Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Building Sales

A change of pace with a snow day has given me the time to go back through some notes and handouts from The WESTERN'S National Green Centre trade show.  At this year's trade show, there were quite a few educational programs including one on building sales by Bill Whaley, President of VegiBee, LLC. 

Though the program was intended for staff training for retail garden centers, his points are applicable to all of us in sales:

  • Work with your sales staff to build product knowledge and confidence in adding products during the sale.
  • Focus your staff on the customer, not the routine task.  Teach your employees to probe the customer for their needs, then build the sale.  Don't always sell the customer what they ask for.
  • Teach your associates not to cap the sale.  Do not predetermine the amount the customer can spend based on how they are dressed or what product that they want to buy. 
  • Focus on larger sizes.  Shift the product mix to larger sizes vs regular or smaller sizes. 
  • Focus on new products that give you an edge with your competition. 
  • Hire associates that like to sell, give excellent customer service and are motivated to achieving sales goals. 
On the Landscape Leadership site, Jeffrey Scott's article for landscape companies on increasing sales through creating emotional bonds and showing value, The Landscape Sales Superstar, is posted.  He has great ideas for taking the focus off of price with the result of increased sales.  I think his comment below is so true! 

"You can't close a sale until you learn about and address the doubts in your client's mind."

And, tracking results is a vital part of increasing sales according to both Bill Whaley and Jeffrey Scott.  The hard part is taking an honest look at what is working and not working.  It's much easier to find an excuse for why the sale didn't happen. 

Now, I'm going to find an excuse for not shoveling the driveway and have another cup of coffee instead. 

By Susan Mertz, Director Marketing, Loma Vista Nursery

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Prepping for Spring


This is a busy time at Loma Vista! Tree harvest has begun. One of my main responsibilities is coordinating with the tree farm in tagging trees from our customers' master orders. As soon as the order comes in, I let the tree farm know what is ordered.  Manuel then goes out and tags each tree. As digging progresses, I keep track of what is dug, where it is dug from and who it's dug for. As soon as an order is complete, we contact the customer and get it shipped to them. I also keep an eye on the container master orders.  We try to combine tree and container orders whenever possible to help our customers save on shipping. 

Redpoint Maple summer 2012The trees are starting to come out of the fields.  The Redpoint maples are just beautiful. Their form is one of the best pyramidal trees I have seen and they have wonderful reddish branches for great interest when they are bare.  This image is a field shot of the Redpoints taken in July 2012. 


I have also noticed that there is bud swell in the Autumn Spire Maples. It's exciting going into spring when everything is beginning to wake up.
Santa Fe Paeony

Another plant I'm excited about is Santa Fe Paeony. It has a blush white center with a mauve pink outer whirl that makes it stand out.  The image to the right is courtesy of Contrary Mary.  Other new paeonies available this spring farm direct are Festiva Maxima, Edulis Superba and Pink Dawn.
 

Please call the sales office at 913-897-7010 if you would like assistance with your spring order.  

Kim Burton, Inside Sales Representative, Loma Vista Nursery

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Anticipating Spring

As we anticipate spring, we wonder what this year will bring.  It looks as though it will be busy with the uptick in new housing, commercial and municipality projects.  New construction seems to be moving right along with warm winter temperatures and no moisture slowing down the progress. 

Loma Vista Nursery is centrally locatedImpacting availability this year are several factors.  Across the Midwest, the two years of drought is playing out in the landscape.  It looks like a lot of replacements will go in this spring.  Also, availability of trees and shrubs has tightened up in the marketplace.  As a reaction to the economy downtown, many nurseries had adjusted production numbers.  Now, demand is going back up and we are all adjusting again to meet these greater needs.

The movement to buy local began many years ago.  It started with supporting regional companies.  It's especially important with plants grown in comparable zones and resulting plant health once they are in the landscape.  Fuel and trucking costs now also play a role to buying regionally and impacts availability. 

