CLEVELAND – For the second year in a row, Weed Man USA has been named by Forbes Magazine as one of America’s best franchise opportunities under an initial investment of $150,000. The fast-growing lawn care company ranked second in its category on the publication’s 2016 “Best and worst franchises to buy” list, eight spots higher than in 2015.
This piece was originally published in February of 2007.
I have had the opportunity to closely observe two salespeople with two vastly different sales approaches, and I believe we can learn a lot from both – good and bad. For while it’s true you should learn from your mistakes, why not save ourselves the suffering and learn from someone else’s mistakes, along with their triumphs, instead?
The first salesman I witnessed in action practices sales of a different sort than we’re used to, but the same fundamentals apply. As a development officer for a non-profit, it’s Steve’s job to essentially “sell” his organization and its mission to prospective donors who will, if Steve is successful, “buy” into his cause and write a hefty check. As a step toward accomplishing this, Steve organized a golf outing with prospective donors, on which I gather he hoped to establish a rapport with the men he invited and, in time, solicit them for gifts to his organization.
So imagine: Steve has asked a group of busy professionals to find time in their schedules to gather for lunch and a game of golf. What is the first thing Steve does? He arrives 30 minutes late, leaving us to make our own introductions to each other and to wonder if he’s even reserved the course for our game. Once he finally does arrive, Steve chooses to vent his frustration about the traffic he was stuck in on the way over rather than apologize for being late and making sure the wait staff has taken care of us in his absence. And when he’s finally done talking about himself, he asks each of us where we’re from, apparently having failed to learn anything about us before meeting us and evidently oblivious to the fact that we were already engaged in an interesting conversation when he arrived. And when Steve found out that I was a landscaper, you could almost see the displeasure in his face and I couldn’t help but think he assumed that I was no longer worth his time – for no landscaper could possibly make enough money to become a significant donor to his organization, right?
When at last we made it to the golf course, Steve headed off with three of the (less fortunate) men while I joined the other foursome. My golfing partner – a man with considerable resources – remarked to me, “Man, am I glad we’re not in his group. I wouldn’t give him a penny based on the way he acts.” I chuckled and agreed and we went on to enjoy a lovely day of golf without Steve. When we met up back at the clubhouse at the end of the day and tallied up our scores, guess who won? Yes, that’s right: Steve won. Now remember when you were a kid and invited all your friends over for your birthday party and while you could have won every game your mother had organized, she forbade you from doing so because you were the host and, above all, the host should be gracious? Well, once again, Mom was right. Steve clearly cared more about proving his prowess on the golf course than about whether his guests were having a good time. Not only did I leave the outing with a poor impression of Steve, but the organization he represents has fallen a bit in my eyes as well. Needless to say, Steve didn’t close his “sale” to me or anyone else present that day.
Too many salespeople are like Steve, failing to get what it takes to succeed in their field, and that’s a good thing – it creates that many more opportunities for the rest of us. Consider Mike, a shoe salesman at the Nordstrom department store in Chicago.
Good or bad, I am a man who is very particular about his shoes, something my dad impressed upon me at a young age. He always said you can buy cheap shoes several times a year, or you can buy one or two good pairs every few years. So on a recent trip to Chicago, I hit Nordstrom, whose shoe department knows few equals in quality and variety. Normally I can’t find a single pair of shoes I like, but there I found so many I was overwhelmed by the options. Noticing my bewilderment, Mike came over, extended his hand, and said, “Hello, I’m Mike. You look like you could use some help. Could I measure your feet to make sure you get the best fit?” Mike was impeccably dressed, his shoes shone, and his manner was courteous and professional. After measuring my feet, he looked at the shoes I was considering and told me what was good and bad about them, both for the structure of my feet and what I do for a living. He asked me to give him the shoes I had on and then he handed me a bottled water and told me to relax, he would be right back.
A few minutes later, Mike returned with all the shoes I had picked out in my size, plus a couple of shoes I had not seen. I tried on each of them as Mike waited patiently and told me more about each shoe. He politely asked me where I was from and inquired more about what I do for a living, as well as what I do for fun. As I looked at all the shoes, he addressed me by name, saying, “Mr. Grunder, if you get your feet wet a lot walking around in your clients’ yards, you ought to consider the waterproof version. And I know it would be a lot of money, but if you bought two pairs of the same shoes, you could alternate from day to day and allow them to dry out in between wearings – that way they’ll last much longer. But that’s just a suggestion. Whatever you want to do is fine with me, Mr. Grunder.”
