In the US, the hardscape industry has been a huge segment of growth over the past 10 years. While homeowners once chose their hardscape projects for utilitarian purposes, such as a retaining wall installation, the segment has seen recent double-digit growth in luxurious high-end builds. With Americans spending more time at home socializing on their smartphones and tablets, the demand for building resort-like escapes in the backyards of homeowners has hit an all-time high. Television shows on the popular cable network, HGTV, have also fueled the demand with programming such as “Backyard Crashers” showing homeowners all the perks of extending your living space to their outdoors.
With this rapid growth has also come tough challenges for hardscapers looking to fill demand in building luxurious outdoor living spaces for homeowners. The high price tag is one of those big challenges with homeowners not understanding the cost and amount of manpower that goes into the process beginning with breaking ground, all the way to project clean-up and planting sod. It is imperative that savvy contractors adapt to the homeowners way of thinking and utilize a sales process that creates an emotional connection between the buyer and their beautiful new hardscape installation. While a small amount of homeowners will build their backyard with the future resale value of their home in mind, the vast majority of your sales will be driven by an emotionally charged connection to the new space. This leads to our first tip.
#1 You Must Paint an Emotionally Charged Picture for the Homeowner in Every Aspect of the Sales Process
New poolside water feature build? “This summer, sitting in front of video games will be the last thing on your child’s mind. They’ll be the talk of the playground at school when all their friends were lined up the rock stairs the weekend before, taking their turn navigating their way down the log flume slide. With all their friends wanting to gather here, you’ll never have to worry about where they are or what they’re doing.”
New luxury outdoor kitchen build? “Imagine your friends at your next dinner party gathered around your Alfresco grill at the end of a long summer day as you begin slicing up the slow roasted pork loin, fresh off the rotisserie. You’ll build some of the best memories of your life gathered around your new chef-grade outdoor kitchen.”
You may have just pictured your best salesperson making these pitches, but it starts well before then. You must carry this emotionally charged approach across all aspects of the sales process, from first visit to your website after a Google Search, to the final lines of your project estimate. This is how smart contractors land 6 digit jobs.
OasisStone™ Insiders Tip: Don’t just encourage this technique to your sales team. Make it a mantra across your entire office, from the receptionist, to your installers. In many ways, these employees are the face, and the voice, of your company with them having many interactions with your customers during the course of a project.
#2 Top of the Funnel – The New First Impression
In marketing speak, a sales funnel represents the customer journey from the point they first discover your service offerings (top of the funnel) to the signing of your contract (the very bottom of the funnel). The old top of the funnel was reading your Yellow Pages ad (remember those?) and picking up the phone to talk to a salesperson.
Those days are long gone. As everyone knows, the new first impression starts online, whether it be your website or your social media page. Having an attractive website that converts visitors into sales leads is no longer an option for hardscapers. If your website isn’t attracting multiple 5 figure sales leads per week during your busy season, your top of the funnel is broken. Partner with a local website designer that focuses on a beautifully designed website that has all the consumer psychology built in to convert that visitor into a raving fan with cash in hand.
OasisStone™ Insiders Tip: Ask the designer or agency for website examples in other industries that have a similar lead generation goal. Ask if you can talk to the business owner to see how their website is converting cold traffic into hot leads.
#3 Kaizen – Weird Word, Amazing Results.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that translates into “Continued and consistent improvement”. Manufacturers have utilized this ideology to create massive, market dominating businesses – and you can too. In applying the principles of Kaizen to your business, you’ll want to start with your process of lead generation.
No contractor can argue that the majority of their top sales were the result of a pre-qualified lead. Unqualified leads (a simple name and e-mail) cost valuable company time and are simply too easy of an ask to make your time worth it in sorting out what leads are viable enough to put your salesperson on, and which aren’t.
As part of the lead generation process, you need to resort back to our Tip #1 and get them emotionally connected with the products they’re going to install in their hardscape project, and as a result, get them excited to pick up the phone to setup their time for an in-person consultation. Let them pick from images of all the luxury grill lines they can install in their outdoor kitchen. Show them that grotto they can have installed next to their log-flume slide.
Remember, getting the leads is a very small part of the customer journey. The seeds you plant in the mind of the consumer, which will be watered at every step of your sales process, is the recipe for rapid growth of your hardscape company.
#4 Competition? What Competition?
As we mentioned earlier, the demand for high end, luxury outdoor living spaces is reaching an all time high. With that increased demand comes more contractors fighting over the space. Differentiating yourself from all the noise is key to cutting through the clutter and establishing your company as the go-to for their backyard build.
One way to do this is to focus on a niche, especially in the beginning. Make yourself the king in your region for poolside water features. If a homeowner wants a log flume slide, a waterfall over a grotto or a cascading water feature, your company is king of that category. You get the added benefit of increased rankings in natural search since the algorithms will recognize poolside water features as your sole service offering rather than diluting yourself by trying to be everything to everyone.
