Strategy is King

Bruce Wilson, Lawn & Landscape April 2021 - May, 2021

Bruce Wilson is founding principal of Bruce Wilson & Company.

Customers no longer seek landscape companies to execute tasks or simply be good at what they do. There’s a post-pandemic, pent-up demand for not only re-connecting at a relationship level, but customers are expecting their service partners to serve up a winning return on investment. Landscape businesses that cling to their tactically-driven past could lose out to smart and fast-thinking companies that place strategy at the core of their game.

When the coronavirus disrupted business last spring, agile CEOs were building flexible ‘what if’ scenarios that allowed them to scale, shift or pivot with their customers in real time. It was a smart approach that prevented upheaval and they emerged stronger and better, and with a sharper, savvier focus on their customer’s hierarchy of needs.

An analysis of some firms’ 2020 financials showed that many landscape companies made tactical gains and hit or got close to short-term targets. On closer inspection, they had little or no strategic growth in their core maintenance business. This is not to say that tactics aren’t important, but to generate real growth, strategy is the only way to get there.

Think about strategy as a critical leverage point for profitability in developing new business, for example. Identify the types of customers you want to serve in the future and the opportunities that will bring you success. You should know what your customers want from you that’s different from the past and how you can optimize your platform around new paradigms.

Strategy, in this case, should be based on selling profitable work. To do that, you must know what work is the most profitable for your business model and who your ideal customers are since loyalty and retention is important. Also, it’s important to know how to make referrals more profitable.

Referrals drive sales for most landscape maintenance business; however, when they are a result of untargeted selling instead of proactive relationship-building, they can be low-hanging fruit for your salespeople. While referrals can be an important byproduct of excellent work, it’s also true that referrals can lead to less desirable jobs. When you fill your pipeline with low-hanging leads, you run out of room for high-quality leads and your time and resources are spent following up on jobs that may negatively affect other areas of your business.

Prioritizing sales strategies can help you attract better clients in the future and boost your bottom line.

Most landscape companies attract abundant referrals through excellent customer service. But do they capture their fair share of the business that potentially comes from those leads? Sadly, too many of these opportunities are lost due to the transactional nature of some sales teams.

To work leads well, look at the opportunities they present through a strategic lens. Will it be challenging to implement? Does it offer opportunities for scaling, for cross-selling or upselling? Does it align with density goals, have retention potential or align with your mix?

Get as much information as possible. What are the lead’s broad objectives, wants and needs? What was their history and experience with other service providers? How do they feel about landscape value, and what role does sustainability play in their strategic plan?

Most importantly, why would they benefit from what you offer?

CEO involvement in the proposal process can help sales teams win the right kind of business. Proposals can be complex documents, with technical data and supporting information. But the bulk of the proposal should be devoted to what the potential new customer is interested in: his/her return on investment, landscaping and site infrastructure objectives and how your practices and approach can help them achieve a new level of success. Putting their strategy and objectives first will show that you have done your homework and ensure you don’t go home empty-handed.

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