Michael Pickel, owner

Michael Pickel, owner.
Photo: Pickel Landscape Group

Michael Pickel, owner of Pickel Landscape Group in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, says that he used to get flooded with so many calls come spring that it inundated the sales team. The phone would be relatively quiet during the off-season but come March, Pickel says it would ring off the hook. With so many calls coming in, Pickel says it became challenging to weed out the good leads from the bad. While he says he used to think that any lead was good, it got to the point that they were running around too much — with too many unprofitable jobs eating up their time. Now, he has his sales team spend more time on the phone filtering out jobs that are the best fit.

“We’ve put several changes into place that have helped us to filter out clients that aren’t going to be the right fit for us,” Pickel says. “For one, we are very upfront and clear on what we do. We simply don’t have the capacity to follow through on every single clean-up lead if it’s not going to lead to more work.”

That’s why Pickel says he has his sales team ask some important questions over the phone to determine if a one-time clean-up job might lead to something more. If the client isn’t likely to want continued maintenance throughout the year — or maybe some future design/build work — then Pickel will most likely turn the lead down.

“I’d rather spend five or 10 minutes on the phone with calls that come in, finding out exactly what it is that they want, then to waste time sending people out to jobs that aren’t really going to be a good fit for us,” Pickel says. “We no longer run out every time the phone rings. There are just too many leads that turn out to be time vacuums, where you run around and do small jobs that really don’t go anywhere.”

Pickel says they focus on five key points when a potential lead comes in. Each of these items is considered before making a decision to follow through on a lead or not:

  1. Geographic Location: How long is it going to take to get to the jobsite and back each day?
  2. Their Level of Seriousness: How long has the prospect been thinking of this project? What is their motivation to get it done?
  3. Scope of Work: How much time is this project going to take?
  4. Expectations: What is the prospect’s timeline for having the project completed? Can it realistically fit
    into our timeline as a company?
  5. Their Selection Process: How is this prospect going to choose a contractor? Are they just shopping around based on price? Is the selection process going to drag on?

Pickel says that with the current landscape climate being the way it is — more work than there are team members in a lot of cases — it’s more important than ever to be diligent about leads.

“We need to be extra careful to make sure that each lead we field is worth the time we put in,” he says. “That means each question we ask, of those five considerations, should up the percentage that we close a lead for a profitable customer.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.