Getting the customer

Getting the customer

Contractors learned the ins and outs of sales as part of the 2012 Landscape Industry Show.

February 3, 2012

John Binkele was enjoying a hot summer day in Arizona when he got a knock on the door. It was someone trying to sell him financial services. As soon as the duo exchanged greetings, the salesmen pulled out his brochure and began to give his spiel. And the sweaty salesmen kept going, and going and going, telling Binkele everything his company would do for him.

Finally, Binkele stopped him and began asking the salesman questions about himself. He discovered he had been an accountant for 23 years in another state, but had to relocate because his wife took a job in Arizona, and he used it as a way to get out and meet people for a living instead of crunching numbers behind a desk.

They also discovered they had sons who at different times went to the same high school, and they traded stories about the school. And as soon as all that was done …

“He kept right on going,” Binkele said.

The salesman was breaking a major rule in sales. Instead of telling the customer what you can do for them, you first have to make a connection with them and find out what they want.

“One of the best things to do is develop questions to extract from customers what they want. Every customer is different,” he said.

Binkele, who’s with Ewing Education Services, was one of the presenters at the Landscape Industry Show, Feb. 1-2, at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles.

His presentation, “Professional Selling Skills for the Landscape Contractor,” focused on a multi-step approach called the Binkelian Sales Process.

“Preparation is really the foundation for the sales process,” he says. Part of that preparation is knowing what your value proposition is to the customer. If you’re ever asked, “Why should I buy from you?” you should have that answer ready to go. A stuttering or stammering response can really turn a customer off.

“If you are in sales, you should have that top of mind,” he says.

If you are stuck on what you think your value proposition should be, ask your current customers why they bought from you, and that will give you a good idea of what you do well.

“You’ll have a rock solid value proposition,” he said.

Some of Binkele’s other steps include:

Build a rapport and a lasting relationship: It’s about making a positive human connection with the prospect, which means putting them at ease. To achieve this, have a smile on your face, speak in a pleasant and professional tone of voice, and if you missed a customer’s initial inbound call, return it promptly.
Art of discovery: You should also have an inventory of questions ready to complete this step. Questions could include, what motivated you to consider the renovation, what is the primary purpose of the landscape and, once you get a face-to-face meeting, ask them what sort of issues and hassles they want to avoid.

Effective listening: Don’t offer solutions immediately. Listen like an eavesdropper before offering any suggestions or solutions.

Presenting: Once you’ve asked the right questions and listened, you have to make a proposal. To make an effective proposal, set an agenda so you can maintain control of the meeting.

Asking: After you’ve put on the presentation and taken more questions, don’t make the big mistake a lot of inexperienced salespeople make – they don’t ask for the sale. If you fail to ask for the sale, the next person might ask, and get the job.

Hesitation: If a prospect hesitates, there is an underlying reason. Anticipate these hesitations and have responses ready to go that are backed by proof, testimonials and valid comparisons. 

Deliver as promised: Pretty simple; do the job you promised to do.

Follow-up: If you’ve been turned down, act like a bloodhound and continue on the trail even after it’s gotten cold. If you made the sale and did the job, send a letter or thank you card, make a personal phone call or make it a point to stop by and visit the project from time to time.