In a national survey of small businesses (less than $1,000,000 sales annually) it was found that the owner or Chief Executive Officer was a salesperson. Surveys have shown this to be true of landscape contractors and gardeners as well. The most successful landscape and garden businesses were all started by people with strong sales skills. In your own business you have probably realized that you spend a large part of your time selling. You bring in new work, upgrade old work, make new contacts and continue to expand your landscape business. If you are not, you should be.

Many people believe that they just can’t sell. They say they just were not born with the talent to sell. “I’m just not a salesperson by nature, I’m a gardener. Wasn’t born with the golden touch like Sam Sellitall over there. If I’d been born with his wit, charisma, and personality, I could tear’em up too. But I wasn’t, so I’m never going to make it big in sales, but given the chance I can install that landscape and irrigation job better than anybody!”

This is the Myth of the Natural Born Sales Wonder. It is a destructive idea. It allows us to avoid taking full responsibility for our own performance. This myth will prevent many people from ever reaching their full potential. The myth can also work both ways.

A few individuals believe they’re naturals. That’s great for confidence, but often it is the source of overconfidence. This overconfidence persuades these people that they do not need to learn the same sales techniques as us mortals. Sadly, this means that they too will never reach their full potential.

Most of us started in the field of landscaping and gardening because of a love of the work. Sales and marketing were not our passion. To operate a successful business, though, we need our landscapinglandscape business selling skills, our garden passion, and our sales and marketing drive.

Don’t assume that you are entirely free of the selling myth. Most people involved in sales that are not successful are suffering from this myth. Let’s attack this dangerous idea now and get rid of it.

“Salesmen are not born, they are made.” This line is attributed to the same man that stated that “A sucker is born every minute.” Unfortunately, he was not a successful salesperson (a successful showman, but not a salesperson) because he believed that prospects were suckers. That is a grave mistake, but he was right about salespeople. Salespeople are not born great. Imagine little Johnny one minute after birth in the delivery room signing the doctor to a long term landscape maintenance contract. Johnny has a long way to go before he is even out of diapers. If he is going to be a great landscape salesperson he has a lot to learn. Psychologists still argue whether it’s instinct or learning that causes us to jump at a sudden loud noise, but they agree that everything about selling is learned.

So don’t use the “myth” as an excuse. Learn the craft of selling and learn it well. Professionals work on the basics of selling and marketing once every year. That’s where we’re going to start.

To be Great, Learn the Basics

Athletes train constantly to maintain their high degree of success. They practice the basics over and over. Successful landscape salespeople do the same thing.

Prospecting: Prospecting is the first step to selling that landscape job and is essential for every garden business. This is the sales term for finding good, prospective customers who have a need and an interest in your landscape and garden services. Notice I said “good”. Don’t waste your time chasing people who will never buy. This is called “qualification”. I’ll discuss that later. Prospecting will vary from field to field and from area to area. In the landscape and garden profession you usually can’t just start calling people on the phone, but there are ways.

Proper advertising is part of a good marketing program and is always necessary for generating good leads. Check out the various options in you area. Compare rates, circulation, market coverage, etc. When you try something new be sure you track your results (ask people where they heard of you). Only advertise where your dollar works. Talk to others to see what works best for them. Wherever you decide to advertise, just be sure you do it. No business, landscape, garden, or otherwise grows without some form of promotion.

Contacts: This is almost more important than prospecting. Every business marketing plan requires contacts and networking. Many of your contacts will generate leads. Many contacts are leads (word of mouth recommendations). Join local business or social groups. Meet the people the count. Meet the people who want and need your landscape and garden services.

Qualification: Don’t waste your time talking to the wrong people. Make sure that the person you are talking to is the decision maker, the one who can say yes and sign the contract. Also make sure that they genuinely need your landscape or garden service. We have all heard of the salesperson who can sell ice cubes to Eskimos, but if he exits at all, I doubt he was in business for very long.

Objections: We have all heard objections in the course of our sales. You need to learn how to effectively handle objections and make them work for you. Write down the objections you have encountered. Think out positive rebuttals and learn them so well that in the field they are second nature. There are always new objections, so this one needs constant attention. Your selling and marketing efforts will be wasted unless you know how to convince your customer to say yes. That’s the next phase of the landscape sale - closing the deal.

Closing: This is the most important aspect of sales. Obtaining the yes from your client. There are many routes leading to the close, but the most important idea to remember is that you must ASK for the sale. Many salespeople leave this out and it is the reason for their downfall. Very few prospects will offer to buy your landscape and garden service (at least not on your terms), but most will say yes if asked properly and at the right time.

Closing is one the most important ideas of the five basics presented here. It is so important that our next column will be on Closing the Landscape Sale.