This article was originally published in Turf magazine, where Chad writes a monthly column on sales and marketing tips for lawn and landscape companies.
One of my favorite movie franchises is the Terminator series. There’s just something about the impossible task of overthrowing the evil, cold technological forces which are attempting to extinguish the human race. The story takes fragile, uncertain characters and transforms them into powerful heroes that lead a movement for all mankind.
There are some days in sales when you feel just like a hero in an action movie. Prospects are booking, people are returning calls, and deals are closing. An explosion is going off in the background and you’re strutting away in slow-motion, with a cool grin on your face. Your mission is a success and nothing can stop you.
If only every day was like that...but, they’re not.
There’s the dry spells, the wasted time on unqualified leads, the frustration of playing phone tag, and your empty sales pipeline that needs built-up again. Sometimes it can be feast or famine, and other times it just seems like no matter what you try, there’s some insidious force that is exterminating your chances to succeed.
I get what you’re going through. I’ve sold lawn, landscaping, and tree care work. It’s not for the faint of heart. There are so many opportunities to easily kill a hot lead.
My past sales frustrations are continually affirmed as I now work with other green industry companies across the country. We’re all facing the same challenge. Diminished productivity is a cold-hearted sales results killer. Every minute wasted is another minute you could spent closing a deal. And no matter what you do, the clock is ticking.
The struggle is real. In this futuristic age of selling, old-school methods no longer work. Buyers and our businesses are changing due to technology. If you’re going to be a successful, modern-day salesperson, you need to change too.
While new sales technologies can improve efficiency, they also could be prompting you to worry. You can’t afford to be slowed down and your job is complicated enough. Technology should help you, not get in your way!
To truly succeed in the new age of sales, you need to adopt technology.
Now before you start to shudder in fear like John or Sarah Connor facing down a Terminator, know this. Technology isn’t the threat here, it’s inefficiency. Your mission is to be open to using and mastering it.
Technology: Friend or Foe?
Regardless of what your attitude is on technology, there will come a point and time where you ask yourself the question, “Is this worth it?”.
Before you dismiss the idea of integrating new tech into your sales process think long and hard about the problems you’re trying to solve. Some of the common problems in sales include:
- You spend a lot of time playing phone tag and emailing multiple times, just to set an appointment that works for both of you.
- Interested prospects seem to fall off the face of the Earth.
- Preparing estimates and presentations takes longer than you’d like.
- Presentations often don’t easily close, meaning a lot of wasted prep time, and pushing prospects into a long follow-up cycle.
- You’re frequently too busy to follow-up as quickly or as often as you’d like.
- Sometimes, you have so much going on that prospects fall through the cracks.
- Making phone calls takes longer than you’d like.
- Even when someone’s “sold”, you have to wait on their signed proposal or deposit before it really counts.
Productivity is being terminated. But there’s hope. Implementing the right tech tools into your sales process can remedy these issues, and not slow you down in the process.
Sales Tools That Will Save You Time and Make You More Money
There are dozens of tools I could suggest for you to use, but we’ll focus on just a few of them here, as they solve the productivity-killing problems above.
You’ve got a lead and they want to meet with you. You end up getting trapped in the cycle of:
- You: “What about Tuesday afternoon?”
- Prospect: “No, Tuesday’s no good for me. How about Wednesday morning?”
- You: “Sorry, I have other appointments at that time, what about Friday?.”
- Prospect: “Looks like this week isn’t going to work. What do you have next week?”
On and on, it goes over emails and phone messages. A meetings tool can solve this problem.
Imagine a prospect being able to easily pick from a time frame (that you have previously designated as open), to set up a time for a call or even meet on-site. Then instead of you playing appointment tag, there’s one round of, “Sure, I’d love to talk with you! Please click on this link and choose a time that works best for you.”
Boom. Your appointment or phone call is booked, and you’re being productive instead of playing tag. The whole process doesn’t stretch out for weeks, killing your chances to win. It can happen in as little as a few minutes.
