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Sales and Business Development for Tree Care

August 12, 2021

Six years ago, David Lewis fell and broke his foot. He quickly realized his days as a professional tree climber were over. Knowing that he still wanted to have a career in tree care service, David decided to learn the business side of tree care. 

David became an ISA-certified arborist and obtained his applicators license. He ended up getting a position as an account manager at a publicly-traded tree care company. After spending four years at that company, David decided to take his talents to help grow an up-and-coming tree care company. That’s how, in April 2021, he ended up at Orleans Co Tree Service

David has proven himself an expert climber and now is a tree care sales expert. Take a listen to this episode as he explains:

  • Why excellent communication is the #1 trait of a successful salesperson.
  • If you focus on the customer experience, the results will follow. 
  • How David gets his leads.
  • The importance of a detailed, professional proposal.
  • Why losing a bid is not a loss for him. 
  • How Orleans Co stays busy year-round. 
  • What to look for in tree care software for sales.

You can tune in above on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play, or anywhere you get your podcasts.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT:

Ty Deemer:

All right, everyone. Welcome back to Green Industry Perspectives. My name is Ty Deemer. I’m your host, and we’ve got a great episode today. We’re going to be talking a little bit about sales, a little about tree care with David Lewis from Orleans Tree Care. David, welcome to the show.

David Lewis:

Good morning, Ty. How are you?

Ty Deemer:

Good, great. Happy to have you on. David, we like to start off every episode of our podcast the same way, just to provide immediate value for our audience. The question we ask is pretty simple. What do you view are the top three things, or common threads, that have led to your success at Orleans Tree Care, or just in your tree care industry career experience?

David Lewis:

For me, my success has been the most one is being honest, is not over promising, and knowing what you’re talking about. Knowing what you’re bringing to the table to the client. I mean, if I add something else could be is that knowing the client’s pain, what their pain is. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. That makes complete sense. I mean, especially in your field of work. You really have to understand what the priority is for them, and why they’re calling you for an estimate, or to bid on a job. Typically, it’s not because of their love of arbor culture, it’s more just because they have a pain point and you’ve got to, probably, mesh the two for them, right?

David Lewis:

Right, correct. That’s exactly right. I mean, that’s some of the first questions that I ask the client, and it’s also trying to make that connection with the client somehow. Usually just being honest and up front and open to conversation has really helped me to be able to create long lasting relationships in the industry. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, for sure. David, you have been in the industry for a while. Talk the audience through your background and likely why you’re on the show. Talk to us through maybe how you got involved in the tree care industry, and what your career in the space has looked like.

David Lewis:

My career in tree care began when I was, I’m 42, so it began when I was 18. I started climbing. I was a production climber for about 14 years, and I just basically was a day-to-day get up, climb tree, prune trees, stuff like that. I’ve worked under some really good arborists and I was always interested in learning, but never really had the time to sit down and study like I wanted to. So what happened was, about seven years ago, I fell from 30 foot and broke my foot. That took me out for a little while. So what I did was, I knew that at that time that climbing might not be an option for me, so I started to study the ISA study book and went and took, passed the arborist test. Then I went onto get my track certification. Then I went from there and got my CTSP. Then here, recently, I just got my applicator’s license. 

After that happened, during that process, I went to work for a publicly traded company and I worked there for six years doing business development and account management. Inside that company, I was exposed to a lot of different avenues of ways to make connection with clients and build relationships and how to obtain the relationships by not [inaudible 00:03:52] I said a lot of business developers, I’ve learned [inaudible 00:03:58] pass it off to the production team. I’m more of a hands-on type of business developer, so I see it from the beginning all the way to the end. 

