Jonathan shares a really smart selling strategy in this video that he observed while on his trip to Italy.
Hey, it’s Jonathan. So it’s been about half a month since I’ve last recorded a video and my wife and I have actually been in southern Italy for the last ten days. We are about to end our trip. We’re actually in Ravello, in southern Italy. In fact, I’m going to show you from my room here, it’s pretty awesome. I don’t know how well you can see that but because it’s been so long since I’ve recorded a video, I’ve been thinking what’s kind of my take-away from the trip?
I was trying to come up with something and the one thing that keeps coming to mind is when we started our trip, we were in Rome and everybody would come up in Rome and they’d be selling you selfie sticks. They’d be selling you something and they’re coming up and trying to push that thing on you and sell you that thing. You’re immediately on the defensive. You’re immediately pushing them away. You can see them coming.
Whereas, as you move south, and this is a broad generalization, I don’t know if this is entirely true but as we’ve moved south, we’ve noticed that the hard sell has sort of gone away and, probably because it’s just a slower pace but here in Ravello, as an example, when you’re walking through the square, which Ravello has been our favorite place, it’s really quiet and calm. But, as you’re walking through the square when you go into a lot of the shops what will happen is, some of the owners will give you a glass of wine or they’ll want you to taste their limoncello, or they’ll want you to try one of their oils or something like that. It’s a totally different experience. So, immediately they’re giving you something. You’re not on the defensive. They did something for you first before they asked something from you. Their ask is, clearly, to buy some wine or buy oil, buy something from their shop. But, it’s a totally different experience. It’s one of reciprocity in a sense where, because you received something first, they gave you something, you almost feel like, gosh, I kind of want to buy something from them. I sort of want to do something for them.
That’s probably the thing, there’s lots and lots of take-aways here, for example, especially in Rome everybody’s really hustling. People are hustling. The drivers, those selling, those working in the shops, it’s interesting. As you move south, a lot of people make their money in six months and then they live for six months because the tourism goes away.
So, again, back to my original point, that one thing that keeps coming to mind is the difference in the selling process. One where you’re being pressured and bombarded and the other where you’re being given something and offered something free where all of the risk is on them. In return, of course they’re hoping you’ll buy but it’s a totally different way to frame it. Great take-away.
If you are not doing this, you will struggle to grow your lawn care company.
We’re working on a project right now at ServiceAutopilot. It requires that we call about 10% to 15% of our members, about 300 companies. What we’re finding is that to get them on the phone generally takes a couple calls. That’s a broad generalization, because there’s a whole bunch of clients, members that answer on that first call. However, there’s a lot that we have to leave a voicemail for. We’ve been having this discussion internally and that’s the point of this video.
It is absolutely imperative that you answer your phone and that I answer my phone. Your marketing doesn’t work very well if you don’t answer your phone. Your customer service isn’t very good if you don’t answer your phone. The most common scenario is that when someone is looking for a service provider, they have a list of a couple people that they probably found on the web or they got door hangers off their door. They called the most interesting one first. If they don’t answer, they don’t leave a message generally, and then they call the second one, and then the third one. If that third one answers, and they sound good and give a fair price, they get the business.
The game is speed, and when you don’t answer your phone, you’re losing the game of speed. Clients want things to be easy and fast. When you’re the guy that doesn’t answer, when you’re the company that doesn’t answer, you don’t win the business. Your competitor does. After you spend all that money on marketing and you don’t answer your phone or I don’t answer my phone, then it feels like, “Oh, this marketing thing just doesn’t work. None of this marketing works.” It’s generally because the calls aren’t getting answered.
Sometimes that even means not answering the calls on Saturdays. If you want to win the game in the big selling season which, depending on your business, might be spring, it might make sense to answer the phone on Saturdays. It might make sense to answer the phone into the evening. This is really interesting, because at ServiceAutopilot, of all the cloud-based software systems out there in the industry, we tend to be the one that attracts the bigger or more successful companies.
If you were to analyze our clients, you’ll see that we have a lot of bigger companies. We have a lot of companies, a lot of people, but if anybody is going to cancel ServiceAutopilot, it’s the little bitty company that’s just got a crew or a tech and it’s because they won’t do even a single training with us. They won’t learn the systems, so they just go to another system that’s really simple and super, super basic that can’t do that much because it’s easier to use.
