Check out the 2024 State of the Landscape Labor Market Report. Download here.

The People Part of Selling: How To Be a Customer-Driven Business

| Topic:

Business Advice

I won’t claim to be an expert on a quality sales experience in the traditional sense of the subject. This is 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 serious effort to close a sale. With a few exceptions over the years, the work we’ve always wanted – designing, installing, and maintaining landscapes for nice people who own luxury homes and appreciate attention to detail – has “seemed” to fall right in our lap.

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

Editor’s Note: Ryan Markewich (@rmarkcoaching) is an Advisor/Coach/Owner at Rmark Coaching and the Founder/Shareholder of Creative Roots Landscaping. Ryan is a guest contributor to LMN. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

I won’t claim to be an expert on a quality sales experience in the traditional sense of the subject. This is 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 serious effort to close a sale. With a few exceptions over the years, the work we’ve always wanted – designing, installing, and maintaining landscapes for nice people who own luxury homes and appreciate attention to detail – has “seemed” to fall right in our lap.

Maximizing Custom Driven Business Growth

A large concentration of wealth and high demand for landscaping services in our area plays a big role. But on the other hand, there’s a boat-load of landscaping companies to compete against, so maybe there’s more to it than just location.

This may lead you to think that we don’t prioritize growth and, in one way, you would be correct. There’s a sense of comfort and security that comes with 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, the Creative Roots Landscaping team agreed years ago that it was necessary to ensure we ran the business in a way that would lead us to better and not bigger problems.

So, despite countless potential strategies and some tough economic times, how is it that we’ve never laid off an employee, maintain a steady workflow solely through word of mouth, and, in good times, are booked 6-12 months in advance? In my opinion, it boils down to a few simple things:

  • The quality of our work.
  • Our intention to deliver services and products of great value to our customers.
  • The people who bring our customers the Creative Roots quality sales experience.
  • The system of open-book management that helped us tie people and profit together.

This article contains some philosophies and “in the moment” sales 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 – Spencer Johnson’s, ‘The One Minute Sales Person.’ 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 book’s message – that it’s the little things people do, things that take just one minute during each sale, that makes the real difference – incredibly empowering.

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 the sale to be a true success; you need to connect your reputation and that of the company to achieving the desires of the customer. You have to genuinely care about people and understand what they want to get from their interaction with your business. Put yourself in their shoes.

HELPFUL HINT: Just before you go into a sales situation to craft or deliver 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’re here because you’re the expert, right? Ideally, yes. Even so, there will be situations where a prospect wants to speak with more than one contractor to find one they feel comfortable with on both a personal and professional level.

Although needs vary from situation to situation, one thing is for sure: an unspoken requirement for a quality sales experience will undoubtedly be whether or not the prospect feels they are being heard by the service provider. So be patient. Don’t put the cart before the horse; just 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 compassionate listening.

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

Woman in a white jacket and a scarf standing in front of a lawn

Customer-Driven Business Obstacles

In the end, you as the salesperson need to own all of these obstacles in order to avoid wasting your and your prospects’ time navigating frustrating dead-ends.

  • No Trust: If you are not coming in highly recommended already, you better be putting your most honest foot forward. Avoid sales pitches and business lingo, focusing instead 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 fire 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 achieve.
  • No Hurry: Maybe a lead is in the research phase or is only beginning to assess potential solutions to their wants or problems. In this case, you must craft your approach, so it’s congruent with their current stage of the buying cycle.

Consider the Future Impact of a Quality Sales Experience

More than any other method, the majority of 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 completely 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 customer manager app 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.”

Switching your mindset from a sales perspective to one of helping your customer might require some time and concerted effort. And, 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! What’s more, there are business management software solutions that allow you to store notes directly in a system that also contains your CRM.

“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 will have 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 my customers as much as my business, I put my reputation on the line. By offering a list of 30 or so references that can be called by a prospect to hear feedback straight from the horse’s mouth, I provide prospects with full insight into the Creative Roots process. I include clients we designed, installed, renovated, and maintained landscapes for, as well as current employees, suppliers, and sub-contractors. All I ask of the references in advance is that they speak openly and honestly. I don’t want the customer to come in with unrealistic expectations of a perfect process. I want to give them a quality sales experience that shows we care and will always put our best foot forward when given the opportunity to address their needs.

Keep the Human Aspect of Selling in Mind

Whether it’s with employees, fellow owners, suppliers, 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.

Our entire company is built on the belief that it’s our obligation and duty to connect making money with being human. As a result, we’ve ended up with a team who focus day-in and day-out on making Creative Roots Landscaping one we all want to work at. In the end, that’s really our ultimate product.

Running a customer-driven business helps directly connect our efforts – culture and team building, earning profits, satisfying customers, and showcasing our amazing work and the people who do it – 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 this: customers are people first. The long-lasting and positive impression you leave by using your skills to unearth 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 with a shovel to envisioning a better business philosophy, and everything in between, I’ve gained important experience that I now share through personalized coaching services. My goal is to help other owners work on their business, increase profits, and have more time for themselves, all while falling back in love with their business. To bring the best coaching experience to my clients, I am currently doing my GGOB (Great Game of Business) certification course.

Need Someone To Talk To?

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.

To schedule a time to chat with me, visit

You’re just one step away from better

Start Your Free Trial

30-day free trial. No credit card needed.