Write It Down
April 5, 2022
This is the first installment of a six-part series we’ll be doing about Best Practices for Sales in your Lawn Care, Landscaping, or Tree Care business. You’ll learn why writing down your Sales Process is the first step toward success.
Why Do I Need to Document My Sales Process?
Documenting your existing Sales process is crucial to your success as an organization. If you have done this already, you’re ahead of the game. Keep reading, though – there is likely still something valuable for you here.
If you’ve never actually written down your Sales process, you might be thinking, “Why should I bother? I know what I’m doing with Sales.” There are several good reasons to do it, but let’s start with the basics – what do we mean by “documentation?”
What is Documentation?
Documentation is a pretty simple concept. Per Kissflow, documentation is “a complete description of a business process using words, images, and symbols to designate exactly how the process should function in an ideal environment.”
You’re creating a written list, a map, some sort of representation that you can share with others about how the Sales process is supposed to work. This is critical for a few reasons.
Establish Best Practices
First, it establishes the “best practices” for your organization. I’ve worked in or with about a half-dozen Green Industry companies. No two had the same procedure for Sales.
According to Bizagi, “process documentation acts as a best practice guide for how to build and execute” your processes. It’s a formal document telling the rest of the organization, “This is how we make Sales in our company.”
Sidenote: you should do this for ALL processes you want people to follow consistently, not just Sales. Your Customer Service processes, Production processes, Billing processes, etc., should all have documentation.
Scale Your Business
Secondly, it allows you to scale your Sales department. How do you grow your Sales team so that you’re not overwhelmed? How do you hit the growth goals you have for your company if you have to spend too much time training because you’re disorganized? To reduce the friction of communication within your company AND give yourself the best possible opportunity to grow your Sales team, you need to have this process documented.
Ideally, it will be in both written form and some sort of “map” that allows team members with different learning styles to use it easily. Catering to people who learn best visually and those who learn best by reading instructions exponentially increases the chances of adoption throughout the organization.
So – how do you start?
Write it Down
The first thing you need to do is write down your existing sales process. Write down what happens step-by-step – every detail.
This forces you to do a few things:
- Think through the entire sales process.
- Get perspective on what your customers (or potential customers) experience doing business with you.
- Acknowledge and examine places where you can improve.
Think Through the Sales Process
When a potential customer becomes interested and gives you their contact information, what type of process do they go through?
I worked in one business where we literally forwarded that info to the company’s sole salesperson, and they dealt with all of it. (Not a Green Industry business, by the way.)
I worked in a landscape company where the customer info was passed to the owner or the Designer, and they split the duties (the company was less than 20 employees).
When I sold Lawn Care, that information was passed to an Inside Sales guy at the office or the call center (when they centralized the business).
What does the sales process look like in your business? What happens from the time you get someone’s name, address, phone number, and email address until they’ve paid the final bill?
Doing this quickly and efficiently is critical. Here are some key things you should be looking for in this exercise.
Who is involved in the Sales Process?
It’s not enough to have a broad understanding of the process and write it down yourself. You need to take a deeper dive and discover EVERYONE involved in the process.
Asking your team is important because they deal with it every single day. They might have (likely have) more of an understanding of how things work. Don’t overlook people who can give you insight into how things are currently running.
If we’re talking about first communication through billing, here are some people you’ll likely need to speak to in the process:
- Whoever answers the phone or email when a client reaches out to you.
- The person who schedules appointments for your Sales staff.
- Your Sales staff.
- The person responsible for follow-up after a proposal is given (whether that’s the Sales staff, admin, etc.).
- Once a bid is accepted, whoever schedules the work.
- Field labor (crew leaders or supervisors, for example).
- The person who is responsible for handling billing.
- Anyone who does follow-up (customer satisfaction) or upselling (add-ons after the job is finished).
While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good starting point. Talking to each of these people will help ensure that you’re getting the information you need about the current process at your company.
How many steps are there?