I ended up buying three pairs of shoes that day, but the story doesn’t end with the sale. At the cash register, Mike shook my hand, thanked me for my business, and sent me on my way. When I got back to my hotel room and opened the boxes of shoes, I saw that Mike had included a pair of very nice dress socks in each box, along with his card. I was truly impressed. But that’s still not the end of the story. A week later, I received in the mail a handwritten thank you note from Mike, inviting me to come see him the next time I’m in Chicago. You can bet I’ll be doing just that and you can bet I’ll be buying more shoes from this superb salesman.
So, two salesmen, two very different approaches. Which one are you going to buy from?
Going to Arlington National Cemetery is like coming home for the landscape professionals who volunteer each year at Renewal and Remembrance.
Heading to the Hill.
Discussions centered around pesticide regulations and the H-2B program, specifically, at NALP’s annual Legislative Days where landscapers visit their representatives and advocate for the issues most important to them. Those who spoke with their congressmen and women said that a big goal of the visits is just to keep green industry issues at the forefront.
Robert Mann, corporate agronomist at Lawn Dawg in Nashua, New Hampshire, met with both the House and Senate Agricultural committees, which gave him a chance to give a firsthand account of the realities he deals with.
“We’re able to open another window to their understanding because they are constantly under the barrage of environmental activists as professionals impressing on people their agenda,” he said. “Well, we’re actually out there doing it.”
Josh Denison, vice president of labor and human resources at Denison Landscaping in Fort Washington, Maryland, spoke with five different offices regarding the H-2B program.
He even brought three of his H-2B workers with him. Since his companies uses more than 250 temporary workers through the program, it’s an issue that hits close to home. This is his 10th year attending the event and he said it’s important to show his conviction on the issue.
“I’m coming to speak for the H-2B program and the validity of the program, along with being able to showcase some of the work my teams are doing,” he said.
Putting a face on the industry.
The NALP set up a new event this year, the Landscape Learning Lab for Legislators, to showcase the benefits of the lawn care and landscape industry to congress members and their staff.
Five stations offered attendees information on topics from pollinators to H-2B to the cooling properties of lawns. Missy Henrickson, NALP vice president of public affairs, said the organization included visual aids to help visitors remember what they’ve seen. For example, headphones sat on one table to symbolize the noise-reducing properties of lawns.
“It’s a variety of different teaching objectives we’re trying to communicate to staffers,” she said. “And for our members, one of the things we want them to understand is NALP is helping to educate elected officials about the important work that landscape professionals do in their communities.”
“It’s been incredibly successful,” said Jim Cali, principal at McFarlin Stanford. Cali, a former landscape company owner, now represents people from all over the country, advocating specifically for H-2B and pesticide regulation reform. “We’ve had a lot of great conversations. We provide a sustainable approach to landscaping as a whole and how this is not a bunch of non-professionals just in a truck. This whole industry – there’s a science to what we do. We’re professionals who are educated in horticulture and irrigation and things like that.”
NALP put out invitations to everyone on the House and Senate Agriculture committees and their staff members and Vice President of Government Relations Paul Mendhelson said the turnout was great.
“It’s a way for us to start to put a face on the industry,” he said. “Staff in congress, they have to really understand our issues for us to be able to be effective and the best way for that to happen is for them to interact with our members. It’s a way to make inroads and build a better understanding of what this profession is all about.
“We want to show that we care about the environment, we are doing things to help pollinators, we’re being responsible and we’re promoting information about the importance of lawns and landscaping and how it’s beneficial to everybody.”
And NALP is making plans to take it to the state level, and even LANDSCAPES, an educational event held in conjunction with GIE+EXPO and Hardscape North America. Cali said NALP is hoping to both show what the organization does for the industry and attract more attendees to Leg Day.
Henrickson said NALP will tweak the event each year depending on the most pressing issues in the industry.
Most American homeowners are possessive and protective of their lawns, but they are less picky about who maintains them: One in three Americans who have lawns say they hired landscapers to maintain their yards in the past year. The national obsession with manicured lawns has helped propel landscaping into a $76-billion industry that has grown about 3 percent each year. Whether it means finding the right fertilizer or bagging up stray leaves, Americans are willing to shell out about $600 a year for someone else to handle their outdoor maintenance.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ken Fisher, AmericanHort President and Chief Executive Officer, announced at the Sunday Keynote presentation that exciting changes are coming to Cultivate’17.
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