Barb Helfman
Helping Plantscapers succeed.

Plantscape Sales or The Dreaded 6 Plant Dilemma

Posted on November 29th, 2006 in General, Grow Your Sales | No Comments »

It’s happened to all of us.  We get a call from a new client.  They have a small office.  They need 6 (count ‘em 6) plants.  You have a minimun charge of $100 per month.  This job is way under that amount at $50 per month.  The client doesn’t want to spend over $50 a month.  Where does that put you?  In the dreaded 6 plant dilemma.

What Do You Do?
Accept the job even though it is below your minimum?  Respectfully decline?  Or, how about coming up with a creative solution to do the job?

First, ask some questions. 

  • Is the client planning an expansion at some point?
  • Do they have other offices in the area that could also use plants?
  • How about a Rental with Service?
  • Do they also need Holiday?
  • Can the job be subirrigated and seen every other or, even, every third week?

Next, check out the other tenants in the building.

  • Are any of them potential clients? Three $50 a month clients in the same location equal a $150 per month job

We all have stories about the $50 a month job that turned out to be a couple of thousands dollars a month as the client added floors then buildings and just grew and grew.   Hey, it happens.  Happened to me, in fact.  One job started out at plants for one floor.  Then the  Company added 4 more floors the next year.  They added another building the following year and another one two years later.  Somewhere in all this they added Holiday both in and out complete with exterior trees being lit.  That tiny one-floor, $50 a month job ended up being a $3,700 a month account plus $60,000 a year Holiday account and the client is still a client!

Do Your Homework
The main idea is to do your homework, get as many facts as possible, and apply some creative problem solving. 

Be Willing to Let It Go
If, after all your work, the job still doesn’t meet your needs from either a logistic or monetary viewpoint, be willing to let it go.  However, still keep half an eye on this "fish".  It may not meet the posted weight limit today but revisit it a year from now.  Why?  Well, just like a fish, it may grow up to be a keeper and the very last thing you want is to regret the "one that got away". 
Good fishing.

Related posts:
Joeys for Poinsettia and other Blooming Things
Keep The Sales Pipeline Filled
Sales Tactics or “just want to say Howdy”

Interior Plantscapers and Poinsettia

Posted on November 26th, 2006 in Blooming Programs, General, Holiday | No Comments »

It is Thanksgiving Weekend and everywhere you go you see signs of the Holiday Season.  Christmas lights are going up, Holiday music is on the radio, and everywhere there are red, white, and pink poinsettia, but mainly red.

For Some, Poinsettia Have Always been Part of the Holidays
Yes, the red poinsettia has been as much a part of Holiday as Turkey for Thanksgiving but it may surprise you to know that it wasn’t always.  Not until a very savvy horticulturist, Paul Ecke, Jr. by name, was determined to "put 2 poinsettia in everyone’s home" and, then, did so.

But Not for Others
If you were to travel to Australia you might find it a bit offsetting to see red poinsettia used at Shopping Mall and Office Lobby alike in the middle of June.  There, the poinsettia is just another blooming plant and has not much to do with Holiday. 

So How Did Paul Ecke, Jr. Achieve His Goal?
By taking advantage of the great new, must have, entertainment product that was a must in every American home in the 1960"s–the color television set.  Paul offerred national tv shows like the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson and the Today Show, hundreds of live poinsettia for their sets.  They loved the idea and accepted his gift.  So it was that each year millions and millions of Americans switched on their televisions and for the days before Christmas had all these beautful, red, plants in front of them. 

"Gimme One of those Red Plants I Saw On the Today Show"

What the Public saw, the Public wanted.  They asked for "that pretty red plant" at their grocery, their florist, their garden center.  Within just a few years, the poinsettia had become the Holiday plant.

We Owe Paul Ecke, Jr. a Great Deal of Thanks
For most interiorscapers Poinsettia are a pain in the neck.  Easily damaged, finicky about water and temperature, by the end of the season we are happy bto pitch them.  But let us not forget, it is because of the Poinsettia that most interiorscapers got into the Holiday business in the first place.  Your client saw you bringing in the points and said, "Hey, by the way, can you bring me a wreath for the front door?"  And, so your Holiday Business was born. 

Paul Ecke, Jr.  Inducted Into the Hall of Fame in 2006
It is fitting that Paul Ecke, Jr. was inducted this year.  He was a visionary and we, interiorscapers, have a great deal to thank him for.  He was the man who put  two (2) Poinsettia into the home, and office, of every American.

