Becoming the best

January 12, 2016 -  By

Manage your client’s asset, show value and create trust.

Being the best is not based on what you think or even what your boss thinks. It’s based on what the client thinks.

If your client thinks you’re the best, you have achieved the fundamental purpose of every business relationship: delivering value for money combined with the creation of personal trust. From the client’s point of view, it simply means they’re better off with you than without you—and certainly they’re better with you than with the “other guy.”

Make no mistake, the account manager’s most important job is renewals. Your clients renew because of you—not because of your company’s name or price or something else. They renew because of you and your actions that created value and trust. If this were not the case, they would go somewhere else. Certainly, the client’s ownership can change and you lose the account, but this makes my point. They went with the guy they trusted.

Yes, nice landscaping is important. But it’s the way you “spend” the client’s money that matters. As an industry CEO once told me, “The secret is don’t stink at the landscape thing; instead, excel at communicating what you are doing, what you can do for them and translate that into a return on their personal and financial investment.”

I will take it a step farther. To be the best you must excel at managing the client’s perception of return on investment.

How do you do this? Let’s start with the idea that the client’s property is an asset and this asset has been left in your care. This scenario makes you an asset manager. You need a way to manage the asset and communicate to the client that you are doing so.

The Client’s Budget

You need what I call the Client’s Budget document. The Client’s Budget is a place (and a process) where you manage the asset. It integrates site walks, upsells, renewals and improvements in one place and communicates them to the client.

This process is tied to the annual cycle of renewal and the client’s need to plan expenditures. At a minimum, it includes:

Site walk: regular physical review of property conditions, documented in photos and notes;
Upsell: extra work bid to fix/upgrade the property, documented in photos and proposals;
Renewal: annual review and repricing of the maintenance contract; and
Improvements: extra work not yet bid to upgrade the property documented in photos and notes.

You may have noticed that one of the keys is documentation. As part of your job, you must walk the site, create proposals, identify issues and catalog potential improvements. And if you’re smart, you will document it in one place, such as a software program, so this information is at your fingertips when renewal time comes around.

Creating the Client’s Budget requires the application of your landscape expertise as it relates to the money the client is spending. If done correctly, it’s a simple one- to four-page document that describes

  1. renewal pricing,
  2. priorities for upsells bid but not yet bought,
  3. pricing/purpose for improvements not yet bid and
  4. assessment of property conditions per contract/landscape specifications.

The Client’s Budget and the way you present it answer the question, “Are we getting a return on our investment with these guys?” It’s something they can use to communicate with their bosses and justify the contract extension and future spending. It’s a document and process designed to build value and trust based on your expertise (both horticultural and economic), your willingness to go the extra mile and your ability to get things done.

If you want to be the best, you have to adopt and practice the methods used by the best, like the Client’s Budget. This process creates a perception of value, which can naturally lead to contract renewal, additional revenue and growth of your reputation as a pro account manager. What you do and how you do it matters.

Photo: ©istock.com/RoscoPhoto/ahmetemre

About the Author:

Kevin Kehoe, a longtime landscape industry consultant, is managing partner at Aspire Software.

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