Ask the Expert: 16 Tips for Effectively Capturing & Closing Landscape Lighting Deals

As we head into the fall and the sun goes down earlier, we are seeing more and more homeowners looking to add lighting to their outdoor spaces. Now is an excellent time to capture more landscape lighting deals and increase your sales.

That’s why we’ve connected with Dale Carey, an area account manager for Central, who has decades of experience successfully selling and closing landscape lighting deals with the homeowner. We’ve asked him to share his recommendation on how to effectively get more leads and close higher-quality landscape lighting deals.

From Dale:
Capturing Leads

When it comes to sales, the first step is not actually the sale. It’s gaining the respect and confidence with your client which leads to a relationship.

When looking to capture new opportunities, your current client portfolio is the best place to start. Your current clients already trust you and know your work—you already own this relationship but will need to continue to nurture it. Current clients are not only a great place to start for new lighting opportunities, these clients are ideal for helping you capture new leads, with either word-of-mouth advertising or they can help you tell your story by allowing you to create or enhance your portfolio.

1. Get the Word Out

My recommendation is to get the word out to your client base via social media, email blast, a mailing or flyer that you are offering landscape lighting. Do not limit yourself to new installations, be sure to mention key points that you offer retrofits, upgrades along with new systems. A good amount of sales can come from retrofitting or upgrading older lighting systems.

Don’t just get the word out with current clients, be sure to look for other options to promote your landscape lighting services. Look to networking with other contractors that do not offer lighting with the possibility of becoming a subcontractor for their lighting. Finally, leverage advertising for new customers whether its traditional marketing such as direct mailers or digital marketing such as social media ads and pay-per-click advertising.

A few cost-effective lead generation tactics that can be very successful with minimal effort are the Targeted & “Rainy-Day” Marketing and something I like to call the “Considerate Contractor.”

2. Targeted & Rainy-Day Marketing

For targeted rainy-day marketing, I recommend choosing a prominent neighborhood or development to scout potential leads. On a rainy day, drive through the neighborhood and observe all the homes that do not have outdoor lighting and note the addresses and other notes about the property. From here, take the time to send the home owner a personal letter about their beautiful home, information about your company, and offering an estimate or demo for landscape lighting.

You can even kick this up a notch by personally stopping by and knocking on the door to introduce yourself and business. Finding that key opportunity or property to showcase can be an excellent stepping stone for building your lighting business. You can even offer a reduced-cost deal if the homeowners will allow you to bring other potential clients to their property to show the work you have done and promote your expertise and design. Many contractors are uncomfortable with this method, but those to who have tried it have seen success.

Finally, network with realtors offering systems on key homes they want to sell or even offering to set up a temporary system on a home they have on the market. Models homes are a great opportunity, install a system at a reduced price to allow for a sign about your company or leaflets left inside for pickup.

3. Considerate Contractor

What is the considerate contractor? If your team is installing a system, the day or so before you start work, make sure to connect with the immediate neighbors. Simply notify them that your crew will be working next door and present them with your business card. Let them know if they have any issues with the crew to please feel free to reach out.

What just happened? You are not soliciting but being considerate to their needs as your team works on their neighbor’s residence. This creates interest in the type of project their neighbor is having done on their home and property. Better yet, it may spark a “keeping up with the Jones” mentality once they see the beautifully completed lighting system. Now they have not only a direct word of mouth advertising from their neighbor but they have seen your work with their own eyes. Even more, they have met you in person and have your contact information for when they are ready to install their own system.

4. Incoming Leads

Once new leads start to come in, it’s critical to manage them promptly. Simple as this may seem, many contractors fall short at this point of the process. Answering the phone, returning the phone calls and emails immediately will help to make sure you are capturing all potential leads. The goal should be to return calls and emails in under an hour and no longer than one business day. The quicker you are able to return a call or email the more likely you will be a contender for the job.

Potential clients are already forming their opinion of your company when they reach out to you. If you take several days to return a call then they start to wonder how long you would take to call them to respond to an issue if they dealt with you.

During the Call

5. Qualify Leads Prior to “Free Estimate”

There is no such thing as a free estimate. Your time, gas for your vehicle, advertising/marketing, and administration costs all go into the cost of an estimate. So, it is very important to pre-qualify the opportunities as they come in. Get an understanding of what type/how much lighting they are considering. Ask what their budget is. These questions can quickly save you and the prospective customer’s time from being wasted if their budget doesn’t meet

Once an appointment is scheduled—make the most of it! Call and confirm ahead of time and make sure to show up on time. On your initial visit with the client, get to know them, their needs, and what you can do to make their life easier. Taking this time to really understand your client helps you to create a trusted relationship with them.

From here, you can introduce your company and finally talk about their lighting system. Walk the property to see what lighting needs they have and make suggestions along the way to showcase your expertise. Each prospective client will have different needs for lighting: safety, beauty, entertaining, easy navigation of the property, etc. It’s important to learn what each client needs and wants.

6. Don’t Forget the Demo

Demo kits can make the hypothetical reality, so use it as a sales tool! Before leaving your potential client’s home, offer to set up a demo. If they are interested, schedule a day and time to set it up and plan to leave it for several nights. Since you’ve already gotten to know their lifestyle and needs, you can set up the demo lighting in the areas that meet those needs. (Don’t have a demo kit? Reach out to your local Central rep and ask about renting a kit.)

Better yet, you can offer to come back at night to show them how to operate the system and you can expand upon the other options available such as zoning, dimming, color, and WiFi control. This not only allow you to showcase the various features available in person but it allows you to continue to build your relationship with them.

7. What’s Your 9 O’Clock?

During the initial visit you should focus on selling your company and its services. However, it is important for you to establish the manufacturers and products you offer so that you can explain why you use certain products and outline the benefits about them.