Getting your orders in early and locking down your plant material will only ease the stress for when the spring flush comes.   
 
Steve Bridges, Sales Representative, Loma Vista Nursery

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Parklets

At the recent New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City, Parklets were on display and much discussed.  Hanging from the trees at one of the Parklets at the conference were tree facts promoting the planting of trees.
The concept of Parking Day Spaces has evolved into Parklets in several places across the country.  A Parklet is a semi-permanent structure taking the place of a curbside parking spot that includes places to gather and plants.
  
Parklet in San FranciscoIn San Francisco, this Pavement to Park movement is usually a public and private partnership. Using public space, private businesses take on the expense of construction, maintenance and liability of the 100+ Parklets in San Francisco.  The photo to the left is of a parklet in San Francisco.
  
Across the country in Chicago and Philadelphia, Parklets are truly semi-permanent and in place from spring through fall.  Winter storage is a necessity so city crews can easily clear the snow.
  
Plants for Parklets in the Midwest are ones that will do well in containers including Prairie Dropseed, Shenandoah Switchgrass, Tiger Eyes Sumac, Densi Yews, Boxwoods and Fine Line Buckthorn.  For some height add Honeybelle Honeysuckle to the design.

Susan Mertz, Director of Marketing, Loma Vista Nursery

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tough Plants for the Midwest

At the National Green Centre trade show in St. Louis, I moderated a round table discussion on tough plants for the Midwest.  Moving from Kentucky to Kansas City, I found out right away in Kansas City that the weather in the Midwest is full of extremes.  And growing plants that stand up to these tough conditions can be a challenge.  You never know when it is going to rain.  And, when it does, it can come down by the bucketful.  Winters can range from cold and snowy to unseasonably warm and the ground doesn't freeze.  Summer is just plain hot and humid in Kansas City.

Hypericums in general are very tough plants and great for Midwest conditions.  Familiar ones are frondosum Sunburst and Kalmianum.  A new one we started growing in 2012 is Proven Winner's Sunny Boulevard.  Though similar to the others, the foliage is a glossy green.  We were very pleased with how long it flowered this past summer.  The new Hypericums from First Editions are noted for their yellow flowers and their beautiful fruit that extends their season of salability.  This group is more similar to the plants with Hypericum Androseamum blood in them, but appear to be hardier.  Loma Vista is growing Glory, Beauty, Pumpkin and Red Star for retail garden centers.

First Editions' Cool Splash Diervilla took a while for me to latch onto.  But, it has truly performed well.  The irregular variegated edges did not burn in the heat of the summer.  It has yellow flowers in June and July and matures 30-54" x 30-54".  Diervilla lonicera is an underused flowering shrub in the Kansas City area.  Yellow tubular flowers all summer, great drought tolerance and clean foliage.

Physocarpus does well in the Midwest and two new ones to look for are Amber Jubilee and Little Devil.  Both from First Editions, we began growing these last year at our container farm.  Amber Jubilee has foliage that changes colors through the seasons ending up with orange, yellow and coral foliage in the fall.  It matures 5-6' x 4'.  Little Devil in Bailey's trial garden is about 6' tall.  The small leaves are dark purple and it has a dense form.  Both have pale pink flowers in the spring.


Buddleias continue to be a popular summer flowering shrub in the Midwest.  We've expanded our selections of butterfly bushes and include three new ones from Proven Winners.  The Lo & Behold series now includes Blue Chip and Purple Haze.  Both have purple blue fragrant flowers.  Miss Molly has vibrant magenta flowers.  All are butterfly magnets.

Shrubs coming on future production include two new Abelias.  Canyon Creek is slated for fall.  It has coppery yellow foliage, strong chinenesis tendencies and is drought tolerant.  A bit of spring pruning will keep it form nice and tidy.  'Rose Creek' also has strong chinensis tendencies but with green foliage.  It is covered with blush pink flowers in the summer and the sepals turn red when the flowers are spent.  It too, will be ready in the fall.  We are trialing two Indigofera shrubs, kirlowii and Rose Carpet.  Kirlowii is drought tolerant, has lavender flowers and a smaller maturing form.  All attributes that should make it a good choice for parking lot islands.  Rose Carpet may prove to a good choice for a groundcover type shrub.  It matures under 3' and has pink flowers.  We will know more about it's hardiness after this winter. 
  