Estimating & Presentation Tools
I remember the days of paper estimate worksheet templates, calculators, pencils, and a giant eraser. Estimates took time, and then I had to transfer that information over to a proposal. Then technology came and cut prep time in at least half, if not more!
The scary thing is, that many green industry companies may have graduated from paper and pencil, but they’re still using multiple tech tools (that don’t talk to one another) to transfer information from estimates to proposals, to work orders. Many times this time-consuming burden falls on the salesperson. That terminates their productivity.
If you and your sales team are taking too long to prepare estimates and proposals, start looking for a better solution.
Within minutes, landscape business software allows you to build an accurate proposal and present it to your prospect.
An added bonus of using this kind of software is that estimate information transfers seamlessly to your operations team and accounting department as well. Improving your sales process in this way means everyone benefits.
Is your presentation dull and dated? Are you flipping through books and binders, looking for examples? Get a notebook computer or tablet and organize your content for quick, impressive presentations.
Imagine having examples of the plants, lighting fixtures, their 3-D rendering, and proposal all cued up together when you meet with your prospect. That kind of organization shows your prospect that you’re innovative and have prepared to tackle their challenge.
Want to crank up productivity a notch? Integrate a tool that allows your prospect to sign for the job right on the spot (or at least lets them sign digitally and submit a deposit when you email it to them).
Sales Automation & Smart Follow-Up Tools
A good portion of deals won’t close on the spot, regardless of how much you mastered closing techniques. That means you’ll be spending lots of time following up, answering questions, overcoming objections, and tactfully compelling your prospect to sign.
A few new prospects each week becomes a mountain of follow-up later. Instead of moving onto new opportunities, you’re spending a big chunk of time chasing down deals you’ve already spent a ton of hard work on but couldn’t close.
If you’re inefficiently relying on spreadsheets, notepads, or your fading memory to remember each task and execute them at the best time, you’re not going to win as often as you could.
Technologies exist that can streamline and even automate much of your follow-up process. Instead of you trying to remember when to call or email a prospect with an outstanding proposal, technology can take the reins and do it for you. This can be in the form of automated emails or even reminding you that it’s time to call your prospect again. or at least remind you when you need to be involved personally. Instead of killing your chances, you’re saving the life of outstanding proposals.
But what if you always seem to get the voicemail?
What if you could know instantly when your prospect is opening your email, clicking a link, or viewing the proposal?
What better time to engage, right? A great CRM can also give you these instant notifications so you can call your prospect while the topic is fresh on their mind and they aren’t busy with other items.
- Prospect: “Oh, what a coincidence you called, I was just looking at your proposal.”
- Salesperson: “That’s great! I know you’re busy so I wanted to follow up to see if you had more questions or if you’re ready for us to take care of this for you.” (you don’t have to let them know you’re spying on them)
Instead of pouring through your spreadsheet, color coding items, or shuffling through paperwork and sticky notes, you could use technology to your advantage to only focus on what’s important today.
A good task management tool will allow you to assign due dates for tasks and only focus on what matters. That could easily prevent 10-20 minutes of wasted time each day.
No Fate But the One We Make for Ourselves
If you do nothing, you won’t change your sales future. It will be more of the same impending doom of missed opportunities.
However, your productivity doesn’t have to be wiped out of existence. You can sell more and make more money. After all, that’s what most of us love about sales.
But what about the learning curve and setting these tools up? The problem here is many people focus on this amount of time of implementation versus the cumulative amount of time wasted in 30 to 90+ minutes each day. If you’re going to win the war against inefficiency, you’re going to need to spend time training and working on your battle plan.
Spend some time brainstorming with your sales team. Talk about all of the pain points like I listed above. Identify the weak spots that regularly terminate your success.
Then it’s time to address your processes. Find an objective person outside of your company that can help you establish what needs to be changed. After your processes are better defined, find an expert that can help you implement the right tech tools for your company.
Finally, you can look at those problems of the past and say, “Hasta la vista, baby.”