This is a problem most landscape contractors would probably love to have – too many clients or projects and not enough time to handle it all. Meaning there is tons of demand…and not enough supply (i.e. you and your team) to go around. Still, it’s a serious issue that many of us in the landscape design and contracting business sooner or later face.
So exactly how do you get potential clients to commit and wait for you to free up the time and resources to handle their business?
Upfront contracts (for more on this – Google “The Sandler Selling System”)
Simply put and upfront contract is basically a tool used to demystify “what comes next” for the client. If you leave things up to chance (let them guess) you can be sure they will guess too low, too fast, and too easy! You don’t want a client guessing. Instead, you want to tell them up front – what the project budget may look like (ball park), the scope you are focusing on, and the timeline – so you are setting their expectations to be aligned with yours.
While many landscapers may feel a little uncomfortable with the whole up-front contract idea, it’s one of the best ways to secure new work and ensure steady and adequate work flow and cash flow. There are a number of benefits to utilizing the upfront contract approach. One of the best is that it enables you to state upfront the details of your services, approach and fees; it helps to overcome any early objections, and it establishes early buy-in and commitment. That’s pretty sweet.
An upfront contract is a great way to get the jump on any potential competition and establish your services as an improved property investment instead of an expense. In other words, they are investing in VALUE and RETURN not in “stuff”! By subtly framing the competition as an expense for the potential client and your services as an investment in a valuable outcome result, you’re reframing their mindset and predisposing them to using you. The result? It becomes easier to convince them to invest in your services immediately to lock them in.
The Naysayer – there is always one in the bunch
Don’t be surprised if this doesn’t sit well with some. That is OK! Point is, you are actually trying to weed out the prospects that want to get a lot for a little. That isn’t your gig. You want to deliver high value and a great experience; you can’t do that on the fly (or tomorrow for that matter) because you have other bookings. You want to make sure that each new prospect is vetted as the PERFECT fit for you. So if your timing is too slow or the investment too rich, that is okay, kindly thank the prospect and move on. Maybe they are a great fit for a colleague. How great will it feel to pair them up with a better aligned contractor – again win/ win!!
Do a little now for a lot later
Part of the beauty of upfront contracts is the ability to establish that the full project investment is X amount of dollars for Y scope of work and then break that down into several palatable chunks that starts the cash coming in. For example, get an upfront retainer for the design and or planning process for the entire landscape construction project. This accomplishes several things: 1) it generates immediate revenue, 2) provides you the opportunity to establish the relationship and to prove your value, 3) create cash flow before you ever put shovel to ground. It also gets the client excited about the future goals, even if they only plan on starting with a section of the work.
Keep lines of communication open
Once you’ve got your upfront contract to design and our plan their project in hand, it’s vital to keep lines of communication open during the time between this first agreement and your next contact. After all, newly signed clients could begin to feel a little uneasy after handing over money and then not hearing from the contractor at all. So make this agreement time-bound and put some reminders on your calendar. Check in periodically to let them know where you are, schedule-wise. Set and keep follow-up meetings to review design progress. Every contact doesn’t have to be a major announcement, just an acknowledgement that they’re on your radar screen and you’re getting to their project as quickly as possible. You cannot underestimate the goodwill this creates.
Convinced that upfront contracts should be a key component of your business model? You should be. After all, properly done, they’re a win-win for you and the client.