Turf Magazine - February, 2014

FEATURES

Get a Jump on Old Man Winter

Why starting your snow contract renewals this spring is a smart move
By Phil Harwood


Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng/Peter Bruce Wilder.

For most snow & ice management professionals, the end of another winter season brings a sigh of relief. The snow business may be extremely rewarding, but it can also be stressful and wear down even the most seasoned snow pro. When spring arrives, there is often a rush to get on to the next season. Putting the snow season to bed properly is not always a very high priority. However, there are some important tasks that snow pros should not ignore at the end of a winter. One of these tasks is to renew snow contracts.

There is a growing trend of renewing snow contracts in early spring, at the end of the typical contractual period for snow & ice management contracts. This trend is driven by the mutual self-interest of proactive snow contractors and property managers/owners who seek to optimize the process of securing an agreement for the upcoming year as early as possible. For snow professionals, having contracts renewed at the end of the season better positions them to plan, secure equipment and be ready for the next winter. For the property manager/owner, having contracts renewed at the end of the season allows them to lock in their vendor and not have to worry about it again until next year.

How many times have you or your salesperson run into closed doors, due to contracts already having been signed, before you even have an opportunity to get into the game? More and more snow & ice agreements are being handled in the spring, at the close of winter.


Photo courtesy of Phil Harwood.

If you think about it, the end of winter is the perfect time to renew the agreement for next year. Everything related to the agreement is fresh in the minds of both the contractor and the property manager/owner. Issues, if any, may be addressed and solutions developed to ensure these issues are not present next year. Agreement language or terms may be modified while the reasons for such changes are top of mind. In addition, the property manager/owner is still there, which may not always be the case months later.

So, why aren't all snow & ice management contracts renewed immediately after the winter? Why are most contracts renewed in the fall? That's a very good question. If you step back and look at the situation, there really are no great reasons for waiting until months after the conclusion of the winter to revisit the topic again when memories have faded. However, there are some legitimate reasons why the delay is common.

First, many people are sick of winter by the end of it. These people don't like anything about the winter. They complain about it and count the days until it ends. When spring arrives, the last thing they want to do is continue to discuss it. They simply want to forget about it. Surprisingly, these people include both property managers/owners and snow pros. As much as I love snow, I understand where these people are coming from. At the same time, in the absence of other factors, these are the easiest people to get on board with spring renewals.

Second, the spring season brings new challenges and demands. It brings its own set of renewals to be concerned with and a variety of other time-consuming tasks. There simply is no time to go after snow & ice management renewals. While the idea of renewing snow contracts sounds good in theory, these people cannot imagine ever having the time to tackle it. We'll come back to this group.

Third, internal policies or politics prevent some property managers/owners from making commitments until they absolutely need to. These people work in companies where the culture is to make every decision at the last possible minute. For whatever reason, they don't want to, or are unable to, sign a contract without going through some top-down decision-making process that generally begins in late summer or early fall and ends up the night before the first snow event. I've worked with many of these people, and it can be very frustrating if unable to convince them of a more advisable way.

There may be some additional groups of people to consider, but the three groups I just outlined encompass the large majority of people. Each group requires slightly different messaging in order to sway them toward renewing contracts in the spring. However, there are some common messages that apply to all. These messages are benefits for doing so. Think of them as talking points as you attempt to convince a property manager/owner to adjust their renewal period.

  • The renewal must be dealt with at some point, it cannot be ignored. Why not handle it at the optimal time of year? This is the "pay me now or pay me later" close. If there is no benefit to waiting for the renewal, but risk associated with doing so, it will be easy to sway this person.
  • Spring is the optimal time of year, due to the fact that the winter season just ended and everything related to it is still fresh in everyone's mind. If you believe this to be true, you will be in a good position to make your case with passion and fervor.
  • Better pricing may be secured, if you decide to play this card, in exchange for having an early agreement for next winter. Many contractors offer very attractive rates to renew contracts in the spring versus spending even more in sales and marketing all summer and fall.
  • Demand for the best snow & ice management professionals is high. If your client declines your offer to renew in the spring, they may not have a later opportunity to secure your services. You may be booked. Are you in this category? If not, why not? What are you missing from your snow & ice management program to be one of the best?
  • Better service may be provided by snow contractors who have had ample time to prepare themselves for the upcoming winter. Maps need to be updated. Equipment needs to be replaced and/or new equipment must be secured. Deicers need to be secured. As we all know, decisions related to these items are much easier to make and less expensive earlier than later in the off-season. Top property managers/owners understand this reality and are more than willing to work with professional snow & ice managers.

To implement this change in your sales process, my advice is to just do it. Just as your client cannot ignore the renewal period, neither can you. It will come and you'll have to deal with it. You might as well deal with it at the optimal time of year, even if it is a tough time of year. Let's be honest, what time of year isn't a tough time of year?

Make the spring renewal the new normal, starting this year. Get your contracts ready to go now. Begin to educate your clients using the talking points above. Give them a reason - or several reasons - o make the switch to spring renewals. Take the approach that you are on the leading edge of industry trends - which you are, if you implement this change - and you're simply inviting them to join you. Nobody wants to be the last one to join the party.

Finally, don't expect to convince every client to move to a spring renewal in the first year. Many will not do so, but some will. The second year, more will follow. Every subsequent year, more and more will convert. This is why it's important to start the transition now. Every year counts.

Phil Harwood is the president & CEO of Pro-Motion Consulting, Inc. You can contact him at phil@mypmcteam.com. Visit http://www.ypmcteam.com to learn more and to sign up for the IN-MOTION weekly e-newsletter.