Something to think about today is how are you communicating with your clients. What are you not proactively handling. What I mean by that is, this morning when I was out running before work I stopped and snapped a picture of this lawn with my iPhone. Actually, as I continued running I noticed this exact same problem in a bunch of the lawns throughout my neighborhood. We’re under watering restrictions. We can only water once a week, so everyone watered this morning. In a lot of the lawns the sprinkler head did not fully retract. What happens is, as you know, the grass grows up around the sprinkler head and then the mowers come through and mow the lawn, hit the sprinkler head, break it, we have to fix it. We didn’t do anything wrong but the customer does not understand this problem. They don’t realize this is happening. It’s not their world. They don’t think about it, but we get blamed. When we get blamed they look at it as laziness, or even worse, when we hit the sprinkler head because there was grass all around it, the crews don’t even know, they hit, they break it. Next week they have a gusher in their lawn and they think we’re, again, inept and too lazy to bother to tell them that we caused damage to their property. But again, they don’t fully understand why this happens, how it happens, and why we don’t know about it.
In your business you may or may not have this scenario but you’ve got other scenarios, just like I have other scenarios where innocent things happen, and we just don’t think about communicating those things to the client, so how can you proactively tell your client about this? What could you put on your website? What could you have prepared that when a client complains you could send them a link to a video you recorded explaining the problem, or send them a pre-written email explaining the problem and apologizing, then also telling them “Here’s watch out for in your lawn so you can help us avoid this.”
Being proactive can make all the difference. This is just one example. Think about how this applies to all kinds of different aspects throughout your business. Are you highly visible in your market? As you’re looking at your trucks today, pay attention to how they show when someone that doesn’t know you sees your trucks on the road. Or if you have a whole bunch of white trucks, is that doing anything to constantly pound your name into your prospective client’s mind? Just as important, when you send out marketing or another client refers you, you want the person, the prospect, to have an association with your company. If I refer you to my friend, you want my friend to have thought “Oh yeah, those are the guys I see all the time. I see them.” That gives them confidence. That makes them feel like they’re making a safe, wise choice. Running around in an all-white, all-black truck, while if you’re my competitor is awesome. I would prefer that you continue doing that. But if you’re not my competitor I’d suggest that you don’t do that. Here’s a simple black truck, and just look what the pink accents do to this truck. I guarantee if you have five of these running around, people will remember you. Your marketing will work better, referrals will work better, all kinds of things will work better. Being seen is important, and when you’re seen you need to be able to easily be differentiated from everyone else in your marketplace.
When I was at GIE in Louisville, Kentucky I was reminded that you really don’t want to buy the cool mower. What I mean by that is walking through GIE, and every time I do I’m reminded how many different brands there are, how many manufacturers there are selling walk-behinds and riders. There’s Scag and Toro and Exmark. Those are just my local brands. Then when you get out of those brands there’s Dixie Chopper and Walker and about ten other brands. You probably have a whole different set of brands in your market than I have. It’s so easy to go to the show or hear somebody that you’re talking to on LawnSite or in some other market talking about how great their Gravely is or their Walker or whatever.
It might be fantastic. It may be the mower you wish you could have. But the dilemma is, if you don’t have a dealer right there with you that you can build a great relationship with to get parts overnight, have it fixed immediately, then you really don’t want to buy the cool, best mower that happens to not be in your local market. You’ve really got to buy the best of what’s available to you in your very close proximity of your shop, because when you’re down and you have that much money in a piece of equipment you got to get it back fast. My word of caution is to be careful of the recommendations of friends. Be careful of what you see at the show no matter how great it is. Still only buy what you can easily source parts for that’s right near your shop. Buy only the equipment that you have a local distributor that could fix it right away and it’s not a very far drive for your office. That makes the most financial sense, because labor is where all your money goes, and you want to maximize the efficiency of your labor by keeping them on the very best equipment possible. You got to get it back quick when something goes wrong.
If you’re not using custom trucks and custom truck beds it’s worth taking a look at it. It’s worth considering, especially here over the winter. Optimizing your fleet to give your team in the field the opportunity to be as efficient as possible is smart business. Labor is your number one expense. The more you can drive that down, the more money you make. It’s way cheaper to invest in better equipment, better trucks, better truck beds, than it is to invest in more and more people. Here are several pictures from GIE of custom truck beds. I’m a big believer, as much as you can I think you want to get trailers out of your business as much as you can. Like I said, you want to drive that non-billable time out of your business. The way you do it is by giving your guys a perfect setup to work with by minimizing load and unload time, by making sure they can find all their tools.
