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What To Do With A Lead? Qualifying Leads

April 19, 2022

This is the third installment in our six-part blog series about Best Practices for Sales in your Lawn Care, Landscaping, or Tree Care business. We’ll discuss qualifying leads and what to do with them afterward in this post.

What is Lead Qualifying?

According to Chilipiper, “Lead qualification is the process of assessing which potential customers are most likely to purchase your product or service.” I love this definition, and I think it’s perfect for our purposes.

To phrase it another way, qualifying leads is the process of ensuring the people you’re meeting with or giving quotes to are the ones that are most likely to buy from you relative to other inquiries.

Why Qualify Leads?

According to SeeResponse, “It allows you to save time and money by pursuing opportunities that will likely result in a sale.” Hubspot agrees, stating that lead qualifying, “allows you to pursue the leads who are most likely to purchase the product, saving you time and energy.”

Email marketing company Clickback put it this way: “It can mean the difference between a good sales month and a poor sales month. Having better qualified leads saves time and eliminates the possibility of wasted phone calls and prospects.”

Not all leads are created equal. For example, I once had a customer call in for a quote on a patio. After some discussion (I practice what I preach), I discovered that she was interested in Hardscaping. And she wanted a patio between 400 and 500 square feet in size. 

But she didn’t want to spend more than $3k for the whole thing. Design, excavation, base, pavers, tax included. We (read: I) decided that she’d have better luck calling someone else to do the installation. 

My point in telling this story is to communicate that you should be qualifying the leads that come into your business. Not all will be of the same value to you, and there are ways you can save yourself a lot of time (and money) by not chasing leads from people who will never buy from you. Here are some things to consider. 

Is my website working for me?

Are you getting unqualified leads? One way to weed out the “tire kickers” is to make sure your website talks about what makes a great fit as a customer for the services you offer. 

There are many people talking about this idea. Jack Jostes calls it your “Hell, Yes!” customer. Marcus Sheridan talks about it in his book “They Ask, You Answer.” The goal is to provide information and answer questions you might encounter in a phone call with a customer you were trying to qualify. 

Some of the information you might give would be: 

Pricing: Potential customers want an idea of what your services cost. Even if it’s a range, you’ll find that people who aren’t willing to spend at the low end of that range don’t waste your time. 

Process: What does your process look like? Do you sell over the phone? Do they need to be home for a visit, or is that something your Sales team can handle without them there? There will occasionally be some oddballs, but most of your Sales will go through the same process. Tell them what to expect. 

Timeline: After they’ve contacted you, how long (on average) until they receive a quote? If that varies by season, give them the “worst-case” scenario; that way, you “under-promise and over-deliver” relative to their expectations.

Completion: From the time a client signs a contract, what is the average time to completion? Communicate your backlogs to them in real-time once they speak to you. If you run a design/build company whose average backlog is eight weeks, and someone wants a job done in a month, they won’t call you. 

Making sure your website answers some basic questions will help ensure you’re not wasting time – yours or theirs – with customers who aren’t a fit.

When to qualify leads?

I would say “all the time,” but that’s not strictly true. You can probably save yourself some effort depending on the industry segment you work with. 

For example, if you run a Lawn Care business, that pricing is based on square footage. Accordingly, you’ll want to set customer expectations, but it’s not strictly necessary to qualify. If you do an application or two and someone stiffs you for the bill, that’s not as critical as doing a significant hardscaping or landscape construction project. 

For Lawn Care (and even many edging/mulching jobs), you can probably use satellite images to get the measurements you need to price the job correctly. Qualifying the customer isn’t nearly as important. 

The reverse is true for large design/build jobs. If someone is paying you to install pavers or a pergola, you should be having a conversation with them before even agreeing to give an estimate. 

For Tree Care companies, it’s a mixed bag. If you specialize in large removals, you likely have a higher average customer value (ACV) than someone who does small pruning jobs. If you constantly get a lot of pushback about pricing, it’s probably better to put that price point on your website AND discuss it when scheduling an appointment. 

What does qualifying a lead look like? 

Again, this isn’t as critical for Lawn Care companies. If that’s all you do, you can skip the rest of this post. 