For more about PaulEcke Jr. and the Ecke Ranch, log on to

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The Poinsettia Solution
Groups on LinkedIn

Interiorscape Public Relations

Posted on November 15th, 2006 in Competitive Advantage, General | No Comments »

We have a Janitorial service at our office.  Every afternoon around 5 o’clock a guy comes in, empties our trash and then returns after 5 to vacuum.  Each evening he asks "how we are" and wishes us a "good evening".  The exchange takes all of 2 minutes.

Is this considered Customer Service?
I think about him often.  I equate his visits with that of our hort technicians.  He’s there for just a minute, exchanges pleasantries, and does his job.  The question is, "Does this brief encounter impact whether or not we’d switch to another less costly service?"  I think not.  The brief exchange might be seen by the interiorscape company as establishing a relationship, the client does not.  No great bond is established.

There has to be something more
We interiorscape companies have to differentiate ourselves from others providing the same service.  What could the cleaning service do along these lines?  Well, in our particular office situation our building is one of four buildings housing over 100 tenants-everything from a driving school to lawyers to TOPsiders.  Every month the property management company hosts a "Lunch and Learn".  People who work in the buildings show up at a small auditorium at noon with a sack lunch and listen to someone (usually another tenant) speak about something of interest.  Example, the massage center talks about stress reduction.  It’s good for the attendees, good for the massage center, and is a positive thing for the property management company.

What could the Janitorial service do?
What if they gave a presentation on how to clean your home faster and better with lots of "secret" tips?  What if they gave away 2 or 3 cleaning kits as a door prize?  Would their client (the property management company) appreciate this additional service?  Sure would be a good thing when the contract renewal time came around.

How about the interiorscape company?
What if you were to give a presentation in the Fall on "Bulbs, what to plant and how to plant them?"  "Holiday for the home" is another good topic.  Or how ’bout 45 minutes on which tropical plants do well in the home and some basic care tips?  And, don’t forget to give away  or raffle off a few plants or bulbs.  You could even offer a free consultation for their offices and a coupon good for 10% off the initial installation (not the maintenance).  You will have endeared yourself to the Property Manager, differentiated your company from the rest of the pack, and, possibly, even picked up a small office job in a building you are already servicing.

Spread the word
A couple of weeks prior to the presentation, make sure to post flyers on lobby bulletin boards, on the glass doors both front and back, and, even, go door to door the day before or morning of the presentation.  Now, that’s what I call thinking strategically.  Interaction far more meaningful than a quick , "How are you-have a good evening" exchange.  Definitely food for thought.

Related posts:
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That Wonderful Hidden Account
Interior Plantscapers and Poinsettia

Customer Satisfaction Survey Example

Posted on November 14th, 2006 in General | No Comments »

(Your Plantscape Company Here)
Satisfaction Survey

How Are We Doing For You?
Our goal is to ensure your satisfaction in everything we do.  We’re always on the lookout for ways to serve you better.  Your completed survey will help us better refine your services.

Thank you in advance…

Please fill out the survey below and mail or FAX to:

On a scale of 1 – 5, where 5 = highest satisfaction and 1 = the least satisfaction, please circle the appropriate number.

Please Rate Our Maintenance Staff:

1.   Properly Attired:………………………………………………………………………………………..……………………..  1     2     3     4     5

2. Responsive to requests:………………………………………………………………………………………….   1     2     3     4     5

3. Leaves area clean:……………………………………………………………………………………………………   1     2     3     4     5

4. Pleasant and polite:………………………………………………………………………………………………….   1     2     3     4     5

Please Rate Your Sales Advisor:
1. Helpful in providing a solution:………………………………………………………………………………..……..   1     2     3     4     5

Contact and Support:
1. Are you able to reach us easily? :……………………………………………………………………………….……   1     2     3     4     5

2. Are we responsive in a timely manner? :…………………………………………………………………………….   1     2     3     4     5

Would Your Recommend Our Company To Others?………………………………………………………………………..  Yes / No

Your Comments:

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Customer Satisfaction Survey

Posted on November 14th, 2006 in General | No Comments »

Staying close to your clients is an essential and ongoing process for the successful interioscaper.  One way to stay connected is through the use of periodic surveys.  However, sending a Survey is just the beginning.  You must have in place a  Response Plan.  What will you do with the information?  Who will respond? How fast?  All very important. 

Tips For Successful Surveys

  • Don’t Over Survey- send only once or twice per year
  • Send a Thank You note for all Respondents
  • Respond within 24  hours to all negative comments
  • Have a Followup or Dedicated Person to Respond.
  • Ask Positive Respondents for Refferals soon after you Receive their Survey (see below)

Example Post Survey Refferal Letter

"Thank You for responding to our Survey.  We are delighted to hear you are so satisfied with our services and we look forward to improving them even more in the future.  As a satisfied client, we would like to ask if you know of other companies you might recommend us to?  Your referral would be greatly appreciated."  

