The People Part of Selling

“They may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel”

~ Maya Angelou ~ 

I won’t claim to be an expert on selling in the traditional sense of the subject. Solely because in the 26 years Creative Roots Landscaping has been in business, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to put in a serious effort to make a sale. With a few exceptions over the years, the work we have always wanted – Designing, Installing and Maintaining Landscapes for Nice People Who Own Luxury Homes and Appreciate Our Attention to Detail – has “seemed” to fall right in our lap. 

Why? How? Here is some background information for context:

Well, I suppose on one hand the large amount of wealth and high demand for landscaping services in our area plays a big role, but on the other, there is a boat-load of landscaping companies to compete against, so maybe there is more to it than that. This may lead you to think that we might not be growing, and in one way you would be correct. There was probably a sense of comfort and security running our engaged team of 20-25 people, focusing on leadership and maximizing profits, while not exposing ourselves to some of the risks that can come with growth.  You see, although we did (and still do) have larger aspirations, we agreed years ago that it was going to be necessary to ensure we knew how to run the business in a way that would lead us to better and not bigger problems.

So, despite all the possible variables that we could focus on, how is it that – solely by word of mouth and in some tough economic times –  we have never laid off an employee, always seem to have enough, and in good times we’re booked 6-12 months in advance? In my opinion, I believe it boils down to a few simple things:

    1. The quality of our work
    2. Our intention to deliver services and products of great value to our customers
    3. The people who bring our customers the Creative Roots Experience

This article contains some philosophies and “in the sales” moment ideas you might find useful to achieve great long-lasting results when it comes to:

  • Increasing sales and profit
  • Increasing customer numbers
  • Increasing upsells and cross-sells
  • Having your employees and their work do the heavy lifting

Whenever I think of sales, my mind flashes back to a bite-sized book I found on my dad’s bookshelf when I was about 15 called The One Minute Sales Person, written by Spencer Johnson. The book will probably never be known as a “be-all-sales-manual” and is less directly aimed at career sellers, but I find the concept of the book’s message – that it’s the little things people do, and that those little things that take just one minute to do in each sale – make the real difference.

Here are some of the worthy – albeit paraphrased – takeaways  from the book:

The One Minute Sales Person always “Stays On Purpose.” 

To me, that means they don’t simply aim to make the sale, but in addition, look for something more profound that provides complete self-fulfillment. They sell knowing that for a sale to be a true success, their reputation and that of the company, will ultimately be connected to the customer experience and long-term satisfaction of what’s being sold. You have to genuinely care about people and what they want to get them to buy from you. Put yourself in their shoes. HELPFUL HINT: Just before you go into a sales situation when you are making a proposal, take a minute to reflect on your Core Values as a reminder of what has been defined as forever important. 

Draw out from prospects what they need – don’t tell them. 

You are here because you are the expert, right? Well, ideally yes; but there will be situations when a prospect will want to speak with more than one contractor to find one they feel comfortable with on both a personal and professional level. One thing is for sure; although it will likely be unspoken, one of the qualifications will undoubtedly relate to whether or not the prospect feels they are being heard. Be patient. Don’t put the cart before the horse and ask simple questions like “how do you feel I can best help you” and “have you put much thought into what you want and need?” A lot can be learned from listening.

“People buy how using your product will make them feel.” 


Christine Naito – one of Creative Roots’

Best Customers

There are four obstacles to winning business: No Trust, No Need, No Help & No Hurry. 

In the end, you as the salesperson need to own all of these obstacles in order to avoid wasting your and your prospects’ time and feeling frustrated. No Trust: If you are not coming in highly recommended already, you better be putting your most honest foot forward. Avoid sales pitches and focus on how you can deliver value. No Need: The problem here is that sometimes your customers don’t know what they need, and sometimes you try (and even end up) selling them what they don’t need. I remember one time, I sold and installed a beautiful below-grade flagstone fit pit and seating area for a client that never got used. Why? They didn’t need it. No Help: As discussed above, it’s your job to find out if what the client wants is something you can help them. No Hurry: Maybe a lead is in the research phase, or is only beginning to assess solutions to their wants or problems. In this case, you must craft your approach for the stage in the buying cycle that they are in

You shouldn’t focus your mind on just the sale, but how you will get referrals once they have bought.  

More than any other way, our sales leads have come to us through referrals from past clients. We HATE looking foolish, and have the mindset we need to be trusted in order to have our clients tell all their friends, family, and neighbours about us. One way to effectively help this happen is by documenting all the details and communicating with your production teams exactly what was sold to the client. Using a good CRM like the one in the LMN software to keep track of meeting notes, change orders, project milestones, etc. can really help with this.  

“People hate to be sold, but they love to buy.”  

Moving from selling to helping your customer might require a shift in your mindset as a salesperson. Unnatural as it may seem, you will no longer be the hero of your sales story. Your product or service and all its amazing features and benefits will no longer be centre stage. Instead, your customer will truly be at the heart of everything you do. The way it should be.

Write down your goals. 

This is an age-old method but not one to be understated. There is something very powerful about taking your thoughts and writing them down that connects any mission, big or small, with the end result. It’s a brain thing!

“You don’t make the sale, they do.”  

Give your prospect what they need in order to make the right decision for themselves. We live in a world where we are always being sold to, so it’s natural that prospects can show up with their guard up. It’s your job to break down the barriers. Don’t be afraid to ask the prospect what it is you can do to help them make a decision. HELPFUL HINT: To show I value our businesses and my reputation, I like to offer a list of 30 or so references that can be called by a prospect to hear straight from the horse’s mouth feedback about their experience working with Creative Roots. I include clients we designed, installed, renovated, and maintained landscapes for, current employees, suppliers, and sub-contractors. All I ask of the references in advance is to speak honestly. I don’t want the customer to think the experience will be perfect. I want them to know we care and always put our best foot forward when given the opportunity.

The One Minute Sales Person uses the word “person” to remind them of the human aspects of selling.  

Whether it is with employees, fellow owners, suppliers, employees, customers or prospects, I believe we each sell ourselves with our actions. The moment we forget that we are all just people working towards common goals is the moment our  Mission is lost. This is where I believe our Open Book Management style really shines through. With the mindset of building our entire company based on the belief that it’s the obligation of everyone within it to connect making money with being human, we end up with a team who focus day-in and day-out on making the company one we all want to work at. It is in the end our ultimate product. Running a business this way helps directly connect our efforts – from culture and team building, earning profits, customer satisfaction, selling ourselves and our work, and a multitude of other things we do – to the end result we are looking for. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when it comes to selling ourselves or our products, is that customers are PEOPLE FIRST. The long-lasting and positive impression you leave by using your skills to guide their buying decision towards what they really need shows  that you are putting their best interest ahead of just “making a sale”. 

About Me

Through my experiences, I have been fascinated by business and all it offers to improve people’s lives. From working on the shovel, business visioning, and everything in between, to now sharing my experiences through personalized coaching services, my goal is to help other owners work on their business, increase profits, and have more time for themselves while finding enjoyment along the way. To bring the best coaching experience to my clients, I am currently doing my GGOB (Great Game of Business) certification course.

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What’s your biggest pain point? Let’s connect to discuss how having me coach you through implementing Open Book Management can change your business for the better. 

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