This last picture here is from Tony Bass’s company where they sell custom trucks. I don’t know what they cost. I’m not endorsing them. I’ve never actually even met Tony but I’ve heard great things about I’m. He is right. He is completely on to something that custom truck beds in all different forms. They could be open truck beds. They could be on the back of a Ford Ranger. I’ve got a bunch of those. They could be on the back of F150s. I’ve got a bunch of those too. Or they could be on Isuzu MPRs, which again I have a whole bunch of those. Custom truck beds work, and what Tony is selling with this one picture right here, again I can’t endorse it. Don’t know any about it but he is dead right, and you should look at it in your business whether you work with somebody like him or you figure out how to do it yourself. There’s a lot of wisdom in this approach and there’s a lot of wisdom in efficiency and getting trailers out of your business as much as you can.
You want aggressive salespeople. You want people that are going to sell and they’re going to be like a bulldog, and they’re going to get that deal, and they’re going to get it closed. But you can take it too far. I think it’s something to watch out for. As you think about your sales team, growing your sales team, as you think about how you’re selling, here’s a watch-out to be very aware of. This is a picture in the upstairs of our house in our workout room. We had some water. I actually peeled the paint off of it. Wasn’t actually this bad but we could see some bubbling under the paint. We had some water coming in so we had a leak detection company come out and take a look at it. If you open the window and you look outside the window … That’s kind of a mess, I guess from dirt over the years, but you could see that … Well these are just some pictures outside the window where some water was coming in right around the edges.
We just needed to caulk the windows. Really at the end of the day that’s all we needed to do was caulk the windows. I needed to get this fixed right away so I had this leak detection company out. They looked at my window. They told me a scary story about how big of a problem this is and how it was going to ruin all of the walls in my house over time, and I was going to have brick problems and on and on and on. They quoted me a price to take care of this window of $700. It was not only to fix it but it was also to make it right in terms of making sure this could never happen again. They had this special silicone … It wasn’t silicone, it was some kind of special caulk, but they were also going to do some work on the window itself. We actually ended up letting them do it because I just wanted to get it done and I didn’t have time to deal with it. But then they went and looked at all of our other windows. I will say they did a fantastic job. The work was excellent. It was probably more than I needed to spend. Actually, there’s no question it was more than I needed to spend. But then they gave me a quote for $8,000 to make sure that none of my windows had this problem in the future. I’m pretty certain they felt we had some money to spend so they threw out a quote and thought maybe I’d take it.
Well we didn’t take it but we did let them do this one window. Then, while they’re doing this one window, the sales guy, my wife is home and he’s walking around in our house while his team is working. Then he has this fictitious conversation with his daughter on the telephone about how this is worst window situation he’s ever seen in a house of this type, and how terrible it is, and how the builder screwed us over, and how the alarm company screwed us over, and blah blah blah. We let him fix this. Again, they did a fantastic job. Then we got a second opinion and we got the rest of our windows done for $150 caulked versus his $8,000 quote. One, I think he’s a fraud, but two, I think that it was an overzealous sales guy. Let’s forget the part about them being sort of a fraud and that that they were trying to get $8,000 out of me, but just the whole fear factor of telling us how terrible it was, telling us how this is a huge problem. It really made my wife unhappy to be told that we have such a problem, that something’s wrong with our house, that there’s a flaw. The whole presentation was screwed up because they were trying to sell fear.
The second part of the problem was that then, when they’re actually doing the work, they again tried to use fear to sell us on the idea that we were going to have this massive problem that had to be taken care of and we really needed to spend $8,000 right away. Presentation is everything. Consultive selling is everything, but when you do it or your sales guy are trying so hard to make the sale that they try to scare you, if your people are doing that they’re taking it way too far. These are the kinds of companies that even though they did a fantastic job on the one window they did, I’d still give them a one star review on Yelp. I actually thought about doing it but because I’m in the business I know how much I hate it when people give me bad reviews, that I didn’t.
But they deserved a one star review, not for their work but for the salespeople that they were using to sell it. I will never use them again. I will never refer them. I will never recommend them just because of their sales guy. Watch out for that in your business with your most successful, most aggressive sales guys. Are they selling you a bunch of onetime work but you’ll never have repeat clients because of the way they got the work? And even worse, the clients that you do get, they’ll never refer because they just don’t feel comfortable with the way you sold the work. These are thing to really think about. It’s more than just the numbers when you’re selling. There’s more to it.