Landscape Sales Secret: How to Get a Budget From Your Client

A common problem during the landscape sales process is trying to find out what a client is budgeting for a particular project. Clients are always hesitant to throw out a number, and landscape designers and contractors know that without a budget they are going to be flying blind as they try to create a landscape plan. If only there was a way to find out what your client wants to spend, without coming across like a used car salesman...

Well there is!

It's during one of the first steps of the landscape sales process: the time of our initial appointment when we have just finished walking the site with our client, discussing ideas, taking notes and reviewing their goals and objectives.

Now it's time to play everybody's least favorite game, "Can You Guess My Budget?"

Although the concept of the game is quite simple, winning is extremely difficult. We ask our potential clients in various direct and indirect ways what they are looking to spend. Our clients hedge, weave and bob, and do everything they can to protect or hide that information from us. If we succeed in extracting the "magic number", we win, and will most likely get the project. If not, we are destined to completely waste our time and not get the work. Ahhhh, landscape sales...gotta love it!

If only our clients would have told us how much they wanted to spend! We could have created a proposal that met their expectations and even given them a few different options.

So why won't they tell us their budget? There are two main reasons: One is fear, and the other is hope. Fear that we are going to raise our prices artificially because they told us what they want to spend. Hope in that we are going to propose something that is less than they want to spend, thus getting a deal.

 

Landscape sales secret: Getting a budget from your client

After you've walked the site and discussed the scope of the work, you should have some idea of what the "value" of the project is. As an example, let's say that you think a project is going to come in around $25,000. Here's how your conversation should go:

 

      Designer: 
This sounds like a really great project. What would you say your budget is for this project? 

      Prospect: 
Well, we don't know what landscaping costs. Why don't you come up with something and we'll tell you if it is what we want to spend. 

      Designer (laughing on the inside): 
I can certainly understand that. Let me give you some idea of price ranges. I've done projects that are very similar to this from $10,000 up to $75,000 depending on the type of materials we used or the size of the plantings we installed.

Prospect: $75,000? That's a lot of money! The most we want to spend is $20,000.

What you have just done is intentionally given the client a low and unrealistic budget number and also scared them with an unrealistic budget number. They never would have thought that this much money could be spent on a project like this and they also realize that $10,000 probably won't go that far. The prospect will quickly realize that if you were thinking $75,000 and they were thinking $15,000 or $20,000, then this would be quite a mismatch and a waste of everyone's time if they don't offer their budget number.

Another approach to take during the landscape sales process is to give the prospect a more narrow price range. In this example, when the prospect tells you, "We don't know what we want to spend", you say something like this:

 

"Depending on how much of the work you do, and what materials we choose, we've done similar projects for 10-20K, 20-30K,30-50K or 50-75K. What would you say is the range you are thinking of?Your clients will look at each other and say, "Well, I guess $20,000 to $30,000 is what we were thinking".

Quickly follow up with "Would you say closer to $20,000 or $30,000?" They will respond with, "We were really thinking of $25,000, but could go to $30,000 if we had to." 

The next time you meet with a prospect and it is time to discuss the budget, you will have a much better understanding of why they hesitate. The good news is that you now have some "tried and true" responses to overcome that hesitation.

Give this landscape sales secret a try--it might get you the budget number every time.

The best part is that you will minimize the amount of time you waste drafting designs and proposals while dramatically increasing your chances of selling your landscape services.


Jody Shilan, President of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association, is a professional speaker and consultant with over 30 years of experience in the green industry. He has sold $10's of millions of dollars in installation work and helped triple the landscape sales of one company in just 4 years. As a former landscape design/build contractor and award winning landscape designer he has developed unique landscape sales systems that can easily be taught to any employee or company. These processes are based on hands-on experience working with some of the most successful landscape design/build companies in the region.

His editorial, "Profiting From Design", can be found in Landscape Management Magazine and his column "Trade Secrets" is featured monthly in The NY Landscape Contractor newspaper. He has been featured in Lawn and Landscape, The NJ Landscape Contractor, Irrigation and the Green Industry, Total Landscape Care, Landscape and Irrigation, PLANET News, PLANET Advantage, Hardscape Magazine and Landscape Trades. In addition to this, he is the editor of FromDesign2Build.com an exclusive members-only website for the professional design/build contractor.

Jody is a graduate of Rutgers Cook College where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) and the University of Massachusetts, where he earned his Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture (MLA). He just recently received the honor of being named a 2012 Trailblazer for the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

Jody can be reached at (201) 783-2844 or jshilan@FD2B.com or check out his websitewww.FromDesign2Build.com.

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