Once again, thank you so much for your consideration.


Download sample Customer Survey

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Learning From Exceptional Companies

Posted on November 14th, 2006 in General | No Comments »

What makes some companies dominate their industry, while other just get by?  And how can this be a powerful opportunity for you to get better and more profitable accounts?

The Hospitality Industry Is A Major Opportunity For You To Add Value
First, let’s talk a little about the lack of excellence and one great place to find that is the hospitality industry. The hotel and motel industry is, in my opinion, the most screwed up, poorly managed, insensitive, uncaring industry there is.

As you know, I travel a lot and I’m in media rooms and convention space in hotels all across the country. Almost all of them rate between poor and awful and in terms of valuing the customer and most have no understanding of this customer value whatsoever.

The exceptions are so notable that I can actually remember the details. The big mistake – most of the hotel executives and employees dealing with meetings and conventions think business is based on the facilities, the brass railings, the marble in the bathrooms, the rates and their financial statements.  They forget that their business is customers and customer service.  As a plantscaper, you have an opportunity to remind them how important fresh plants can be to their service experience.  You can then make some creative suggestions.  Here’s an example.

At the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee they give gold guitar shaped lapel pins to the guests who are running meetings. Every hotel employee is taught that a guest wearing one of these pins is a valued, important client with special needs under the pressure of running a meeting. The hotel employees are taught to respond quickly to these pin wearing VIP’s. Why don’t all hotels copy this idea? It’s simple, they don’t really understand the business they’re in.

What if you were to suggest to you hotel accounts that providing a fresh lapel flower to the meeting organizer would be a way to provide better service (and make the meeting organizer feel special) this enhancing their repeat business. 

IMPLEMENTING THIS IDEA: If your company has a fresh cut flower business great, if not set up a deal with a local florist to supply the hotel.  You handle everything, the hotel pays you, you pay the florist.  You can pitch this as part of your "Customer Service and Experience Package" that your company provides to its hospitality accounts.

Also checkout the hotel’s Top 10 Reasons To Stay With Us.  Notice how they list plantscape environments as the fourth reason…

Now let’s talk briefly about a few truly excellent companies.

FEDEX is In The Relationship Business Not The Delivery Business
Federal places a priority on it’s relationships with its customers. Example, Federal sends new information, literature, brochures to its customers frequently. Example, Federal’s employees, those who pick up and deliver and those in the offices, are simply great.

They’re friendly, courteous, helpful, they listen and don’t interrupt and they react calmly to even bizarre problems and questions and they sell Federal. The driver who regularly comes to our office often passes on some new piece of information about Federal’s statistics, new services or products or expansion. This kind of service does not happen by accident.

Being Indispensable To The Customer
Company number two Omaha Steaks. What an incredible company this is. Omaha Steaks sells food by mail order including the best corn fed beef you’ll ever eat. Frankly their products are expensive but the product quality warrants the price.

However, the steps beyond product quality are what make this company a superior performer. Here’s just one example of the obvious value and importance they place on the customer.

From time to time, over the years I call Omaha to send different assortments of their products to certain clients as thank you gifts. Last year shortly before Christmas we received in the mail from Omaha a list of all the people we had sent gifts to in the past, what we had sent them, when we sent it and what we had spent. If we wanted to send the same gifts again to the same person it was as easy as checking off a box and returning the form.

This is a prime example of a brilliant marketing strategy that is also a true service to the customer and that’s a real key marketing idea. How can we market our products or services and at the same time provide a meaningful service to the customer?

How can you provide your accounts with the convenience, value and service that Omaha Steaks provides to theirs?  Can you simplify your billing.  Can you mail or -e-mail design suggestions or other prepackaged information that can make your clients selection of your services faster and easier?

Related posts:
How To Find a Great Plantscaping Tech
On Your Own But Not Alone

Connecting Your Business To The 12 Key Customer Values

Posted on November 10th, 2006 in General | No Comments »

The next time you work on a major marketing or sales initiative—ask yourself this question: “Is what I’m doing hitting at least some of the consumer values on this list”?  The 12 Consumer Values to Drive Technology-related Product and Service Innovations was created by the Washington, DC-based research and consulting firm Social Technologies

This information was designed for technology consumers but it’s equally applicable to YOUR PLANTSCAPING CUSTOMERS.  These values are universal. 

As you read, consider how your plantscaping company can connect and position its products services to these values.  There’s also a PDF of the values chart to download, print and post in your office.  It will come in handy to remind you focus on connecting your company’s solutions to the values of your customer.