I was there at that publicly traded company for five years, and then I moved over to Orleans. Orleans is a smaller company, up and coming company, and I felt like that was a good position for me, because I could help the business grow. Over here, we’ve grown. I’ve only been at Orleans for four months now, and we’ve already grown in revenue. It’s a $2 million company. We’re doing really well. We’re doing really well. As far as sales goes, when I was at the publicly traded company, I was averaging 2.4 hours a year in sales. I probably made some of the largest single off sale on the East Coast that there was for that company. I’ve done it here, at Orleans, too.

Ty Deemer:

Quite the story too. Talk through me, real quick, the transition of having your injury, and then recognizing the tree climbing part of this might not be a thing for me anymore. That had to be pretty tough, because I know how tight knit that tree climbing community is, right?

David Lewis:

Yeah man, it was devastating. I still climb to this day, but my foot won’t allow me to climb the way that I’m [inaudible 00:05:44] I just looked at it as an opportunity to propel my career forward. So, I just dived into the books and started to learn, and I got in the back pocket of some people who had been in the green industry. Most of these were landscapers and I just learned from them about the business development part, like how to bring in new business, and what does that look like?

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. Do you feel having that background of being in the trees, do you feel that sets you up for success with some of the work? Has it helped the fact that you know uniquely how the work is actually going to get done, just not how it’s going to get sold? Do you feel that’s been beneficial for you?

David Lewis:

Yes. That is probably the main, as far as bidding the work and price points… A lot of guys, other arborists that are just they’re not field trained, they didn’t come out of the field, they’re more book smart or you got a lot of people that you bid against that have never done tree work. So, I’m able to look at a tree and say, “Okay, we can do this and this here and there, and cut a corner to make that faster,” which drives the price down, which helps you win work. At the end of the day, some clients are looking for quality, some are looking for the lowest cost. I never try to be the lowest, I always try to be right in the middle. So yeah, I think really helps me, man, is the part of having that prior climbing experience.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s really cool and you talked earlier about how you’re more of an end-to-end sales guy too, because you want to see it all the way through and I think you’re kind of provided a unique aspect in that sense because you know what the work is going to look like from the moment you sell it and then you’re going to be there consistently through. What’s the benefit for you to be that involved all the way through? What type of feedback have you gotten from clients when you’re that present all the way throughout the process?

David Lewis:

Oh, well, the clients, they love it. From commercial clients to residential clients. This type of business in sales, communication is the number one thing. It’s the number one factor. If you’re not a good communicator, I’m not saying you won’t be successful, but you won’t be as successful as somebody that has a high communication level because I found times when I couldn’t meet deadlines and just being honest the client and communicating that with them made them feel a lot more comfortable through that process. Because a lot of people don’t know about arbor culture and the process they go. So me being present there with them, explaining the process, guiding them through that, where it’s a turnkey job. They hire us, I come in there, I see it from the first, from what objectives we’re going to hit and then we meet them objectives and then come back and do a follow up with the client and walk them through what the property and just make sure that they’re happy. Seeing it from beginning to end, I’ve always had great results, great Google reviews and it’s just really helped me.

Ty Deemer:

I would love to kind of dive in to that in general, your sales process that you’ve built out over the years from maybe it’s like you’re given the lead or someone calls into the office, and they’re requesting a bid. Could you talk through step by step what you think are the key points of that end to end process?

David Lewis:

Yeah. 

Ty Deemer:

It might seem kind of redundant, or a lot to go through that, but I know for a fact there’s people listening to this that they’re trying to figure out as a tree care or landscape company, what should our sales process be? I think someone like you who owns it end to end, if you could just provide a little insight into what yours looks like, it could be really valuable to our listeners. 

David Lewis:

You know, there’s two different ways that leads come to me. Either it is generated by my actual experience in the arboriculture industry, people reach out for me because I’ve been on the commercial side of the business for a while., they usually come because they know me, and so you know, that usually comes through an email and what I do is I set a meeting up with them, I go out there, I find out what their pain is, what needs to be done on the property and then I put together a proposal. Then what I do is I sit down with the client and I go over that proposal, I make sure that their details are in there about what objectives we’re going to do to the tree, very detailed orientated proposals. They sell theirselves, and with residential clients, a lot of them they come through the office or they come through leads through the office so what I do, at Orleans we have single ops. 

