When my husband and I built our first house nearly four years ago, our landscaping consisted of nothing more than dirt. An empty pallet that I was excited to fill with color. Like many of our new neighbors, we scheduled an appointment to consult with the landscape contractor who had secured the contract to install all the landscaping in the new subdivision. When the day of our appointment arrived, I was eager to hear his ideas and share how I envisioned my landscape.

Imagine my disappointment when the landscape contractor showed up to the appointment with no outlines, no pictures and no interest in listening to what I wanted. He pointed to a few areas, mumbling something that I deciphered as his plan to add some ornamentals that wouldn't require much maintenance. Each time I tried to suggest a variation to his plan, his response was, “Trust me, you'll like it.” And I did trust him. He was, after all, the expert. And I wasn't completely dissatisfied with what he did; it just wasn't “me.” As I stood out in front of my house for the first time to take it all in, I couldn't help but notice the similarity between my landscape and the ones of the other houses on my street. The configuration was different, but many of the ornamentals were the same.

Now, after having met many landscape contractors as a part of my job, I realize that this is not typical of most landscape contractors. I also realize that I could have been more adamant about what I wanted (it was, after all, my money). But what I don't understand is why this particular contractor would miss out on a prime opportunity to impress me and sell me on his services. With a little more effort, he could have listened to my ideas and made suggestions based on my preferences, ensuring my devotion to his company and his services. And after a few plantings that I added to satisfy myself in the short term, I'm now ready to upgrade. You can bet I'm not calling the same contractor and, instead, am shopping for someone who'll see my landscape as more of a partnership.

If your clients are ready to upgrade their landscapes, learn how to make the experience mutually beneficial. Turn to “Standing Out,” page 14, for tips on providing this additional service that will boost your business. Have clients who don't see the value in upgrading? Sell them on the proven concept that it'll increase the value of their homes. Brush up on your economic facts by reading Dr. Mark Welterlen's update, “Landscaping Increases Economic Value” on Page 6.

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