User creativity
Customers increasingly want to create, augment, or influence design and content, and share these creations with their peers. Supporting customer creativity will be increasingly important to your business, and will become more mainstream in coming decades. 
How can your business accommodate your customer’s creativity?

Customers will increasingly look for products and services that align with their specific corporate needs and preferences—whether in the aesthetics of a product or in its functional design. More goods will be created to match companies’ unique specifications. 
How can you personalize your services for the customer?

Simplicity will have growing value for customers confronted with information overload, time stress, and technological complexity. Simplicity’s influence is already evident in new, stripped-down devices that offer just a few functions, as well as in minimalist interfaces that conceal breathtaking complexity. 
How can you simplify your services for the customer?

As customers are bombarded with more tasks, choices, and information, and as demographic changes reshaping their markets, they are looking to assistive services for help. Customers will seek to bolster and extend their natural abilities—with services that help them adjust to changing trends and markets. 
How can you help your customers keep up with change?

Products and services will need to embrace the principle of appropriateness to ensure that they are suitably designed for users with varying physical needs, resources, cultural characteristics, literacy levels, etc. Appropriateness will aid in the spread of products and services to new markets and to diverse user segments.  How can you make your services more appealing to different types of customers?

Already well-established in mature markets, demand for convenience will rise as a technology value for consumers all over the world. Customers will look for products and services that give them what they want and need on demand and that reduce effort and relieve time pressure. 
How can you increase the convenience of your services or of doing business with you?

Connectedness gives customers what they want, when they want it, and will grow exponentially with the expanding global information infrastructure. Customers will look for products and services that seamlessly integrate with this global network. 
Are you connected to your customers with a website, e-mail, FAX, phone, messaging service?

Efficiency is the ratio of output to input—or, put simply, the ability to do more with less. It will become more important to technology as customers search for products and services that let them manage emerging resource uncertainties, rising costs, and other pressures. 
Do your services provide more for less?

Intelligence will be enabled by innovations that increasingly shift information and decision-making burdens from the user to the device or service. The demand for greater intelligence will come in response to factors including complexity, aging, and the desire for personalized experiences. 
Are you keeping up with and providing your customers with the latest and greatest horticultural and design solutions?

Protection will be sought by customers in a world that feels increasingly insecure. Customers will look for products and services that strengthen their sense of security and protect property, company and privacy. 
Do you have formal policies and procedures in place to protect your customers.?

Consumers will look to technological products and services to maintain and, increasingly, improve their health and wellness. The search for health-enabling solutions will extend beyond traditional health and medical products and services to include more of the things customers use in their everyday lives, whether at home, work, or play (clean air and aesthetics). 
Do you connect a health and wellness factor to your products and services?

Customers will increasingly look for products and services that embrace sustainability—reducing the “human footprint” on the environment while maintaining quality of life. A variety of technologies offer ways to minimize resource use, waste, and pollution while improving human welfare. 
Are you keeping up with clean building standards, and providing eco-conscious products and services for your customers?

So there you have it.  12 critical values that will help you get closer to your customers.  It’s worth doing an audit of your company to determine how well you products and services reflect these values.  For each company your do business with, prioritize their top five values and be sure to refer back to them often in your communications with them.

Using this information is really about effective communication.  You need to clearly explain to your customers (on your website, in brochures, at sales presentations, on the phone) how your company respects on delivers on their values.

Remember, download this 12 Values PDF and put it on your wall.  It will keep you focused and grounded on taking care of your customers.

2006 Barb Helfman’s InnerCircle

Related posts:
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Interiorscape Holiday of the Future

Posted on November 10th, 2006 in Competitive Advantage, General, Holiday | No Comments »

Holiday Decor as a Profit Center for Interiorscapers has been around since the 80′s with most companys doing poinsettia and a wreath or two.  Holiday continued to grow as trees, wreaths, and garland were added to the mix.

In the Begininng
Lighting relied on the C-7′s of the 50" and 60′s, to the ubiquitous white "minis" of the ’90′s.  Lighting was a skill and took time.  Most ‘scapers avoided Holiday mainly because of the lighting hassle.  Then, the importers started offerring "Prelit" products.  It was an industry changing innovation.  Holiday as a Profit Center took off.

The Prelits Expand to the Consumer
In just a few years the prelit product was not only available to the professionals but to the Box stores and Garden Centers as a retail product.  Consumers, also frustrated with lighting and relighting jumped on the prelits.  In some instances this took away the interiorscapers appearance of "design expertise" but still jobs kept coming.

