You’re bidding against more competitors. Customers have ultra-tight budgets. How do you win?
“You have to set yourself apart,” says David Snodgrass, president of Dennis’ Seven Dees Landscaping in Portland, OR. “Price should be one of the last topics of discussion in a sales presentation. Yes, we all have to work within a customer’s budget. But if a sale comes down to price and price alone, then the lowest common denominator will win, and more likely than not, that’s a losing proposition for the customer and the service provider.”
Education Starts with a Consistent Image
Snodgrass emphasizes that the effort to educate the customer about what makes your company different begins well before any sales presentation. It begins by having a good reputation and by being consistent with the quality of your work, image, response time, and literally all the things that comprise a good, professional company.
“Being consistent is extremely important,” Snodgrass stresses. “As a company, you can do nearly everything right, but that one inconsistency—such as showing up late for an appointment, poorly dressed employees or a shabby-looking truck—will stand out like a sore thumb and literally shout at your prospective customer that you’re no better than the other landscape contractors they’ve talked with. When there’s no perceived difference, price becomes the issue.”
Eric Spalsbury, an account manager and business development team member for Heads Up Landscape Contractors in Albuquerque, NM, agrees. “Price only matters when there is parity,” he relates. “The promise of quality and exceptional service, on the other hand, allows for premium pricing.”
Six ‘Non-Price’ Differentiators
For Spalsbury, price is only one of what he refers to as seven “differentiators” that can set companies apart.
Exceptional Service – Spalsbury includes prompt and accessible communication, being a one-stop shop, having unwavering reliability and being an expert resource for customers. Among other traits, he notes that industry-leading companies commit to keeping up with the latest innovations and industry standards.
Quality Work – Quality is what’s most obvious to customers, and it comes from keeping employee turnover to a minimum, as well as having an excellent company culture and a superior training and education program for employees.
Specialized Services – Offering a specialized service that is unique to an individual market gives companies an edge on competition and a leg up on pricing. Being environmentally aware can have a similar impact, especially if a market is turning green. Environmentally aware companies, Spalsbury points out, may have LEED certification, and offer green initiatives such as using alternative-energy equipment and promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and water resource management services.
Environmental Awareness – Becoming more green can have a profound impact on your bottom line. Also, as pointed out under “specialized services,” environmental awareness can give you a leg up from a sales and marketing perspective.
Corporate Citizenship – Being a good corporate citizen by participating in charity events and community forums can make a difference in how a company is perceived, Spalsbury says.
Industry Leadership – Becoming involved in local, regional or national associations says a lot about your commitment to your profession.
All landscape companies, regardless of their size, share a common bond, says Burt DeMarche, principal of The LaurelRock Company in Wilton, CT. “All clients are looking for someone they can trust, and there’s no better way to build trust than to have an ongoing relationship with them,” DeMarche says. “In our company, the individual designer/project director who makes the original sale of a project remains as the contact person through the design, contract negotiation, project management phase and into the aftercare. That relationship is there forever.”