It has a feature on there where you can call the client ahead of time, so usually what I do is 45 minutes before I’m going to show up to that client’s house, I call that client just to feel them out. Just to start that conversation with them, break the ice. Once I’m there, I just try to make a connection with them somehow. It might not have to do with trees. Just being personable, I think, really is a key factor in sales. If you’re not personable and you’re not relatable, most likely, I’m not saying all the time, but most likely you have another arborist come along and his price point is higher, he’s probably going to win the work. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. What do you view are the big differentiators? I agree with everything you’ve said so far, you’re getting to the job site, you’re setting a good environment for the sale, you’re giving them a call before hand, you’re getting comfortable with them, and then you have a detailed proposal. Whether it’s single ops or any other software, if you’re not giving them a digital proposal that clearly lays out what you’re doing on the property, you’re definitely far behind. To your point, there’s a lot of other factors that go into a sale, and something actually closing. What do you feel like are some of the key components of getting the sale? What do you think is [crosstalk 00:12:53]?

David Lewis:

Yeah, so my estimates are not site driven. I don’t look at a tree and say, “Hey, this is a $3,000 tree.” There’s mathematics that I use that goes into that cost. Then I am able to adjust my price point, if I see that my close rate is falling down or looking at your close rate of work won versus work loss, a lot of time there’s a lot of arborists that just look at a tree and say, “That’s a $3,000 tree.” Tell me how you come up with $3,000. I back mathematics in that using the [inaudible 00:13:37]. I don’t really want to get into all the ins and outs of exactly what I do to bed the jobs, but it’s systematic. It’s just like anything else. I do the same process over and over, it comes with plant health care, or tree removals or tree pruning. It’s all mathematics with me. That’s what I put into the bid. Then as I present the bid to them, a lot of times the job was won right then. Not even 60% of the jobs that I sell are sold right on spot. 

Ty Deemer:

Really?

David Lewis:

Right there on the job. Some of them come back later on, it’s a residential client so of course they need to talk to their significant other, and following up with the client. In a couple days I’ll follow up, and if they said I was too high or they’re going with somebody else, I ask the question, “Hey, why?” I can learn from that to be better on the next time. That’s what’s made me successful. We’re all going to fail in the industry, we’re all going to lose bids, but at the end of the day if you just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again expecting different results, that’s the absolute definition of insanity. 

Ty Deemer:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

David Lewis:

I just try to learn from each experience. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, that’s incredible. I want to go back for a minute, talking about how 60% of the jobs that you estimate, you sell on site. What would you feel like is the factor behind that? Do you think it’s just because people, is it timeliness to the estimate? You are the first one there? What do you feel like, or are you setting up an environment to where you just make it to where they’re like, “Yes, this is what we were looking for, lets do it.” Or is it a little bit of both?

David Lewis:

It’s a little bit of both, and that’s where that relationship comes in, and making that bond. I try to make the client feel, I’m very passionate about tree care so it perspires off me, I put it off in the atmosphere. The client, sometimes I can see them get all bubbly inside and they’re like, “Hey man, this guy’s going to do a great job, he’s very passionate, high energy,” and I think that’s what makes them because a lot of the times I’m not the cheapest bidder. You don’t have to be the cheapest bidder, but making that connection with the client I think is vital. If you don’t make a connection with the client someway, somehow, your odds go down. 

A lot of times, I think with that, with the particular software we use, it has an accepted button right there. I present the proposal to them, we’re both looking at it on each other’s phones, I go through the same process and say, “Hey, here’s the proposal. Here’s the copy of our insurance, there’s the pictures I took of the trees, here’s the objective we’re going to meet, here is something about the company and here is our COI.”You’re providing everything right there, and when a client feels comfortable they’re going to spend their money. 