For Tree Care companies and companies that offer design/build, here are some things you should consider working into your Sales process: 

Consultation Fees

My in-laws recently had an issue with their septic system. After troubleshooting the best they knew how they called a professional company recommended to them. The woman on the phone told my mother-in-law (it was on speaker, so I heard it), “We can send someone out. Our minimum service call fee is $XX. Are you okay with that?” 

She tactfully did it, but it left no doubt in the consumer’s mind – these people are professionals, and if I want professional expertise, I need to cough up for that. 

Why are you giving away designs you’ve spent hours and hours on or years of expertise in getting your Arborists certifications for free? You are a professional. You should be compensated for your experience, even if the only service you’re providing is a consultation. 

Be sure to discuss this with your potential customer before you make the trip to their 

Talk About Budget

I know I mentioned that you should have a starting point or a range for your services listed on the website, but it bears repeating in conversations with a potential customer. The reason is simple: people don’t always read things carefully (if at all). 


I’ll give you a great example. My wife once worked a retail job where she was ringing up a customer at the register. The woman was completely surprised when the total came out to be much less than expected. She stopped and asked my wife, “Why was the total so much less?” My wife asked (as diplomatically as possible), “We’re running a sale for 25% off the whole store. Didn’t you see the signs?” 

There were *literally* signs all over the store. It looked like a printing company threw up all over the place. I could see the signs inside the store, mind you, from the parking lot.

Even if you think it’s obvious, talk about it anyway. There’s no worse feeling for you or worse experience for your potential customers than realizing this is a bad fit when you’re far along in the process. You’ll have wasted a lot of time and embarrassed potential customers by pitching them something they can’t afford while standing on their property. It’s just yucky all around. 

Identify Decision Makers

Another way to make sure you’re set up for success is to identify who needs to be involved in the decision-making process. Knowing this before you go to an appointment is huge. 

There are times when the decision-maker will legitimately not be available. If it’s a B2B (commercial) account, that person might be tied up in a meeting or off-site altogether. If it’s a residential account, you might be talking to one person, but it’s their partner that makes the decisions about all things “Green.” 

Even if they’re not available, knowing that they won’t be there saves you from spending superfluous time on the “pitch” to someone who isn’t empowered to make that decision. 

Pro-tip: Take extra detailed notes if the decision-maker is NOT present at your meeting. Your memory may be good, but not good enough to see 40-50 customers a week and remember each and every one of them. I know – I’ve been there.

Taking detailed notes allows you to show your expertise and attention to detail when you do finally speak to the person making the call, and it’ll likely set you apart – many companies won’t take the time to do this well. Give yourself an edge. Take good notes and have them with you when you talk to the decision-maker. 

Build a Referral Network

You might not be the right person to perform their project. But there might be someone you know who is a good fit for them.

You have to realize that the customer doesn’t want a patio. What they want is a space to entertain guests. They don’t want fertilizer and weed control for their lawn; they crave a place to play with their kids. And most people don’t care about proper arboriculture; they just want to know that the tree will be safe and healthy for a long time. What that customer is really after is peace of mind.

When you build a referral network, you provide customers with what they want – solutions. And they’ll remember you when they need something you do offer because they’ll remember how you made them feel. You took the time to listen to their concerns and provide a solution, even if it wasn’t with your company.

This is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, my friends. You’re setting yourself up for long-term success when you practice this. 

Find partners who will do quality work that you’re comfortable with. Explain to the customer what they’ll be getting by going with Jim’s Hardscape instead of your company. You’ll come out on top as long as they’re okay with that. 

(Note: Be classy about this. Don’t trash Jim’s company on the phone to make yourself look better. But feel free to discuss differences in price, quality, expertise, etc., during these conversations. Whatever you do, don’t be a jerk.) 

Conclusion 

All Green Industry companies should answer some basic questions on their website (either in text or video) that your team frequently receives, including price range, timeline, and process questions. 

For start-up Lawn Care companies, qualifying leads is probably unnecessary. Landscapers, you should consider having a qualifying conversation with potential customers when booking the appointment.

If you offer design/build or Tree Pruning and Removal, you should have a qualifying conversation AND charge a consultation fee. 

These conversations save everyone involved time, effort, and potential embarrassment.

Go back and read Sales Best Practices Part 2 – Where Do Leads Come From? Inbound v. Outbound

Keep reading Sales Best Practices Part 4 – Customer Experience