The reason I wanted to say that is I wanted to point out that when I say that many members aren’t answering their phones, one, we have some incredible companies that do. That’s how they built their companies is they’re willing to do the things that the little guys aren’t willing to do. That’s how they got big.
I wanted to point out that even within our client base that tends to be bigger and more successful than the clients that other companies have, we still see many of our members not answering their phone. It’s absolutely imperative, critical that you answer your phone. It’s the difference maker. It’s the thing you cannot ignore.
I wanted to record the video to remind you that if you’re not answering the phone, spend the money on that. It will improve your customer service and it will make all your marketing work better. You’ll sell tons more work. You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes. Figure out how to answer the phone. It’s a difference maker.
Set yourself apart from your competitors and win the sale…
I experienced really good selling recently, and I wanted to share the experience with you because I think it can be applied to your business and my business. It’s a really great lesson to remember. We’re putting together our 2nd annual Service Autopilot Conference. It will be in November. We’ve pretty much finalized everything at this point.
About a month ago we were finalizing the hotel that we were going to hold the event at, and it’s an expensive proposition. We’re signing a contract with the hotel for about $125,000 to put on this event. We went, 5 or 6 of us, and we toured the final 3 hotels that we had decided will work for us.
One of those hotels is pictured on my screen. You can see it in the back, it’s the Anatole Hilton in Dallas. We went and they did a first class job. As soon as we walked in the door they had several people waiting for us, and then they ushered us into the hotel and took us to one of the 6 restaurants. They had desserts and drinks and all kinds of things set out for us. The lady that was essentially running the show, and she had 5 or 6 people there with her to help answer questions, she was asking us all kinds of questions about what we cared about, what were our top concerns, what kind of problems did we have last year at our conference at a different hotel, on and on. She was fact seeking. She was looking for selling points, all while we enjoyed drinks and dessert. After that, they did a fantastic job showing us the property.
Somewhere in the course of that conversation, it was mentioned by John, my business partner … In one of the auditoriums that we looked at there were some candies sitting in a little bowl on one of the tables, and he made an offhanded remarkable about “Oh, this is a great hotel, this is my favorite candy.” That was it. We spent a couple hours with them. They gave us gifts on the way out, and that was it. We went on to the next hotel.
About 2 hours after we got back to our office, and our office is a good ways, it’s, I don’t know, 10 or 15 miles away from this Hilton, a courier came to our office with this big bag that you can see on my screen, and a thank you card. They filled this bag with tons of these candies that John loves, and they delivered it with a thank you note. You can see Ashley was running the show on this one, that’s why her name’s on it, but then you can look inside the card and you can see that she wrote a card to us, and was thoughtful enough to send these candies.
We were really happy with the hotel, but we also have 2 other really good contenders, and almost immediately it was like “We want to do business with them.” It completely re-framed how we were thinking about them and where they stacked up in the line-up of the final 3. Like, “If they do this trying to make the sale, what might they be like when we actually do business with them? Maybe they should get the contract.” It was dramatic how through the rest of the day the way we talked about them as compared to the 2 other hotels changed.
Why I wanted to share this with you is what is it that we as business owners and as salespeople can do to change the way our potential customer looks at us? What are these like things? This cost them 20, 30 bucks in courier fees, some candy and a few minutes. Nothing, something really small. That would even be worth it if your sale was only a 1000 bucks; in this case it’s 125,000 dollars. Even if it’s a small sale, that’s hardly any money to spend to really put yourself in a position where there’s a high probability that you’ll win that deal. It’s really smart business, and she did a really smart job of paying attention and probing for what our needs were so that she could answer objections and put herself in a position to win the business.
The other thing I’ll mention, I think I’ve said it before, is over the years at Service Autopilot we’ve received tons of cards. I’ve received a bunch of, and other people have received a bunch of gift cards to local restaurants. We’ve received catered-in lunch to our company from our clients. A lot of clients have sent us all kinds of gifts and said thank you. The clients that do that are known by our team and they’re remembered by our team. Our support team and our training team almost feel differently and see them differently because they become more human, it becomes more personal. Of our thousands of customers that we have here at Service Autopilot, those that actually do things like that, they suddenly stand out. Our whole team knows who they are. That’s a really great lesson. How can we as owners and salespeople do that so that we stand out among the pack?