Ty Deemer:

Yep, makes complete sense. Then on the flip side of that, when they don’t sign on site, you mention follow ups. Follow ups are really powerful. What is your advice to other people listening to this on follow ups, how should their sales team think about follow ups?

David Lewis:

There’s a fine point. When I was with the publicly traded company, they were keen on following up, and following up, and following up, and following up. To a point that gets to where you’re being pestering, so what I do, I generally, if it’s a commercial or a property manager I will shoot them an email three to four days later. If I don’t hear anything, if I don’t hear anything back from them, that means I didn’t win the work. I’m going to follow up one time, but residential clients, they’re a little different. I usually call them and talk with them, and sometimes I will help them with the process with another tree service. I’ll help them. I’ll try to make them understand I’m there to help, it’s not all about the sale. It’s about making that relationship and making that connection. In sales, I’ve learned from a lot of good business developers and relationship, making them bonds, even on a residential job you never know you you’re dealing with. You might be dealing with someone who owns 50 commercial buildings. 

I’ve had it happened, I’ve had one sale from $1,400 turn into a portfolio of work that’s 1.4 million dollars. It’s just by making that connection with that person, and them feeling like it’s a turnkey job. You know? When they hit that approval button, they don’t have any to worry about. David’s got it, from front to end. He’s got it. That comfortability, bringing that to the table, making them feel comfortable, and being on time, and if you’re not going to be on time, then you’re communicating that. I find that’s one of the number one things, I think, in the green industry. The lack of communication is prevalent everywhere. It’s just everywhere. If you’re a high communicator, you’re going to be successful in sales. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, for sure. That’s really interesting, because I love the way you call out communication. It is one of those things where I think that’s one of those, it should be obvious to people. But what you’re talking to, those simple check ins, those follow ups, the way you called before the job, before you arrived at their house to break the ice, those little things to make it such a better experience for the end customer. 

David Lewis:

You know what to expect when you get there. I’m pretty good at gauging people and understanding people, so if I pick the phone up and I call them, they’re rude and they’re just like, “I’ll be there,” and they’re real short, then I know to keep the conversation short. This is not about, they’re just taking multiple bids. Then you have other people that really genuinely care, so then you can make that connection before you even get there and they’re generally excited about meeting you, excited about what’s going on. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. It just gives you an idea of what environment you’re about to walk into, then you can kind of gauge how you need to respond or how you need to go into it based off of that. For anyone listening, trying to get tips for their sales team, that’s an awesome one. Last part about the sales process that I kind of want to ask you about, specifically with the process, I have some other questions for you, is you mentioned you’re an end to end guy. Once you sell the work, you don’t drop off. What does that look like for you, practically? Is it checking in with the customer, reminding them when a crew is going to be coming out, seeing if they’re happy with the work? Talk to us what that post sale process looks like for you. 

David Lewis:

It just depends on how much is into the job. Let’s just take a one off residential job, I’m going to use a particular job that I just sold here recently. I got referred by three other tree companies, the tree was in a very difficult location, no crane access, nothing like that. Here at Orleans, we have one of the spider lifts, there’s only a couple people, companies, here in Richmond that have that lift. I go in there, I meet with the client, we’ve got to go through two neighbors’ backyards. So there’s a lot of stuff involved in this, right? Initially, she goes with me for the sale, I close the deal and then what I do is I set an appointment up with the three neighbors, I get them all together and we talk about this process of what’s going to happen and what I’m going to do, and how I’m going to execute that, how I’m going to put out parking permits, parking things, so we have access to the property. Then going over there and actually sending a production manager to do exactly what I said I was going to do, and I do this all by putting it on my calendar and remind myself.