In 2012, Loma Vista added a pot n pot tree farm to our container farm.  Sophora japonica 'Regent' was one of many that did very well.  It help up great during the hot dry summer and has yellow summer flowers.  The bark stays bright green all winter long. Acer truncatum, Shantung Maple, is another great tree that holds up well in the Midwest's extreme conditions.  The foliage emerges reddish-purple, hence the name Purpleblow Maple, and stays dark green all summer.  In the fall, its foliage is bright yellow.   A tree to watch for in the future is Celtis 'Prairie Sentinel.'   This Hackberry has a narrow form and doesn't mind the heat and drought.  We have been very pleased with the ones we are growing in our fields. 

Ben Cecil, Operations Manager, Loma Vista Nursery

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Recycling at the Container Farm

bailed plasticWe are sincere in our commitment to provide quality products, services and to be good stewards of our environment.  The personnel at the production facility play key roles in keeping these values going strong.  Our practices have been defined by 22 years of growing experience and we are looking into the best methods to keep our operations running efficiently.   
  
hoop housesWith the adoption of a container recycling program, now running strong, we have reduced plastic from entering the landfill and allow you an opportunity to dispose of your unwanted waste in an eco-friendly manner.  This is just one of the ways Loma Vista Nursery is continuing its commitment to create a better environment. 
    
empty containersThe overwintering poly on our greenhouses will be removed and recycled in the spring after protecting the plants from the extreme winter weather. 
 
Loma Vista Nursery's LDC location in Olathe, Kansas is a drop off point for our customer's empty containers.   The winter hours are 8am - 3:30pm, 12905 W. 143rd Street, Olathe, Kansas.
  
As your preferred plant vendor, we can offer you the best quality plant products adapted to the Midwest.  We look forward to servicing your plant needs in 2013.  Call Kim or Lyndsi at 913-897-7010 or email kim@lomavistanursery.com to arrange for a tour of our tree fields and container farm.

Sheila Balaun, Inventory Manager, Loma Vista Nursery

Getting the Most out of a Trade Show

Winter trade shows have a long history in our industry.  I have very fond memories of heading down to Crown Center with my family to meet up with my dad and uncle at the Western Show, back when it was held at the Hyatt. I always looked forward to this because I could run around the show and collect candy from all the different vendor tables.  For lunch, my dad always took us to the Crayola CafĂ©.   From a grade school age kid's perspective, it was a blast!
 
Fast forward 20 years and I find myself working the trade show circuit during the winter months.  Although the number of shows Loma Vista participates in has decreased in the last few years, we are still what I would consider heavily involved in trade shows.  I recently attended the National Green Centre trade show in St. Louis and ProGreen Expo in Denver.  Loma Vista was also represented at the Northern Green Expo in Minneapolis.    

With decreased attendance and much less focus on buyers actually making purchases at the show, I have asked myself "why do we continue to invest in trade shows?"  With just a few mouse clicks, I can find out the inventory and prices from most nurseries through their websites and emails.
 
Here is why:
 
Wes and Dr. Mike DirrNetworking - the knowledge and expertise typically found on the trade show floor is unparalleled. Not only did we further establish vendor and customer relationships at the trade shows, but we made new ones.

Team Building - the four hour drive to St. Louis and then back with three Loma Vista team members gave us time to brainstorm and plan for the 2013 season.  Our staff is awesome and I love how enthusiastic they are about improving what we do.  The things that came from eight hours in the car was their input and their take on how Loma Vista Nursery can improve.  "We are here to help our customers succeed!"  This is what the LVN sales team is passionate about and our conversations all focused around this point.  Look for our new company mission statement based on this principle in the future. 

