One of my favorite movie franchises is “The Terminator” series. There’s just something about the impossible task of overthrowing the evil, cold, technological forces that are attempting to extinguish the human race. The story takes fragile, uncertain characters and transforms them into powerful heroes that lead a movement for all mankind.

There are some days in sales when you feel just like a hero in an action movie. Prospects are booking, people are returning calls and deals are closing. An explosion is going off in the background and you’re strutting away in slow-motion with a cool grin on your face. Your mission is a success and nothing can stop you.

Then there are dry spells, wasted time on unqualified leads, the frustration of playing phone tag and an empty sales pipeline that needs to be built up again. It can be feast or famine.

I get what you’re going through. I’ve sold lawn, landscaping and tree care work. It’s not for the faint of heart. There are so many opportunities to easily kill a hot lead.

We’re all facing the same challenges. Diminished productivity is a cold-hearted sales results killer. Every minute wasted is another minute you could spend closing a deal. And no matter what you do, the clock is ticking.

The struggle is real. In this futuristic age of selling, old-school methods no longer work. Buyers and our businesses are changing due to technology. If you’re going to be a successful salesperson, you need to change, too.

To truly succeed in the new age of sales, you need to adopt technology.

Now, before you start to shudder in fear like John or Sarah Connor facing down a terminator, know this: Technology isn’t the threat here, it’s inefficiency. Your mission: Be open to using and mastering technology.

Technology: Friend or foe?

Regardless of what your attitude is about technology, there will come a time where you ask yourself the question, “Is this worth it?”

Before you dismiss the idea of integrating new tech into your sales process, think about the problems you’re trying to solve. Some of the common problems in sales include:

  • You spend a lot of time playing phone tag and emailing multiple times just to set an appointment.
  • Interested prospects seem to fall off the face of the Earth.
  • Preparing estimates and presentations takes longer than you’d like.
  • Presentations often don’t easily close, meaning a lot of wasted prep time and pushing prospects into a long follow-up cycle.
  • You’re frequently too busy to follow up as quickly or as often as you’d like.
  • Sometimes, you have so much going on that prospects fall through the cracks.
  • Making phone calls takes longer than you’d like.
  • Even when someone’s “sold,” you have to wait on their signed proposal or deposit before it really counts.

Productivity is being terminated. But there’s hope. Implementing the right tech tools into your sales process can remedy these issues and not slow you down in the process.

Save time and make money

There are dozens of tools available to use, but we’ll focus on just a few of them here.

Meeting tools. You’ve got a lead and they want to meet with you. You end up getting trapped in the cycle of:

You: “How’s Tuesday afternoon?””

Prospect: “Tuesday’s no good. How about Wednesday morning?”

You: “Sorry, I have another appointment at that time. How’s Friday?”

Prospect: “Looks like this week isn’t going to work. What do you have next week?”

On and on it goes over emails and phone messages. A meeting tool can solve this problem.

Imagine a prospect being able to easily pick from a time frame (that you have previously designated as open), to set up a call or even meet on-site. Then instead of you playing appointment tag, there’s one round of, “Sure, I’d love to talk with you! Please click on this link and choose a time that works best for you.”

Boom. Your appointment or phone call is booked, and you’re being productive instead of playing tag. The whole process doesn’t stretch out for weeks, killing your chances to win. It can happen in just a few minutes.

Estimating and presentation tools. I remember the days of paper estimate worksheet templates, calculators, pencils and a giant eraser. Estimates took time, and then I had to transfer that information over to a proposal. Then technology came and cut prep time in at least half.

The scary thing is that many green industry companies may have graduated from paper and pencil, but they’re still using multiple tech tools (that don’t talk to one another) to transfer information from estimates to proposals to work orders. Many times this time-consuming burden falls on the salesperson. That terminates their productivity.

If you and your sales team are taking too long to prepare estimates and proposals, start looking for a better solution. Within minutes, landscape business software allows you to build an accurate proposal and present it to your prospect.

An added bonus of using this kind of software is that estimate information transfers seamlessly to your operations team and accounting department. Improving your sales process means everyone benefits.

Is your presentation dull and dated? Are you flipping through books and binders looking for examples? Get a notebook computer or tablet and organize your content for quick, impressive presentations.

Imagine having examples of the plants, lighting fixtures and the 3-D renderings and proposal all cued up in one presentation when you meet with your prospect. That kind of organization shows your potential client that you’re innovative and prepared to tackle their challenges.

Want to crank up productivity a notch? Integrate a tool that allows your prospect to sign for the job right on the spot (or at least lets them sign digitally and submit a deposit when you email it to them).

Sales automation and smart follow-up tools. A good portion of deals won’t close on the spot, regardless of how much you mastered closing techniques. That means you’ll be spending lots of time following up, answering questions, overcoming objections and tactfully compelling your prospect to sign.

A few new prospects each week becomes a mountain of follow-up later. Instead of moving onto new opportunities, you’re spending time chasing down deals you’ve already spent a ton of hard work on but couldn’t close.

If you’re inefficiently relying on spreadsheets, notepads or your memory, you’re not going to win as often as you could.

Automated follow-up. Technologies exist that can streamline and even automate much of your follow-up process. Instead of you trying to remember when to call or email a prospect with an outstanding proposal, technology can take the reins and do it for you. This can be in the form of automated emails or even setting reminders that it’s time to call your prospect again. Instead of killing your chances, you’re saving the life of outstanding proposals.

Real-time notifications. What if you could know instantly when your prospect is opening your email, clicking a link or viewing the proposal? What better time to engage, right? A great Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can also give you these instant notifications so you can call your prospect while the topic is fresh on their mind and they aren’t busy with other items.

Prospect: “Oh, what a coincidence you called, I was just looking at your proposal.”

Salesperson: “That’s great! I know you’re busy so I wanted to follow up to see if you had more questions or if you’re ready for us to take care of this for you.” (You don’t have to let them know you’re spying on them.)

Task management. Instead of pouring through your spreadsheet, color coding items or shuffling through paperwork and sticky notes, you could use technology to your advantage to only focus on what’s important today.

A good task management tool will allow you to assign due dates for tasks and only focus on what matters. That could easily prevent 10 to 20 minutes of wasted time each day.

No fate but the one we make for ourselves

If you do nothing, you won’t change your sales future. It will be more of the same impending doom of missed opportunities.

However, your productivity doesn’t have to be wiped out of existence. You can sell more and make more money. After all, that’s what most of us love about sales.

But what about the learning curve and setting up these tools? The problem here is many people focus on this amount of time of implementation versus the cumulative amount of time wasted in 30 to 90-plus minutes each day. If you’re going to win the war against inefficiency, you’re going to need to spend time training and working on your battle plan.

Spend some time brainstorming with your sales team. Talk about all of the pain points. Identify the weak spots that regularly terminate your success.

Then it’s time to address your processes. Find an objective person outside of your company who can help you establish what needs to be changed. After your processes are better defined, find an expert who can help you implement the right tech tools for your company.

Finally, you can look at those problems of the past and say, “Hasta la vista, baby.”