When selling, I like to recommend a 9 O’Clock Approach. What does that mean exactly? At its simplest it’s a tier-selling approach that gives you the easiest opportunity to upsell or pull back based on your client’s needs and budget.

If you look at clock between 6 and 12, you’ll see that 9 o’clock is right in the middle. I recommend starting your packages of products here. Starting at 9, gives you the opportunity of going up to 12 (premium package) or down to 6 (base package). If you start low, it is very hard to go high and leaves you no room to go lower if needed. So, I always recommend starting in the middle so that you have room to go up or down as you explain the package options and the details about the fixtures, the controllers, and more. This also allows you to do smaller add-ons to go up to a 10 or an 11 if a customer wants a nicer controller or fixtures, or if your client is more price focused you can step down to an 8 or 7 if they do not need the technology or they want lower-end fixtures.

After you have gathered all of the information needed for the proposal, let them know when to expect the design and proposal. Set up a follow-up appointment to present it to them. Also, supply them with references of past clients that have agreed to be a reference for you so they can see your work in person.

8. Own the Design

When working with a new client, own the design. Never offer a manufacturer’s catalog to a potential client for them to pick out something! You are the expert. It’s your job to make recommendations for the choice of fixtures and lamps. You can absolutely ask customers about finish and other style preferences but allowing the customer to pick out their own fixtures and lamps can lead to issues down the road.

Contract & Proposal

There are many different ways to put together a contract and proposal, some good and some not as ideal. Below are a handful of suggestions that I have seen help close the deal on lighting projects.

9. To Render or Not to Render

Many contractors offer drawings or even computer-generated renderings of the home with lighting. Some do not like giving the client a drawing with the thinking that you are doing someone else’s work for them. Remember, good design is critical to a sale, so making it as easy as possible for your potential client to imagine what their home and property will look like can only help to solidify the sale.

10. Review of Lighting

When reviewing lighting, be as descriptive as needed, the more valuable the system the more you say. Pretend that you are a guest coming to their home for the first time and describe what they will see from the lighting. Explain each layer of your lighting plan, what it is intended to do. This process will help them see the need for every fixture on your plan and meet their initial needs.

11. Explain System Components

Provide a list of each of the components and manufacturer of the system but never show list prices or itemized pricing per component. This can lead to many problems down the line and will focus your potential client on price instead of value. Remember, they are not just buying products but also your service and expertise. Finally, provide all warranty information, both your system warranty and the individual manufacturer’s warranties, and outline the manufacturers state lamp life. All of this adds value to your proposal.

12. The Price & Value

Start with providing what the installed system pricing will be, remember this should be the 9 o’clock system, and follow that up with add-on options to move them up to 10, 11 or 12 o’clock. During this process it can be helpful to walk the property to highlight where certain components will be and explain the specifics of the system.

If additional options were discussed whether product or pricing, this is where you can highlight those options. When discussing lower or higher quality components for their system, it is important to discuss the differences in the products. Is the product life shorter? Is the warranty different? Is the functionality limited? Be sure to let them know what they are gaining or giving up depending on if they move up to a 10, 11, or 12 on the clock or down to an 8, 7, or 6.

Make sure to leave a sales kit of the fixtures and components you use in your 9 o’clock system for them to review. This sales kit allows you to walk through the proposal, touch on features, or reiterate anything you discussed previously. Finally, be sure to touch base on your payment schedule and details of what follows if they choose your company.

Sale is Made

Use the above tips and recommendations to help you make a sale, this is what these tips should have helped you work toward. But remember, there is still work to do to separate yourself from your competitors—even after the sale is made.

13. It’s Not Over

After the installation is completed, it’s not over! This is lighting and it is only on at night. Believe it or not, many contractors miss this final step, they do not go back at night. It is imperative that you go back the night of the installation for final adjustments. It’s like fine tuning an engine. If the clients purchased a WiFi system, or a system with features such as zoning, dimming and color, work with them so the understand how to operate the functionality of the app.

14. The WOW Factor

The first night the lighting system is on. Hopefully the client will experience the wow factor and will be overwhelmed with their home and landscape with lighting. Use this to your advantage and ask for referrals. Some contractors actually will schedule, with the client’s permission, a wine and cheese event on the reveal night. This is a great opportunity to start the lead process all over again.

15. Referral Program

Do you offer your prior clients a referral gift or program? If you have completed a great looking project and your clients are pleased, one of the best and cost-effect marketing initiatives you can have is referral gifts.

In the process of beginning the relationship with your clients, you probably know their hobbies or favorite places to have dinner. Each time they refer you and you get a signed contract, you gift them. Nearly 90% of consumers look to family and friends for them to refer contractors—a referral program can help you expand your qualified leads and close more deals!

The Complete Circle

These tips can help you build your landscape lighting business and enable it to flourish. When you’re working on your business, especially the marketing component, focus building your portfolio of projects photos to tell your story, align key references for clients to call or view their property, and drive qualified leads by asking satisfied and wow’ed clients to refer business to you.

16. Partners to Help You Grow

Remember, Central is a dedicated partner to help you grow your business. Whether you need tips and recommendations to improve your selling techniques, training on lighting basic, help with a challenging audio or lighting demo/installations, or insights on the newest technologies or design styles. We stay at the leading edge of the industry.

Finally, look to Central to help you be strategic with your purchasing. We offer seasonal stocking programs that allow you to beat the manufacturer’s price increases, increase your cash flow, easily manage inventory, streamline your day-to-day operations, and earn more rewards. Ask your Central rep about our FX Lighting Bundle Program to see how we can help you save today.

We’re ready to help you grow!