Educational Events - sometimes it is hard to take time away from your job to try to learn something new and gain more knowledge in new subjects.  It is easy to make excuses, too busy, too expensive, not enough time, etc.  While at a trade show, be certain to take advantage of the educational opportunities and roundtable discussions.  A fellow colleague said this at one of the discussions I attended and I will end on his quote because I absolutely believe this:
 
"The world is run by those who show up."

Lyndsi Oestmann, Vice President, Loma Vista Nursery

Are You Selling the 5D's?

A new feature at this year's National Green Centre were Google Hangouts, small group gatherings with an online speaker.  Jody Shilan, FromDesign2Build.com,  presented a talk on "It's Not the Economy, It's You."  I was intrigued by the title and wondered where the talk the would lead.  Though it was focused for landscape contractors, I believe the points he made are applicable to all of us involved in selling. 

In sales, we all get the same kinds of leads.  Shilan believes it is in differentiating the leads and navigating the customer through the process that makes the difference.  Done correctly, the economy becomes less of a factor in getting the most out of a sale. 
His talk began with the story of a 1D contractor.  A 1D contractor gives the price for exactly what the customer requests.  The resulting bid just leads to price shopping.   There is no added value and no opportunity to upsell.  A 2D contractor offers a few ideas and engages the customer a bit but is still not getting the most out of the lead.

A 5D contractor, on the other hand, is helping the customer realize the potential of the project:
  • Develop the Program
  • Determine the Priority
  • Discuss the Budget
  • Design the Dream
  • Do the Deal
Some tips Shilan offers in Developing the Program are getting the customer to think about the possibilities by walking around the property.  Get the customer excited at this point by giving ideas.  Point out choices that may need to be made with the project such as grading, privacy, etc.  Developing the Priority helps both the customer and contractor know what needs to be done first and what can come later.  It helps everyone focus.  While Discussing the Budget, don't say how much do you want to spend!  Instead, Shilan recommends asking "how much would you like to invest?"  The customer has an idea and may need a bit of help spitting out a figure.  To help them, a contractor can state "I've done projects like this for $3,000 up to $75,000."  This will help move along the budget process.  With the budget in mind and ok to design the project, it is time to collect the design fee according to Shilan.  Designing the Dream is now easier since the contractor and customer have walked the property, talked about possibilities, know the starting point and the budget.  Finally, Do the Deal. 

A selling process such as the 5D's adds value to the relationship and helps remove the perception of being a commodity. 

Another Google Hangout that I attended was "Working in the Cloud."  Watch for upcoming blog posts with tips of online resources for sharing files, collecting money, communicating, project management and more.  Though I attended in hopes of getting information on creating a mobile website, it wasn't a waste of time.  It was a fascinating talk!  Have you created a mobile website?  If so, I would love to know about the process. 

Susan Mertz, Loma Vista Nursery, Director of Marketing

More than a New Year's Resolution

It's 2013 and I can't help but think about New Year's resolutions.  First, I thought about the usual things like staying in touch with friends and family, working out more or getting a better handle on finances.  But, then realized that these are things that I need to do every year.  The last few years have been a struggle for many of us.  These days I find myself working more hours, making less profit and paying more for everything. 


For 2013, I have decided that I need to remind myself every day why I became a part of the nursery and landscape industry.  Not for the money or hours, but for the wonderful things that our business does to enhance our lives.  We not only provide a way for people to enjoy the beauty of their outdoor and indoor spaces, but we share our knowledge and love all things "green" like no other business or industry. 


So, as you plan for spring, try to remember the awesome impact that you have and the opportunity to work with the most creative, thoughtful and geniune people found on the planet.  The variety and quality of the plants available today has never been better.  All you need to do is spend a few minutes on the Loma Vista website for proof of that.  I am proud to be part of this industry and the Loma Vista family.  2013 will be a great year thanks to you! 

Jim PiferLoma Vista Nursery Sales Representative