The more times you pass information from one person to another (physical paper, spreadsheets, etc.), the greater the likelihood that there will be errors. We’ve all played “telephone” before, right? The more times something passes from one hand to another, the more times there’s a chance for something to sit on someone’s desk before it makes it to the whiteboard or the list of calls to make, the greater the possibility it gets overlooked.
You have to ask yourself, “Are all the steps necessary?” Anything you can do to pare down the transfer of information will help. Fewer steps are a good thing. Fewer steps mean it’s easier to complete.
You’re not manufacturing a bar of soap and selling it to a retailer. Those transactions are pretty straightforward; you sell the soap to the retailer (grocery store, retail giant, etc.), and they sell it directly to consumers. The more consumers buy it, the more orders the retailer will place.
You’re selling a service and setting an expectation. That’s more difficult to do. It’s different.
The goal here is to make this process as uncomplicated as humanly possible. How do you ensure your customers know what they’re getting from the result of your labor? Strive to make that seamless and easy for your customers AND your team as humanly possible.
What information is critical to fulfilling your job orders?
There’s a bare minimum of internal communication that needs to happen for these jobs to be fulfilled completely. Certain things have to be captured for your team to execute this request, and those should be part of your sales process.
Think very carefully about that. Ask the people involved in each step of the process a simple question: “What information do you need to complete your part of this process?”
Here are some considerations for you.
Sales Process Consideration #1 – Field Labor
What information does your field labor need to complete their orders? Here are some things you’ll need to think through:
- What’s the total square footage of that Lawn Care Technician’s route for the day? How do you get that aggregate? (Hint: you need to know the square footage of each property.)
- What’s the square footage of the beds where you’re laying mulch? How deep are they laying mulch? (Two inches? Three inches?)
- How many slabs of natural stone do they need to construct the steps from one hardscaped area to another, based on the design concept you sold to the client? (Believe it or not, I’ve run into this – no direction for the crew.)
- Are your pruning crews only removing dead wood from that tree? Or are they pruning out live branches as well?
- Where should they be parking their trucks? (Safety and traffic considerations must be made for each job site – don’t make them guess.)
- Is there a locked gate? If so, has the client been notified that your crews are arriving that day?
- Pets on the property of which they need to be aware? Are the pets going to be outside while the crews are trying to work? (Invisible Fencing is becoming far more common.)
- Are there other access issues from the street to the job site that they need to be aware of, like steep grades on the property, crossing a creek or drainage ditch, or the presence of wildlife that shouldn’t be disturbed?
This isn’t a comprehensive list. You should talk to your field crews, find out the most common frustrations they have, and address those in your sales process.
Sales Process Consideration #2 – Procurement
Your procurement department (or individual) needs to know some information about the sale. Things they need to know include:
- How much mulch is required?
- Plant material that may need to be ordered?
- The number of pavers needed for a particular hardscape project.
- Equipment status – is there a chainsaw about to die? If so, they need to know so they can order new equipment.
- Storage – where are they putting the elements required for this job on your property?
Think through all the things that must be ordered or supplied for a single job. Be sure to include whoever is responsible for procurement in these conversations.
Sales Process Consideration #3 – Billing
You’d like to get paid for all of your team’s hard work. How do you ensure that happens? By talking to your billing department and seeing what information they require. Those things will probably include:
- Personal data (name, phone number, physical address, etc.).
- A credit check or approval for large jobs (large design/build projects, for example).
- Some payment preferences from the customer (prepay, monthly billing, invoice billing, etc.).
- Is there a way to leave a card on file? If so, they probably want you to capture that information, too.
There could be someone internally that handles it, or perhaps you outsource this to a CPA. Either way, loop them in and see what they need to execute on their part of the process.
These lists are not exhaustive, but they’re a good starting place. The point of the exercise is to think through what things your team needs to complete the job well. Then, make sure they get those things during the process.
Start improving your Sales by writing down the sales process.
Take a hard look at how many steps there are and where the bottlenecks might be.
Try to eliminate unnecessary steps while ensuring everyone who touches it gets the information/resources they need.
This will set you up for success in terms of internal communication and scaling your Sales department.