I can’t remember everything in my mind, so if you’re trying to remember everything in your mind, for me, the calendar is my best friend. It reminds me, hey, you need to be at Miss Odell’s house at 9:00 to meet with them about discussing the process of this project that’s going on, because it’s involving seven different individuals and their properties. Then I follow up with them, and I just keep in contact with them. I notify them when the crew is going to be there, then while the crew is there, if I have time during that day I will stop by and meet with the client, let them go out there. I have a spare hardhat that I keep in my house, because it’s kind of interesting for them to be able to see what’s going on without putting them in harm’s way. Just because it’s an experience, because tree work, at the end of the day, it’s not tea. Sometimes people care and some people don’t care to see the process, and when they’re finished, when I’m invoicing them, I usually call them and make sure that they’re happy, and I let them know that their invoice is on the way to them.

Close the deal out, and then I do something a little bit different than lot of people. A lot of the clients over through the whole year, during Christmas time, we send out cards to them just thanking them for their business. Being personable and having that communication level I think is what has made me successful in the industry. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. That’s also really practical stuff that you can implement in the post sale that’s a good experience. I love the idea of keeping an extra hard hat in your truck, I know from my perspective when I’ve seen big tree work, naturally when you’re working with bigger trees or bigger projects like that people just find it interesting. I know it’s cool, it’s an interesting process to watch and the skills that these climbers have are really technical, it’s impressive what they do. It’s fun, it’s a cool part of the process to let a customer get a glimpse into it, so I really liked that. 

David Lewis:

Yeah. Also, there’s one other thing, oh, I didn’t mean to cut you off.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, no you’re good. Go for it. 

David Lewis:

There’s one of the things that we do, we have pictures of the crew so what we do is we send that to the clients so they know who their recruit leaders is going to be, usually that’s the climber, so we have pictures of them. They know with their name underneath of it and their title, so we send that in an email and they know when that person comes to the door that morning, that’s who they’re going to meet. We’ve already told them some background on this person, he’s got 10 years experience, he’s an ISA certified climber, [inaudible 00:25:54]. I think that just makes it a better experience for them. 

Ty Deemer:

Oh, no doubt. One of my questions I was going to ask, as a sales person, how do you set your crews up for success? That has to be huge, just giving your customer an idea of the crew that’s coming on their property, that’s got to have a huge impact, right?

David Lewis:

Yeah, it does. It definitely does. The customer, she’s already familiar with the face so it’s kind of, it’s not like he or she is meeting a stranger, but they know what the person looks like and they know their experience. At the end of the day, like you said, we’re moving big trees or even pruning stuff over the top of their houses. It’s scary. It’s scary for somebody who doesn’t know, so the more comfortable they are the more comfortable the crew is going to be. Then that goes back to that detailed proposal, when the crew goes out there all the notes that I’ve made, “Hey, the septic tank is here, this is here, this is here.” They already pretty much have a pretty much a good picture painted in their mind of what is going on and on the job. When they get there, there’s no surprises. There’s some pre-job prep, some gates need to be taken down or whatever. A lot of the times I go out there and do that myself. I’ll nick out some time in my day to go out there, it gives me another chance to meet with the customer and prep the job, so when they get there, they can go to work. That burns up, time is money. 

Ty Deemer:

Exactly. One of the other topics that I wanted to dive into you with is the idea of upselling. I know you mentioned Orleans has a PHC program, how do you as a salesperson walk a tightrope of going to someone’s property and they have, typically with tree care, they’re calling you. We need this done, come help us. How do you find ways to upsell jobs where there are opportunities for plant health care, or biannual trimmings and things of that nature? What’s your strategy or thought process behind that?

David Lewis:

Usually for me, I think that varies from each person to person, but me, with my experience and they see that I am a ISA certified arborist, I have a tree risk assessment license, they know that already before I get there, because usually I will email them and they see all the titles. Then most, 90% of the time, they ask me to look around their property. Or, say we’re looking at a removal in the backyard, as we’re walking to that thing, I point out a couple little things to them and then that opens the conversation. They’re like, “Well yeah, I’ve had a problem with that for years.” I’m like, we can do this and this to fix that. It’s not pushing sales, it’s kind of like education, educating the clients because a lot of times residential clients or even commercial clients, they have no idea that lace bugs are over here eating on their bushes. 

