After Ho! Ho! Ho! Comes the Selling Season

by Ron Hall/Editor-in-Chief
12/16/2013

Once the holiday season is over the lawn care selling season begins. It starts in Florida and other far southern markets and creeps northward as winter's days lengthen.

I am reminded of that as I read that Memphis-based lawn care giant TruGreen held an open house in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 17, with the intention of hiring 200 full-time seasonal sales people. Checking the company's website I see that it is in full recruiting mode in most of its locations. TruGreen is casting a wide net this winter to attract employees, including employees for sales - both outside and inside sales.

In that regard TruGreen is no different than most other sizable lawn care companies. Lawn service companies are (or should be) perpetually recruiting. They must also be perpetually marketing and selling. That's the way the professional lawn care game is played.

The upcoming season is a crucial one for TruGreen that is leaving ServiceMaster its parent company at year's end. David Alexander, finishing his first year as the president of TruGreen, predictably is cranking up TruGreen's sales efforts to recover some of the 250,000-plus customers that the $975 million company (2012 revenue) lost since its peak pre-recession customer count. One of the ways he hopes to accomplish this is through door-to-door sales and, also, with telesales.

But this isn't telemarketing like in the old days when companies annoyed homeowners with unwanted early evening phone solicitations. Most of us remember the phone ringing any time between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. (especially in late winter) and someone on the other end offering a "special deal" or trying to line up a visit by someone in their company to visit us for roofing, siding, new windows or lawn care.

This year marks a 10-year anniversary of watershed moment in telemarketing, which reached its peak in the 1990s. Eventually, consumers said enough, prompting passage of Federal National Do Not Call legislation in 2004. More than 25 states now have similar laws. The laws allow residents who do not want to be bothered by telephone solicitations to submit their numbers to do-not-call registries. Penalties are stiff for companies that call the phone numbers of people who have indicated they do not want to solicited.

Telemarketing as it was practiced prior do-not-call (and, depending upon the skill of sales people, yielded surprisingly good results) is now history.

Even so, telesales are still legal and a vital part of many companies' customer acquisition efforts.

That's because do-not-call laws still allow calls by companies to customers that they have had relationship with. This relationship could be a purchase, payment or a delivery. Companies can also call individuals have asked about about their services, or have submitted an application to them. Once prospects - prompted either by direct mail, social media, special offers, etc. - request more information, then they can be called and services sold.

Obviously, no lawn care company can rely solely on telesales to build (or even restore) its customer count. It requires a more creative, robust and multi-dimensional marketing plan to attract positive attention to itself and its services to grease the sales process. This can include, or course, direct mail, social media (blogs, Youtubes, Twitter, etc.), coupons, promotions and incentivizing customers for referrals, to name a few.

Even though holidays are still ahead, southern lawn service companies are beginning to ramp up their marketing, recruit employees (including sales personnel) and will soon launch themselves into sales.

The primary selling season begins with the start of each new year in the South and begins shortly thereafter in every lawn care market in the United States and Canada.