You have done your diligence. You have marketed your brand. You have your trucks lettered. You and staff are uniformed. You’ve placed your advertising. Finally, the call comes in, and the first appointment of the year is set for someone who wants to consider “something in our backyard.”
You go out and visit with the customer. You overflow with enthusiasm and passion. You are careful to listen more than you talk. You show pictures of work you have done over the last few years. When they begin to look for your advice, you tell them, “One similar to this 9-by-12 would look great in your space here.” Mrs. Customer’s smile turns flat, and she now has a furrowed brow. Sensing her lack of vision of your great masterpiece, you say, “Here, let me show you.”
You grab their yellow garden hose, stretch it out and begin to make curves and lines until it has the shape you want. In your mind, you can see the finished product. However, your customer has now become the proverbial deer caught in headlights. So, you hold the picture up in line with her vision of the garden hose. Mr. Customer begins to nod. He sees it. Mrs. Customer begins to smile and nod, but then exclaims, “I don’t see it!”
Some folks are visual. Others are not. This is just the way our brains work.
Give Them the Tools They Need
Design software can allow those of us who have lost some of our dexterity due to finger-versus-rock construction accidents to create the picture that will get the customer chomping at the bit to get started.If you want your staff to complete a job, you give them the tools they need. Give the customer the tools they need to write a check — a picture of what you will be doing in their yard. When they see it, they will respond.
Why is selling life insurance so hard? It is an intangible product. You cannot see it, taste it or hold it. Make your job easier. Let your customer “see” their new backyard.
Give the customer a picture of what you will be doing in their yard, and they will ask you how much to write the check for. When I started out in the pool business in the early ’80s, all we did was paint the 16-by-32 in the yard and smile. Today, it’s a different market.
Enter Design Software
AutoCAD is one of the oldest and best-known platforms. Multiple types of software have been developed, from AutoCAD LT to other programs used to design power plants. It is a very exact software in that it take measurements down to fractions of an inch, and it can be a bit difficult to grasp. I never really used it, as I found that what we do does not require the exactness to justify the pain of learning it thoroughly.
Structure Studios has a great platform developed by software engineers in their Pool Studio and Viz Tera programs. I started using it in 2004 and learned it as it developed and added features. If you jump in on it today, you may initially feel overwhelmed, but don’t be. They have a great support staff and great training videos. I use it extensively. With this software, I can build streams, pools and ponds. I can make water flow, change from day to night, draw the customer’s house — you name it. It can be shown in 2-D; or, just click a button for 3-D. If the customer wants to make a change, one does not have to start all over with a new sheet of paper. A few clicks, and the project is updated. One can do custom elevations and slopes. The materials and plants list is extensive, It can be time consuming, as you are building a project rock by rock. Each rock, plant and object has to be placed, turned and elevated. Be sure to charge for your designs. You must have a gaming computer to operate it. It costs $95 per month, but you get free updates as they are developed.
Realtime Landcaping Architect allows you to do 3-D renderings similar to Structure Studios, but it does not have the same realism and detail I want in my water features. It is also a bit more challenging in the design phase to draw. It runs on the same platform as many of the landscaping design software programs. Sketchup is a free software that runs on the same platform and has a limited free version. Realtime Landscaping Architect has one caveat that comes with it, and it’s worth the $399.99 price of the program. Realtime Landscaping Photo allows me to take past projects and place them in a customer’s yard. It took less than 10 minutes to add the waterfall and landscaping in these photos.
These are the two programs that I use on a regular basis. If I have a large project that requires a construction plan, I use Structure Studios. If I have a customer that wants a simple pond or water feature, I will usually jump to Realtime Landscaping Photo.
Think about it. Who is the decision maker? The reality is there are usually two parties. It is like having to have two keys to launch the nuclear missile. However, if one cannot see the vision, a deposit check is unlikely to be written. Using design software is a quicker and easier way to match your perception of the project to their grasp and understanding. And then, the launch sequence will begin!