Like a Boss: Overcoming Proposal Pushbacks


Like so many other landscape contractors have also faced, Richard Cording Sr., LIC, owner of CLC Landscape Design in Ringwood, New Jersey, has found that clients are often funny about giving a budget and often have very unrealistic expectations of landscape costs. So it wasn’t surprising that he would often get pushback on proposals. But by implementing what Cording calls some “simple sales techniques,” not only has he been able to sell more jobs, but he often finds his clients sign up for the add-ons.

In one case, Cording met with homeowners who described what they wanted out of their backyard with everything from a pool and pool house to a new lawn, irrigation, lighting and more. With all the bells and whistles, Cording put together a preliminary budget of $300,000 and the clients said “no way.” But using his new sales approach, Cording closed the job and recently completed it for $320,000.

The key, Cording says, is to narrow the proposal to only include those items that are “most wanted.” For the homeowner in the example, that was making their backyard more useable and installing a swimming pool. Cording told them he could do that for somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000. But once CLC started the job, the homeowners started wanting all the add-ons, too.

“I think that once you get your foot in the door and the client begins to know and trust you, they are much more likely to add to the project,” Cording says. “Those initial price objections begin to disappear once the project is already underway.”

Cording says itemizing his proposals and including the optional upgrades listed out has also made a tremendous difference. A large majority of his clients will end up going for the upsell once the project is underway.

“At that point, it’s the client choosing to add to the project — not me,” Cording says. “Itemizing things gives the client some control. Instead of just naming a price, I’m showing them what they’re paying for. My sales have literally doubled since I started doing it this way.”

This sales approach really works, Cording says, adding that it even worked on him when he had an addition built on his home recently. As add-ons were mentioned to him throughout the course of the project, he ended up agreeing to all of them.

“Sometimes it’s just easier to have everything done at once — and the same is true of landscape projects,” Cording says. “The client would rather I didn’t have to come back and tear up their lawn another time. They often end up realizing it just makes sense to do it all at once. But it all starts with first getting our foot in the door.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.