As a child I always enjoyed the story about the grasshopper and the ant. The story, of course, tells of a grasshopper that carelessly enjoys a warm and beautiful summer, failing to prepare for the upcoming cold and harsh winter. The ant, on the other hand, stores food and builds a shelter realizing winter is coming.
When winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself hungry and freezing because of its careless and carefree nature during the summer. Ultimately, desperate for food and shelter, the grasshopper seeks aid at the ant’s doorstep.
As landscape and lawn service company owners, we often find ourselves at the mercy of the “feast or famine” seasonality of our businesses. For this reason, I remind my sales team about the grasshopper when we approach the end of our season. But, unlike the grasshopper or the ant, our company continues to work in the winter. We keep selling. It gives us a jump on the next year. By March and April, my company has already closed new sales and renewed our contracts for our existing clients for the year.
This is what the most successful companies in our industry do. They also recruit, tweak their training programs and start scheduling. But at the top of their to-do list is quickly transitioning their energy and time from late fall production to hitting their sales and client renewal goals by late November and early December.
Here are some simple pointers to get your sales phones ringing and buzzing in the winter for next year.
- Set your goals for the coming year. Be specific with your numbers in units and revenue for both renewing existing customers and acquiring new customers. Establishing specific numbers allows your team to fully visualize your objectives.
- Start your renewal process now. Start getting renewals finalized by the end of November at the latest. Take a lesson from the medical industry. Remember the last time you were exiting your dentist’s office after a check-up? Didn’t the secretary ask for a day and time from you for your next visit somewhere within the upcoming 6 months?
- Send out your annual contracts. My company prepares to mail and email 2016 contracts to existing customers by the middle of November. This gives clients time to shop around if they chose to. It also provides them with the feeling that they control the relationship.
- Reward with discounts. Offer clients discounts in your annual contracts if they agree to renew early for the coming year. You can even go a step further and provide them with a steeper discount if they prepay for the year. In my opinion, prepayment for services is even better than a contract. It eliminates accounts receivables and decreases the likelihood of them cancelling during the year.
- Schedule meetings with clients: Encourage your service managers and sales team to book end-of-season meetings with important clients. Meetings, whether in person or via the telephone, allow you to capture feedback from your customers and decrease the likelihood they will cancel their services.
- Sell to the neighbors of your clients: After you have solidified your client base for the approaching year, focus on acquiring new clients. Spend January and February calling on neighbors of existing customers. After all, everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses especially when their properties look so attractive. Also, contact individuals that have used your services in the past. Chances are many of these property owners, stung by low-cost competitors, will be glad to get your great service again.