Props and Themes Rule
By now it took far more than just a big tree or lots of lights to make a design stand out.  Props and Themes became part of the Decor.  Winter Wonderland, Father Christmas, Fairies and Bunnies and Bears started showing up in lobbies galore.

The Next Question
And that’s where it stands in the Year 2006.  But what does the Future of Holiday look like?  How can you stay one snowshoe ahead of the pack?  Check out Lighting again. 

The LED’s are Coming.  The LED’S are Coming.

The’ve been around for a few years now.  LED lights that last 100,000 to 250,000 hours.  That give off no heat.  And that use far less wattage than a typical Holiday bulb.  The problems to date have been discrepancies in color particularly the white, clear bulbs but each year they get better and better.  It’s obvious that , not too many years from now, they wil be the product of choice.

Think of the Possibilities
Trees that never have to be relit, 10 and 15 year replacement rates when material is handled properly.  Exteriors of buildings outlined with LED light strings that only need 1 time Installation, can be left in place unlit for the remainder of the year only to be turned on again the next November, and that use up so little power that they are as "green" as grass.

The Question is Not If but How Soon
Get ready ‘scapers.  Keep checking with the GKI’s and Creative Displays of our world.  It’s a Bright, Bright, Bright Future.

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Who, What, Where, How?

Interiorscape Sales or What I Learned From Bob

Posted on November 8th, 2006 in Competitive Advantage, General, Grow Your Sales | 1 Comment »

Because I have a bad back, I’ve become an expert on mattresses.  I even have one of those adjustable beds you see on T.V.  Still I wake up stiff and sore and in a less than pleasant mood.  Finally, last week I’d had enough.  Time for a new mattress…again.
 Now, like you, I’ve seen the Sleep Number Comfort ads 7,965 times so I went to my closest Mall Showroom.

And Along Comes Bob
It was the dinner hour so Bob was the only person in the showroom.  Immediately I was perplexed by his appearance.  Bob was very heavy, his dress was, shall we say ,casual and he was missing two front teeth.  OK, I said to myself, we’re out of here in 10 minutes, tops.  Then Bob started to give me his pitch.  He began by asking me questions and not just any questions.  They went right to my needs, my current situation and so on.  When I told him about my automatic bed at home, he showed me how I could still use it with a new Sleep Comfort mattress and this would save me about $800.00!  Point for Bob.  Next he had me lie down on the mattress he was recommending, showed me how to work the control and find my "sleep number".  As he did this we both could look at a screen that showed a thermal "map" of the pressure points and we adjusted until I felt great and the thermal map showed optimum firm/softness.  By now I was half way sold.  Then Bob went to the next level.  He told me that he had been in the bedding business for over 30 years (Score Point 3), and that he’d sold the adjustable beds for almost that long. (Point 4). Did I know how to adjust it for maximum comfort?  I did not and he showed me how.(Points 5, 6, and 7).  Bob was getting better looking by the minute.

The Sale Was Made
Once he explained I had 30 days to make a final decision once it was delivered, I was sold.  He even saved me another $50.00. (I stopped counting). He gave me paperwork and numbers so I could track delivery once they had called me and set up a time at my convenience.  It was painless.  I left the Showroom with a smile on my face and absolutely no "buyers remorse". Without a doubt, it was the easiest purchasing decision I’ve ever made.  That night I tried Bob’s suggestions and, they worked!  So, am I cancelling my purchase of his mattress?  Nope, I believe the new mattress will be even better and I am grateful Bob didn’t want me to be uncomfortable even for the few days until the new one arrives.  I have no doubt that the new mattress will be the best because I trust Bob, the best saleperson I’ve ever met.

What We Can Learn From Bob

  • Bob asked great, pertinent, questions
  • He identified the problem(s) and gave sugestions on how to correct them.
  • He gave me ideas for my current situation "until the new mattress is delivered"
  • He saved me $$$ not once, but twice. 
  • The Company had a set format and both literature and visual aids, cutaway of the product, hi tech thermal imaging and so on,  to demo the Product
  • Delivery and Installation formats were both convenient (I  had a choice of dates and timeframes) and they would remove the old mattress or put it anywhere I wanted it.
  • They also had high end bed linens displayed in the Showroom (add on Sales)available.
  • I had a "guarantee" and generous right of return

Yep, my hat is off to Sleep Comfort and to the best salesperson I ever met, thanks, Bob.

PPS.  It is now three weeks since I posted this.  I am thrilled to report that my back no longer hurts!!!!!!

Related posts:
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Thanks For The Love Paul & Thanks For Reaching Out To The Plantscape Industry
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda