Being pushy doesn’t gain someone’s trust. I try to make friends with every client while I meet with them and chat about their dogs, kids, home, or whatever interests them. It can’t just be a sales pitch! One thing I often do is to stop referring to myself as Amanda with SYNLawn after we’ve had a chance to talk and meet. They know I’m with SYNLawn at that point and it sounds too salesy to keep saying it. Instead I greet them as a friend.
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Wilkins.
Amanda Wilkins is Vice President of Sales for SYNLawn Northeast Ohio. She is a leader for women in business, carrying on the family tradition as a third-generation landscape industry professional for more than 15 years. She uses products with biobased technologies that exclude the use of pesticides, conserve water, eliminate emissions from lawn equipment and lower landfill impact with extended life expectancy. Amanda was awarded the 2020 Commercial Landscape Project of the Year by the Synthetic Turf Council for her exceptional Barkwood Dog Park installation — one of the largest municipal dog parks in the country.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
My dad and his landscape design firm started installing synthetic putting greens around 25 years ago. I started working for him and learning all aspects of the industry when I was 11 years old.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
When we first started doing pet runs many years ago, I had a customer who wanted the synthetic grass to stop at the inside of his fence posts. What I didn’t consider was that it would give access to the edges of the turf for his dogs to pull up. The night we finished, I walked away from a picture perfect, gorgeous green pet lawn. The next morning, I woke up to a photo from my customer with every edge of the turf pulled up and dragged all around, and three very happy looking pups sitting around it. I could not help but laugh and learn my lesson. I now take extra precautions and I haven’t had a problem since!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now, we are working on a 7,200 square foot backyard multi-sport field. After we complete that, we are installing a putting green/hitting area, as well as a playground with an in-ground trampoline at this same house (total project will end up around 15,000 square feet). The homeowner’s goal is to keep his family safer from Covid by having a place for his kids and their friends to play at their house, as opposed to public fields/parks.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My grandfather was the first to get started in the landscape industry in 1964. He was a superintendent at a golf course down in Brandenburg, KY. When my dad was old enough to work, he and my grandpa started a landscape business of their own. They have both been the largest influence in my life and have shown me what true work ethic is all about. My grandpa did physical work until he was almost 80-years-old and could dig and shovel circles around guys in their 20’s. My father owns a landscape design company with more than 40 employees, and he still insists on being involved in installations. He also continues to work circles around the youngest guys (probably as I type this). Unfortunately, this year my grandpa passed. Our family is very proud to carry on his legacy in landscape construction.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I handle every sale for SYNLawn Northeast Ohio. I personally answer each phone call, email, etc. I meet with every client myself and I do all estimating. I also work with each client throughout the installation process to ensure that they know I’ll be there for every step of their project.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I think making sure your older loved ones are safe is super important. In my family, we are taking turns to ensure my grandma, who lives alone, has what she needs and can limit the number of times she has to go to the store. As a local business owner, we are very conscientious, taking all the necessary precautions. Social distancing and washing hands has become a very big deal in our household like many others.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
That’s a good question! There should totally be a class in school on sales, social skills and learning how to connect with people the right way.
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption?
Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do? I definitely agree. Being pushy doesn’t gain someone’s trust. I try to make friends with every client while I meet with them and chat about their dogs, kids, home, or whatever interests them. It can’t just be a sales pitch! One thing I often do is to stop referring to myself as Amanda with SYNLawn after we’ve had a chance to talk and meet. They know I’m with SYNLawn at that point and it sounds too salesy to keep saying it. Instead I greet them as a friend.
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
Presentation is one of my strongest skills. I always speak of our experience with other products. I typically say how long we’ve been installing greens, and I tell them how years ago we would just Google to find synthetic turf products every time we sold a green. We went through countless brands before finding SYNLawn. My dad and I were blown away when we first saw the product samples. You could tell the backing was stronger, the fibers were nicer, more natural, more durable and we liked the drainage and other innovative features. I usually explain that to clients who ask why they should choose SYNLawn. The quality is right in front you.
Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
We do a lot of follow-ups, which increase referral clients. For example, we send customized holiday cards with a cute magnet inside. We create monthly blog content and focus on search engine optimization (SEO) to keep our Google rankings up. I also receive good, qualified leads from LinkedIn connections.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
SYNLawn handled my most common “objection” by making an awesome drainage video comparing our drainage backing to the mesh. I like to send it to people who ask about how our product drains compared to others. Handling objections is hard if you aren’t sure how to answer. That’s why it’s important to know your common objections so that you have an automatic, confident answer. The video helps provide the customer with valuable information, so they feel confident that I know what I’m doing. Always anticipate objections and have a quick answer ready for them.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
After quote delivery, I set a reminder for one week out to email the prospect and check in. I set another reminder a week after that to mail them a thank you card for giving me the opportunity to quote their project. I also add all new leads and past clients to my constant contact email marketing funnel. Each year we send out holiday cards to the whole mailing list, including a branded refrigerator magnet. The magnet is a useful way to keep us top of mind for future projects and referrals. Additionally, if I recall something about their family, I’ll write a personalized message on the card. I keep it simple and try not to be too pushy.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’?
Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager? Following up and staying in touch with our customers is very important to our business. My advice for business leaders is to keep track of your sales leads and customers in your contact lists! It doesn’t mean you have to email them every day, but simple reminders to maintain relationships are essential.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
In-person communication is always best so I can see what the job will entail and build a rapport with the customer. This year has been more difficult to do that with Covid. Some people prefer I measure the installation area while they stay inside or provide measurements electronically. I typically tailor correspondence to the customer’s preference following the initial consultation. Some prefer emails, some texting and others phone calls. I make it clear that I’m available through all of these channels anytime.
Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement it would be to support and motivate women in male-dominated fields. I see this already happening with professional sports, and they have been commending female referees and coaches and showing respect for what they do. It is not easy to be doubted just because you are a woman. I struggled when I was younger with men thinking they knew more than me and not wanting to take my direction. I had to fight for their respect and prove myself in this business. A movement to inspire other women who kick butt every day would just be so cool! #girlpower
How can our readers follow you online?
The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn:
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!