Whatever the case might be, their tree has obscure scale, or whatever’s going on on the property. 90% of the time on every property, there is some type of plant health care issue. Then, also having that knowledge, being knowledgeable about trees and plants is going to help you upsell. People are going to listen to you, if that makes sense. 

Ty Deemer:

No, it does. I think you were hinting at it, I think with upselling part of the part to be an effective upseller is to be more focused on the relationship rather than the sale or the upsell. If you have that relationship and you build trust, you can introduce the idea of a plant health care plan, or some type of regular trimming to protect their yard if they actually believe you’re an advocate for their property. I feel like where it gets tricky is if you don’t have that relationship built. As someone who can imagine the mind of a property owner, if you don’t do it right it can probably feel like a little bit of a money grab. 

David Lewis:

Yeah. No, definitely. That’s where the not being pushy and having a relationship with them, you’ve already built that rapport with them and actually knowing what you’re talking about, being able to identify with plant health care. A lot of time with that, it’s unseen. Plant health care is great, it’s a great revenue for tree care services and landscape companies, but a lot of times the clients don’t see the results right away. It’s not like going out there and pruning a tree and they see it right then, it’s a later on, it’s a delayed effect. Knowing how to identify the problems, that goes back to the education. Being educated, and being able to educate the client so they know. A lot of people think, like with plant healthcare, that it’s fake or phony or it’s not needed, it’s not necessary. A lot of times it starts like with what you’re talking about, just general pruning. You see all these holly trees in this person’s house, they’ve got cotton camellia scale and it’s because they’ve been shearing the trees non stop. Then you can recommend a growth regulator if that’s going to help them save them labor or save them time, and in return reduces the stress to the holly tree, which then reduces the exposure to cotton camellia scale. It just all kind of meshes together in how you present that, you know? 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. 

David Lewis:

That’s how I do it. 

Ty Deemer:

No, that makes so much sense to me, too. What you’re kind of getting at, I think this has always been an interesting part about the tree care industry to me is you have a ton of passionate people in the tree care space. You touched on it earlier, you’re passionate about what you do, you started in the trees, you got your education, and learned what it looked like to then implement that out in the field. You can’t necessarily inspect a home owner to be passionate about their trees, it’s not how they’re hardwired, but you can use your passion in a really strong way if you’re able to explain to them why they should care, or what is the benefit? What is the cost? At the end of the day, even if it’s just like, “Hey, if you do this you’re not going to have to pay for that big tree removal later on, because your tree is going to be healthy and not dead.” It’s finding the pain point of the customer, using your knowledge to then sell to that gap. What do they really care about?

David Lewis:

That’s a great point. Say, just for instance, say we’ve got this large white oak in the back yard, it’s got no access and the tree, you walk up on the tree and you can see that it needs a root collar excavation. They called you there to prune the tree, so sometimes what I’ll do is when they’re talking about pruning it, they want to preserve the tree, right? That’ll lean into a conversation of, look, to dive into this a little bit deeper, and ensure that we’re going to keep this tree healthy, I would entertain the thought of doing a root collar excavation on it and this is the reason why because all this mulch built up around it is going to cause [inaudible 00:34:25] roots and then you explain the process. Most 90% of the time I’ve found that when you start talking about saving a customer money, they’re going to pay attention to that. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. 

David Lewis:

That’s going to keep their attention. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, absolutely. That makes so much sense. I only have one or two more topics I want to talk through you. One of them is seasonality. Obviously in Virginia, you experience a good bit of seasonality. It’s probably 90 degrees where you are right now, or at least close to it. Come November, December, it’ll probably be snowing, or the work won’t be as available. How do you as a sales person manage seasonality and seasonal fluctuations of work being available?