I hope this helps and I hope you can find a way to apply it to your business.
Can one lawn care employee be responsible for both selling and scheduling?
This question is about coordinating sales efforts with scheduling. The question is, “I’m constantly adjusting to accommodate the relationship between sales and scheduling. I don’t want to sell more work than I can handle or vise versa. When I scale, I’m concerned about delegating these positions to separate people. Can one employee be responsible for both selling and scheduling?”
No, I don’t believe so. Maybe very early on, however, if you have a really great sales person you want to have them sell all the time. You don’t want to bog them down with anything else. You want to let them run and work in their unique ability and do that thing that they’re very best at. It’s hard to find great sales people, so you don’t want to limit this person from selling. You want to have them doing as much of that as possible, because it’s difficult to find more great selling people. You can find people to schedule.
The other thing too is, when you’re going to scale you’re probably going to have more than one salesperson. The idea that you’re going to have just one salesperson as you scale and that same person could schedule, I’ve not seen that play out. You’re going to need more than one salesperson.
I think these are two different positions. Even when you’re small, I think it’s two different positions, personally. A salesperson is more expensive than a scheduling person, so let the salesperson sell, find somebody to schedule. They need to work as a team, and they need to communicate, and they need to talk to each other.
A salesperson, at times, might have to be redirected because we need to communicate that we need to back off on up-selling, or we need to back off in selling a new service to certain clients. There’s a lot of examples where the sales team has to ratchet down the selling or take a bit of a break because of what’s going on operationally with the backlog. That does require communication.
A consideration is, how are you compensating your sales team so that when you have to do such a thing, you don’t put them in a situation where they can’t make any money and they possibly have to leave your company.
The two positions must talk, must communicate, must be aligned. It’s very legitimate that the sales team, at times, has to back down so that scheduling and operations can keep up so that you don’t create too big of a backlog and let down your clients. That’s a communication problem, and it’s not solved by putting the same person on both activities.
Don’t be embarrassed! Use this quick tip to learn trees flowers and weeds!
There’s nothing worse than being on a property with a client and they ask you a question about a disease, or a weed, or a tree issue, or the type of grass they have, and you don’t know how to answer the question. Just as bad, you send someone on your team out to diagnose a problem or work with a client and they can’t answer the question. It just makes your company look foolish and maybe not as professional as your competitors.
One of the easiest ways to solve this, and this is the exact problem I bumped into when I first got started in the industry, actually for the second time because I was out of the industry for quite some time. I got back in just before 2005, and prior I had just been a high school kid mowing lawns. I didn’t know my bushes, my trees, my grass. I didn’t know any of that stuff 10 years ago. What I did is, I learned my top 10 bushes, top 10 trees, top 10 … I don’t think it was really my top 10 flowers, it might have been. I definitely learned my top 10 weeds. I learned my top 10 of a whole bunch of stuff. I basically just memorized them.
I decided to do this after having a whole bunch of bad experiences where a client would point at a bush and say, “Hey, what’s that bush?” Pretty much everybody on the street had that same bush and I couldn’t tell them what it was. I’d play it off like, “Oh, it just slipped my mind. It’s on the tip of my tongue, I can’t remember.” Well, that’s really embarrassing, so my recommendation is to apply the 80-20 rule to this.
There’s only so many different types of bushes. In fact, in my market, I really only need to learn 3 types of grass or turf. I only need to learn so many trees. There are probably 5 predominant types of trees. You’re going to have the same thing in your market. Probably the bushes and the flowers are going to be the ones you have to learn the most of, and weeds. I would say weeds as well. Again, the 80-20 rule applies here.
If you create within your business, sort of a … You know, just print out a picture of each of these things from the web, write the name on it, and create sort of like a flip card. You memorize them, your team memorizes them, you bring somebody onto the team that’s new that’s going to be out in the field, make sure they know these things. If they don’t know them, have them go through these pictures with the names on them and memorize them.
It’s real simple and this could be solved in a day. You don’t put yourself in an embarrassing spot and your team doesn’t make your company look bad. Then, take that idea and apply it to other aspects of the company. What is it that you can apply this 80-20 concept to? It’s powerful and it’s a fast way to bring people up to speed.