Dont compare your prices with nonprofessionals

Your research will demonstrate that despite the amount of gardeners offering their services, few operate in a professional way. Many 'gardeners' offer all sorts of additional services including rubbish clearance, window cleaning, painting and decorating, pet sitting to name a few. Would you be confident entrusting your prized rose collection to someone who is an all-round handyman? No, of course you wouldn't. These are the gardeners who qualify their advertisements with the cheery 'we'll beat any price' slogan. The reason they can do this is they quite literally hack their way through gardening. I've seen so many once beautiful shrubs destroyed by these merchants and so many plants killed off by improper and inappropriate use of weed killers and the like.

There's nothing cheap and cheerful about a dead hedge, or roses that have been hacked to death. Never be afraid to chargefor professional gardening. Knowledge, expertise and experience comes at a price. Don't undersell your service.

When clients employ a gardener their decision about whom to use will not be based on price alone. There are lots of factors, the main ones being:

  • ability to do the job
  • professionalism
  • reputation
  • availability.

Availability is another reason why you should never discount your prices or charge anything below market rates.

Were someone to ask me to do some work for them I would have to tell them that the soonest I could do it would be at least the following month. My diary is always that full. While most of my clients will wait, there are some who need the job done immediately.

Thus they may well phone you. So if when you give them a price you deliberately undercut my rates in the hope that you will get the business, you will in fact be undercutting yourself as opposed to me. See the difference?

This is a costly mistake for you to make because in my experience, no matter what the price, people will always expect you to do a first class job, which is only normal. You couldn't imagine someone phoning you up and asking you to come over and hack their roses to death for £5 an hour, could you? People will expect, as they should, that you will provide an excellent service. That's why they have phoned you as opposed to the advertisement that stated they'd beat any price.

Youravailahility to do the job is often more important to people than what you charge them.

The butcher's tale

A woman walks into a butcher's shop and asks for six lamb chops. While the butcher is preparing and trimming the meat she notices the price. 'Gosh,' she says, 'I didn't think they'd be that expensive.' The butcher stops what he's doing and looks at her. 'Sorry, Madam,' he says, 'do you still want them?'

  • Well, the shop across the road is selling six chops for £2.50. But you're selling them for £3.00.'
  • So why don't you buy them there?' the butcher asks. 'Because they haven't got any.'

The butcher smiles. 'Madam, if I hadn't got any I'd sell them to you for £1.50 for six.'

This is an old story and one that's used often by sales trainers. But there's a good lesson there. Beware of competing on price alone. You're not selling a product. You're selling a service. Let all the other companies fill their diaries with unprofitable work. Sooner than you think you'll find yourself in demand!

When meeting clients for the first time always bring your diary with you. I cannot stress this enough. The best way to close the sale is to give a price there and then, open your diary and suggest a date. 'Okay Mrs Marsh, to cut the entire hedge, remove the clippings, sweep up afterwards will cost £35.' Then you open your diary and suggest a date sometime in advance. Not tomorrow. You don't want to appear desperate. 'I could do it for you, let's see how about next Thursday morning at 9am?'

This is the simplest way of closing any sale. If, and this is a big if, Mrs Marsh says something like: 'That's very expensive. My neighbour had theirs cut for £15 and it was larger than mine,' resist the temptation to look across the road at the hedge, shake your head and say, 'But I'll do it better.'

No. Even if it looks like whoever cut it was drunk when they did it, don't knock their work. Simply say that for you to do Mrs Marsh's hedge it will cost £35. Be prepared to walk away. There are other clients and plenty more opportunities. But if you discount your prices now you'll have the whole street wanting you to cut their hedges for £15 or whatever you finally agree on, and soon you'll be rushed off your feet and earning nothing.

The real competition

If your proposed business will involve offering gardening makeovers and the like, then the competition is not just other landscaping companies quoting for the business.

The decision to spend £5,000 on having a garden makeover is something that most homeowners will give considerable thought to. And unless you're very fortunate and your potential clients have oodles of money then you will find yourself competing against foreign holidays, new cars, washing machines, home furnishings and the like.

If makeovers and building new gardens are to form a core part of your business then you will need to be confident in your sales ability. Convincing your client that a new garden is better than two weeks in some far-flung exotic place isn't too difficult provided you remember the golden rule of selling, which is:

People buy benefits not features

A complete garden makeover might have the following features:

  • re-designed lawn area
  • better use of space
  • all year-round colour
  • low maintenance garden.

But the benefits are:

  • Landscaped gardens increase the value of the property.
  • The garden will be somewhere you can enjoy all-year round and not just for two weeks.
  • By having a low maintenance garden you can either enjoy more free time by having less gardening work to do, or reduce the amount you spend on garden maintenance.

Sell the benefits, not the features: 'By creating a new, low maintenance garden Mrs Smith, you'll have far more time available to play your golf and you won't feel as tired.'

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