Scared you won’t get any other types of jobs? Nonsense. Getting into the home and creating a jaw dropping water feature will make your company the no-brainer choice when you tell them a poolside outdoor kitchen would be the feather-in-the-cap of their outdoor entertainment mecca. As you build up your portfolio, you can easily and quickly add these additional offerings to your lineup.
OasisStone™ Insiders Tip: When choosing a company name or domain name, don’t narrow down your service offerings. Instead of “PoolsideWaterFeaturesChicago.com”, choose something more emotionally charged such as “InspiredOutdoorLiving.com”. Doing so won’t narrow you down in the future to the initial niche you started in and you’ll be building a true brand, rather than piggybacking on a term – the true foundation of a strong business.
Another great way to set yourself apart is to become the premiere installer of a particular brand to give the homeowner a curated look in their outdoor kitchen. For instance, you can establish yourself as an expert Alfresco Grill installer, knowing all the ins-and-outs of Alfresco Outdoor Appliances and how to design an Alfresco outdoor kitchen around their family and their entertainment style.
#5 Ease Sticker Shock By Playing the Part
Most homeowners have absolutely no concept of the true cost of their backyard project. As material costs increase and projects become more elaborate, so does that number at the bottom of their estimate. A simple L-shaped outdoor kitchen with Luxury appliances can quickly exceed 30k depending on the options chosen. Having your sales person look and act professional throughout their contact with the homeowner will help ease that shock.
Think of another time in their life the customer will spend 30k+. An easy answer is the purchase of a vehicle. The last time you purchased a vehicle did the sales person come out in dirty jeans and a John Deere cap? No, they dressed and acted the role as a clean-cut, well dressed representative of the big automotive brand they were selling. Was their brochure a folded flyer their nephew put together in your brothers basement? No, they had a professionally designed, beautifully curated magazine style brochure that helped the salesperson upsell you into that heated steering wheel to take the edge off those cold weather drives.
In today’s day-in-age, many salespeople have forgotten the art of the presentation. Play the part and you’ll land more of those big sticker jobs that’ll give you your best year in business to date.
#6 Listen First, Educate Last
Any seasoned salesperson knows that listening to the buyer is the best way to get them to open their checkbook. Unfortunately, many salespeople in the outdoor living space still insist on talking too much about themselves or their company rather than focusing on the needs and desires of the homeowner.
Allow them to talk about how they intend to use their space and ask them thought provoking questions about how they envision their build will increase the quality of life for them and their family. Take these ideas back to your hardscape designer and have them create a model that speaks into each and every talking point of the homeowner.
Knowing your products inside and out is also key to the sales process. Being able to crush any objections made by the homeowner (in a polite way, of course) will show them they’re in good hands and they’ll get a backyard as beautiful as it is functional. Know that the side power burner they’ve been considering can bring a New Orleans seafood boil to the table in 20 minutes flat. Know that they’ll need a second coat of sealant on their countertop in year two and offer that as a free value-add. Simply knowing your products inside and out can very well end any objections before they even arise.
#7 Finish with a Jaw Dropping Presentation
Many years ago, backyard hardscapes were drawn up on graph paper. With the advent of HGTV and the beautiful fly-through 3D models viewers have become accustomed to seeing, these uninspired 2D line drawings are simply unacceptable.
Jaw dropping and affordable online software such as VizTerra from Structure Studios allow homeowners to get interactive with their new, beautiful backyard installation. A crackling fire in the fireplace, checking out the view from inside their poolside grotto and seeing how their space will look during various positions of the sun throughout the day are all possible with the click of a few buttons. They even have a new “Augmented Reality” feature that will allow your sales person to bring along an iPad and walk around their new, beautiful backyard in real-time, showing them what it’ll be like to interact with their new space though the screen as they walk through the space.
There is no excuse today not to have a beautiful 3D presentation that will help seal the deal for your salesperson.
#8 Rinse, Review, Repeat
Any top level marketer will tell you that word of mouth is still hands down the best type of referral your business can get, however, the referral of today can look much different than the referral of yesteryear. Many people read their referral in the form of a review, whether it be on your website, Google or Facebook. Asking a happy homeowner for a review after the job is complete is key to giving your company the future edge over your competition during those beginning searches when the next customer is researching the right company to handle their high-end build.
OasisStone™ Insiders Tip: Add the customers e-mail to their file and look for an e-mail address ending in “gmail.com”. When they receive your personal request for review in their inbox, they’ll already be logged into Google and their review is just one mouse click away. Not sure what your direct link is for a Google review? Use an online tool like Whitespark.ca to get it.
Hopefully this leaves you with some actionable tips you can apply to your hardscape business today to get more Pre-cast Masonry Panel jobs lined up, and most importantly, closing those leads. If you have more questions on selling jobs to customers, you’ll find more tips and tricks in our private OasisStone™ Insiders Club which you’re automatically enrolled in after your first pallet order of OasisStone™ Panel and Countertop Mix.