David Lewis:

That’s a great question. During the summer months, what I try to do is I try to set up stuff for the fall. When I’m on one of these properties with one of my clients, if it’s something like they want a crown reduction done on a mature tree, I’ll try to put that off to the latter months. Also, us having relationships with other green industry, like landscape companies and things like that, when we have snow contracts to do with them and build that portfolio of work for the business. If we don’t have tree work, what else can we do? What else can we do with our equipment to make money? We’ve found here at Orleans that partnering with these larger landscape companies that have subs, that they sub out, let’s just say for snow work, we sign a contract and have that set up so when it does snow, if it does snow, we have that work. Then also, having people on regular pruning cycles, and then so we’ll try to do some of their pruning on some of the larger contracts in the winter time, the winter months, to keep us busy. 

We don’t really slow down from the summer months to the winter months. There might be a fluctuation because of weather, but it’s just how like root collar excavation. During the summer, I’m talking about root collar excavations because I know my guys are going to need something to do in the winter months, and root collar excavations are better executed while the tree is dormant. Again, that leads back to knowing what you’re doing. A lot of companies get it mixed, I think, this is just my personal opinion here. You can’t take somebody that doesn’t know nothing about trees and stick them over into sales and trees and think that they’re going to be… Not saying they won’t be successful, but being able to propel and take that, whatever that business size is and taking it to the next level.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, because it doesn’t fit into the overall strategy of the business. Although they might be great at selling, they might not be great at setting their crews up for success or being able to handle the seasonal fluctuations of a business because you have to have all the working parts of knowing how to sell, and knowing the knowledge of the trees that you’re working with. That’s a really good point. 

David Lewis:

Correct. 

Ty Deemer:

Last conversation I want to talk about the good side of sales, or the positive, is you, having been doing this for a while have probably gone from doing sales where your CRM probably used to be a notebook. Then your brain keeping everything together til now, you’re using software. What, in your opinion, are some of the best practices that someone who’s listening to this show, maybe they’re an estimator or an arborist at another company could use in a platform, whether it’s single ops or something else, what do you think some of the key elements of best practice is with the software are?

David Lewis:

For me, looking at software, I’ve used a lot of the different CRM’s. I have a lot of knowledge with a lot of different ones, there’s one in particular, I’m not going to talk about any names because it really doesn’t matter what you’re using. For me, there’s some main drivers that a software has to have. It has to have a great scheduler for appointments that’s easy for my office to handle so the ladies in the office can take that call, vet the call, and be able to enter the information into the CRM and into the schedule within seconds. That’s number one. Number two is the detailed proposal. How do the proposals look? When they come out of there, the less, the more professional the proposals look, the less I have to explain. A long time ago, we would say, hey, looking at the house on the left hand side in the front yard, there’s a red oak 400 yards from the house, all this other stuff. If you have where you’re able to drop pins on that, where locations are with the tree, pictures of the tree, that stuff is important to me. 

Then, how user friendly the software is. I’ve worked with some CRM’s, they’re not very user friendly. You’ve got to go to 15 different areas to get that answer that you’re looking for, so what’s going to save me time is going to save me money and I’m going to be able to be more productive on other things, concentration on actual business development things going out to clients that we don’t currently serve. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. That pretty much answers the question for me. It’s pretty in line with what I’ve heard from other people. I lied, I actually have one more question for you. My last question, this has all been great, by the way, David. We’ve covered so much in 40 minutes. I want to ask you as a business developer in the space, you obviously have a sales goal that you have to hit, or that you’re striving to hit. What is your process for managing sales goals, and how do you think about it? How do you plan on getting there? What does that look like for you to hit your sales goals, or even set them?

