end residential neighborhoods his company serves. “And, then you get into the aesthetics and how outdoor lighting can make a home look so much better.”
Why only see the “good stuff” during the day, after all?
That’s what Dennis Strole, landscape designer, emphasizes to clients when Maize, Kansas-based Johnson’s Legacy Landscapes is visiting sites to discuss landscape renovations. “If you are going to make an investment in a landscape project, why ignore what’s out there after it gets dark?” he says.
Upselling outdoor lighting can feel less like “selling” and more like building value with some of the tips Sinclair and Strole offer here based on their experience.
Show, don’t tell.
You can talk features and benefits until you turn blue, but many property owners need to experience how outdoor lighting can transform a space. For example, Strole will get calls from homeowners who were visiting the neighbors for a barbecue. “They’ll say, ‘We were over at this house at a party, and they had this lighting…’” he relates. “Then, they ask about how they can enjoy their deck in the evening. So, we’ll sell a job because of the guy across the street.”
While performing a demo during a sales visit is possible, Sinclair likes to suggest residences that homeowners can drive by or visit to see the type of effect outdoor lighting can produce. If he’s talking to a client in a $300,000 home, he’ll recommend visiting a different property to check out lights than the owner of a $3.2-million house. “You want to give them a sense of what lighting will look like on their own homes, so you try to send them to properties that are similar to theirs,” he says.
Plant the seed.
Most of the landscape design and installation work that Johnson’s Legacy Landscape does is renovation work to refresh outdated properties. Some of these projects are extensive and involve entire yard tear-outs; and others are spruce-ups like adding landscape beds or new plants. Regardless of the size and scope, the company is digging in to the property already – so why not set the stage for lighting, too?
“We do a lot of pulling things out, putting things in to the landscape, so while we are in that process it’s a good time to say, ‘What if we include lighting?’” Strole says. “It’s nice if we can run sleeves for wiring in anticipation of lighting, while the beds are already torn up,” he says.
During the landscape renovation process, clients are already in the mindset of outdoor improvement, and lighting further enhances the investment they’re about to make.
Extend the holiday glow.
During the holidays, property owners add twinkle lights to trees and spotlights to their homes. They illuminate their landscapes and appreciate the warmth and beauty. Then, by mid-January, it’s time to take the lights down. Suddenly, everything looks dark and drab, Strole says. “I get calls after Christmas for lighting because people miss having the lights and they want to know about a more permanent installation,” he says.
So, there’s a marketing opportunity post-holidays to introduce the idea of having lights year-round. Once people realize how their properties take on a new dimension at night with lighting, they want it, Strole says.
Answer pricing questions.
With any service, the ultimate question ends up being, “So, what’s the cost?” Of course, this depends entirely on the scope of the project: number of fixtures, type of fixtures, the property and what challenges it might present during installation. But overall, Strole says he can let clients know that today’s technology with LED lighting means they’re getting more for their money than ever before.
“Even though the cost of lights and fixtures have gone up, the total project cost has not gone up at the same rate,” he says. He can usually price a project per light at about $200 to $250 per fixture. (Cost varies depending on the provider and materials.) This estimate includes the transformer, wiring, labor and fixture set. “This price point introduces the idea of lighting so they can get a feel for the cost,” Strole says.
So, why has the total project cost of landscape lighting not increased significantly considering the advanced technology we have now? Strole explains: LED lights are much more efficient, and less power is required to illuminate them vs. older fixtures.
The LED fixtures Strole specifies cost about $80 to $90 and the lights that go in them are $150 each. (Old lights cost about $30 for a fixture and another $30 to $50 for a light.) Still, with the price increase in fixtures and lights, the efficiency LED offers translates to less power from a transformer, and in many cases a savings on that component.
Sinclair focuses on selling the product his company installs, and its fully-adjustable fixtures that have up to 1080 lumens (compared to drop-in bulbs that usually max out at 500 lumens). “That is a huge selling point,” he says.
Partner with a provider.
Hulihan Territory specializes in lighting, irrigation and welded pumps and the company stays out of the landscape installation space. But, it partners with a high-end landscape design/build firm in the area, Vie Plant and Garden, as a go-to for lighting. This results in a lot of referrals, Sinclair says. “We know when they’re designing a high-end landscape it’s likely going to include lighting and irrigation, so that has been a very good partnership,” he says. In turn, Hulihan Territory refers its clients to Vie Plant and Garden.
Landscape firms that do not offer lighting can partner with a provider that does and give their clients the benefit of this add-on service, Sinclair says. Before choosing a company to align with, make sure the firm takes the time to create aesthetically pleasing packages. Go look at their work, Sinclair says.
Ask about the products the lighting firm uses and inquire about warranties. “We put our warranty out there up front and there is no hidden agenda,” Sinclair says, adding that some companies will offer a lifetime warranty at a cost.
He adds, “Anyone can go to Home Depot and buy lights and a transformer, but it will be painfully obvious when it is installed. A professional lighting company will enhance the landscape and add value to the property.”