April 15, 2011
By Jacki Hart CLP
Prosperity Partners program manager

Jacki HartAn accurate, well planned quote is a win-win for you and your customer.

One of the Prosperity Partners pillars for business is Sales Success. One of the most common questions I am asked, when teaching seminars to service providing entrepreneurs, is, "How do I estimate labour accurately when quoting?"

Sales Success depends on accurate, profitable and competitive quotes. Easier said than done, right? Think again. It's not rocket science, but it requires a systematic and tailored process.

If the answer to the popular 'how do I quote on labour?' question was simple, it wouldn't be the number one thing on the minds of many owners and estimators.

If you ask J. Paul Lamarche (www.jplbiz.ca), Mark Bradley (landscapemanagementnetwork.com), or others who reside in the same circle of success, they will tell you that productive and efficient crews are the key part of successful quoting. You need to build a history of how they perform various types of work.

In my landscaping business, there have always been two key fundamental components to successful sales and comfortable profit:
  1. Working from a comprehensive set of budgets. This factors in return on investment, sub trade costs, overhead, labour burden and profit, and
  2. Patterns of performance and productivity, combined with knowing your true labour break-even rate; your employees' hourly rates, labour burden (which includes employer's portions of EI, CPP, EHT, WSIB, etc.), windshield or down time, bonuses and/or benefits.
These factors are crucial to creating a successful quote. And, that's success for both the company, and the customer. If you have never completed work of the scope on which you are quoting, you are stabbing in the dark, and playing a game of chance to create a labour cost for the quote.

Similarly, creating production or square foot rates is dangerous territory. It can lead to disastrous results when weather, accessibility, unforeseen delays, etc., occur. This is why it's important to stick to scope of work in which you have experience, knowledge and intuition. You need to build a history how long it takes your workers to produce a certain amount and type of work, and under what circumstances.

Below is this month's Prosperity Primer, to get you started on thinking smarter about what goes on behind the scenes to successfully sell your company's product or service. What promises did you quietly make yourself last year to improve the way your company performs?

Improving your Sales Success

To improve the Sales Success of this company, the most important thing to change is __________.
The consequences of NOT making the effort to change this are _______________
The result of this change will be ____________.
The resources I need to use are _____________.
I am going to contact/access/read this resource by April ___, 2011.
When I have done this, here's what I anticipate will be different and improved: _________________________.

The Prosperity Partners program and staff are here to help you on a continuous journey of business improvement. Check out www.horttrades.com/prosperity to learn about the many resources available to you through this unique and effective program. As the frost melts out of the ground, and the season gallops ahead, please make sure you carve out time EVERY DAY to pause, step back, and reflect on what went well, what needs to be tweaked, celebrate your successes (with your team!) and take those less successful moments as an opportunity to learn and improve.

I wish you the best possible start to your season this month.
Jacki Hart may be reached at prosperity@landscapeontario.com.