David Lewis:

Ty, I’m going to be 100% honest with you, man. I don’t even worry about the sales goal. Whatever the sales goal is, the sales goal is that. Yeah, in the back of my mind is it sitting there? Yeah, but if riddle myself with my sales goal, and return, that’s going to bleed over to the clients. If I just keep on doing what David has always done, I’m going to be successful and I’m going to hit the sales goal. Usually I’m going to hit it and go past it. I have yet, in the last six years, to fall short of my sales goal. It’s just not something that I keep in the back of my mind. I just know that in my mind, in my heart, I know that if I do what I do every day, and I’m honest, open, I don’t over commit, I don’t overpromise, I’m going to sell work. You can put me in any market and I’m going to be effective. Some companies, like larger companies, they put really healthy sales goals on their guys. That causes stress, and when that stress, it bleeds over into your clients and then they look desperate.

That’s why I don’t really look at the sales. I do look at it, but what I’m saying is it’s just not at the front of my mind. What’s at the front of my mind is making a relationship with this client and not seeming desperate. When a sales guy starts looking like a used car salesman, I hate to say it like that, you’re going downhill. You’re spiraling down. I just try to keep up and make sure, and if I’m not winning work, like you said on a weekly basis, that I’ve went on 40 estimates and I’ve only sold 10, then what’s wrong? Then I take a look at that. Is it price point, is it I’m not presenting it right? Is it the type of client is not being vetted right? They’re just taking 100 bids, and then taking a look at that. That’s basically what I do, is just to make sure that I keep doing what I know how to do, and then you’ll be effective. You’ll hit your sales goals. At the end of the day, if you don’t hit your sales goal but you’re close, to me that’s a win. I try to stay on the looking at the glass half full than half empty side. It’s about the quality of work, because let’s say there was one year that I fell short of my sales goal.

I have not hit my sales goal, but the work that I sold performed at a higher margin, [inaudible 00:44:02] margin. Let’s say we’re looking at performing at a 55 to 60% margin, and 50 of my jobs performed at a 75% margin. I hit my sales goal, because the company made more money. At the end of the day, sales goals are great. I think without a goal, we’re destined for failure. For me, I just don’t keep it at the front of my mind. It’s not something that beats in my head like, “Hey, you’ve got to hit this goal, because that makes you seem desperate.” Does that make sense?

Ty Deemer:

It definitely does. I think to me it kind of goes back to your original point, is you’re someone, and ideally everyone, every tree care company has someone like this, but you’re able to see the big picture of the company, whether it’s through your knowledge of what your crews are doing, but also what the end goal of the business is and you’re able to sell to that, and understand that it’s more than just hitting a goal, there’s a bigger picture involved and I think that’s what you’re getting at. That’s a really good point, I really liked that. I want to wrap us up here, and I always like to finish these episodes with kind of a forward thinking question for our guests, so David, what kind of comes next for you, slash what are you excited about in this next season at Orleans?

David Lewis:

I’m really excited about the plant healthcare program. This will be my second time building the plant healthcare program from ground up, and it’s just exciting. It’s exciting to bring on that new revenue, it’s a new bucket, it’s a new level for us to grab for revenue. But also, it also brings more to my client and more in my tool bag. I’m excited about that, and I’ve got a lot of new relationships developing, presentations that I’m about to do in front of some huge property management groups. That’s what keeps me excited, is the new relationships and the plant healthcare program, by getting the equipment and setting that up, seeing what all that is going to look like, how that’s all going to turn and put it together is what excites me. 

Ty Deemer:

Yeah. I love it, David. This has been one of my favorite episodes that I’ve recorded in a while, mainly because I feel like the people who are listening to this show are going to get so much actionable things they can begin thinking about with their sales team and their sales process. I can’t thank you enough for coming on and sharing all of your insights. 

David Lewis:

Yeah, no problem man. I’m glad to do it. 

Ty Deemer:

Awesome. Well, David, we will be in touch for sure. I really appreciate your time today in joining us on Green Industry Perspectives. 

David Lewis:

All right man, well you have a great day.

Ty Deemer:

Yeah, thanks David. 

David Lewis:

Bye.