10 Things We Learned About Residential Irrigation Sales in 2020
At SolutionView, we work with residential irrigation contractors of various sizes. Over the course of this past year, we learned a few things about irrigation sales and the companies in the space.
1. Lawn sprinkler contractors had a lot of competition.
Whether it’s because people spent more time in their homes this year compared to years prior, or because they spent more time enjoying their yards, home services contractors of all kinds had a busy year.
In fact, according to HomeAdvisor, the demand for home services contractors dramatically increased across nearly all of their service categories.
For irrigation companies, this might have resulted in more calls from potential customers. But it also meant these homeowners were considering multiple different home improvement projects, and their irrigation system might have fallen down the list of priorities.
2. Homeowners had a lot going on.
The competing priorities for homeowners’ time – and their wallets – mean it was imperative for contracting companies to educate the homeowner on why they should install or service their system now.
Some contracting companies adapted by coming up with new messaging to create urgency, like a limited-time offer, or new financing terms. Helping the customer prioritize their services became a compelling tool to help close more jobs.
Other contractors opted to keep their messaging the same, or didn’t think to change it with the changing times.
3. Sometimes, service techs avoid the homeowner. And that is a missed opportunity.
This next point might not go over so well. Hear us out.
Anytime you send someone from your company to a home is a touchpoint with the customer. Unfortunately, it’s a fact that many service techs’ favorite appointments are ones when the homeowner is not home. We get it, but we also saw the benefits of maximizing every opportunity in front of a homeowner.
A lot of big, successful – and cash flush – contracting companies train their service techs and production crews to talk with the homeowner. This can be a way to answer any questions they might have after the initial sale, ask for an online review or talk up your company’s referral program. (If you don’t have a referral program, we recommend one).
If you’re thinking your crew would revolt if you asked them to interact with the homeowner, try incentivizing them with food, gift cards, or straight cash.
4. Homeowners' preferences are changing.
Remember before the internet and music streaming services like Pandora, YouTube or Spotify? Radio stations would dictate what songs and artists people would listen to.
Now? It’s a fact that consumers have become so used to simply Googling sometime and seeing many, many, MANY options. And yes, this includes the products and services you as a contractor provide.
This is why some of the most successful sales people we’ve seen for irrigation and other home service companies are really good at educating a potential customer. In fact, in SolutionView’s survey of homeowners, they said education is the top reason they make decisions. (We promise we didn’t just pay people to tell us what we wanted to hear. Look here to check out the survey.)
Educating the homeowner takes time, planning and effort, but the payoff is huge.
5. There’s typically a big “why” behind a customer’s reason for wanting work done.
We said earlier in the post that there were many competing home improvement projects for homeowners this year. But, there is still a reason they called you out to get a bid.
Patience is a fleeting thing. Tailoring your sales approach to the homeowner’s needs, wants and concerns makes it more relevant to them, and helps them see the importance of getting the work done.
Some of the ways successful contracting companies and their people do this is by reiterating the homeowner’s own wants back to them during a presentation or proposal. This reinforces you were listening and also reminds them why they want the work done.
And then they choose to get it done with you, because you’ve built that trust.
6. Price matters when the homeowner doesn't know what sets your company apart.
It’s common for homeowners to call multiple lawn sprinkler contractors and get a few different bids for a new system or to service their current one. While it’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking the homeowner is price shopping, it’s actually likely they are vetting the contractors instead.
Spending the time to have a conversation with the homeowner and understanding their perspective builds a relationship. They need to be educated on what products your irrigation company offers in order to truly understand why they should do business with you. This takes patience, and a well-crafted presentation.
Also, the little things like showing up on time, leaving them with a quote during the appointment and prompt follow up will reinforce the trust you built during the appointment.
7. Homeowners want to be on service contracts - but many contractors don't promote them.
Research really does show people are looking for convenience – and this includes with their lawn sprinkler contractor. Service contracts are helpful to both businesses and homeowners because it sets future appointments.
For the homeowner, the service appointments will ensure their system is running properly. Really, the service appointments should also ensure all of their lawn sprinkler needs are met.
Are you sure every sales rep is offering the homeowner a service contract with their new system? What about the one-off lawn sprinkler repair calls your company fields? Do those homeowners know your company has service contracts to make their lives easier?
For businesses, service appointments are opportunities to ask open-ended questions and uncover new information from the homeowner. New wants or desires should equate to more sales opportunities for the contractor. It's imperative your team is talking about service contracts to every homeowner.
8. A lot of residential irrigation contractors don't go above and beyond for the homeowner.
Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to stand out as a reputable contractor. That’s because many contracting companies don’t put the homeowner at the center of everything they do.
Simple changes to your business practices could redefine the experience for the homeowner. This includes giving the customer a set time you will show up to their home, instead of a large window of time. Yes, it will take some time on the back end getting used to scheduling appointments for sales or service with set times, but it’s worth it to the homeowner who didn’t have to give up their entire day for your crews.
Another simple fix is making sure you leave the homeowner with a quote every time. Too often, we’ve seen sales reps promise to email or send over a quote once they get back to the office – only to forget or take several days to do so. By this time, the homeowner could have gone with someone else.
Finally, the worst thing we see are sales and service appointments where the contractor has little to no contact with the homeowner – and they leave the quote in the mailbox. The homeowner has no idea why the irrigation contractor quoted the price or products they did. The quote itself is often the lowest price and doesn’t include any upgrades the homeowner may have wanted. And, finally, the contractor didn’t build any trust with the homeowner.
9. In order to get enough sales, you need to get enough leads - and then convert those into an appointment.
There are a lot of lawn sprinkler companies who set revenue goals for the year, but don’t match up their marketing strategy. You can’t grow if you don’t have enough leads – or homeowners reaching out to you for your services.
Good contracting companies get a lot of referrals from previous customers. Profitable irrigation contractors understand referrals are just one set of potential customers. In order to grow their revenue, lawn sprinkler contractors can also expand marketing to channels like HomeAdvisor, Google paid search, Facebook or other avenues. Tracking where leads are coming from by asking the homeowner when they call can help you determine your return on advertising investment.
But, not only do you need the phone to ring, you also need to have someone available to answer the phone during business hours and set appointments for your sales and service teams. Many times owner-operators will wait until the end of the day to start calling back leads. Unfortunately, many times the homeowner already scheduled an appointment with another company or doesn’t get back to the owner. Having someone who can pick up the phone when they call will greatly reduce these problems.
10. Many irrigation contracting companies say they want to grow their revenue, but they aren’t always willing to make changes to their business.
We’ve seen home services contractors scale from $0 to $100mm, and we can promise you what you did to start will need to be refined, dialed in and buttoned up as you grow.
Kinks need to be ironed out or those inefficiencies will cause major headaches down the road. These include figuring out important sales metrics to track to ensure consistent success – and then actually having a way to track them. Many contractors think their success relies on their best sales reps, but actually its having the sales process dialed in and then hiring the right people to execute.