Want to say goodbye to the stress, the hassle, and the waiting game of lawn care proposals? Here’s how.

Hey Clippers! Dave Tucker here to talk about the annual torture of proposals.

You know the drill. You spent all winter writing the perfect letter and fine-tuning your pricing. When early spring arrives, you send out your lawn care proposals and wait for the phone to ring. Surely this will be the year that the proposal process goes smoothly!

And then that late-season snowfall hits town. Not a soul is thinking about lawn mowing when they’re busy shoveling the driveway for the hundredth time. That lawn care proposal you worked so hard on is simply collecting dust on the counter or the desk. Once the weather finally warms up, it may already be in the recycling bin.

What if you could forego this whole mess? What if there was a better way to do it?

Great news: There is. But it starts with the basics.

Understanding your lawn care business.

Before you even think about sending out proposals, start with a review of last year’s business. This can set you up to turn a profit this year. Not to toot my own horn, but CLIP has quite a few great reporting tools for exactly this.

To be more specific, you need to know your man-hour rating from last year. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and read this article. Here’s a spreadsheet you can use, too. You can combine these numbers with the efficiency report to understand if you’re charging enough to cover your overhead.

Of course, you need to be strategic about adjusting your prices. Raising rates across the board to cover your losses is poor management—and a surefire way to lose valuable customers. The CLIP job costing report is a great way to investigate which lawns are making you the most profit. 

If you discover any specific jobs that aren’t earning you any money, you have two choices. You can raise that price, or you can say goodbye to that customer. (We’ll talk more about raising rates later.)

After all, the next step is creating new lawn care lawn care proposals and estimates. This process can be a hassle, and you can save yourself some misery by eliminating the jobs that aren’t worth it.

A controversial alternative to lawn care proposals.

When you mow lawns for commercial properties, you usually have a multi-year contract that rolls over from year to year. I’m a big fan of doing this with residential clients as well, instead of yearly proposals. With an ongoing contract, the agreement is “perpetual,” and you keep mowing their lawn from year to year.

There’s a specific clause in the lawn care proposal that makes this possible: You can change the price, with 30 days’ written notice. And the customer can cancel at any time. This is called “the assumed close.” You assume the sale—or, in this case, contract—will continue, and you leave it up to the customer to change that.

I like this much better than an annual lawn care proposal, and here’s why. For your customers, it can be a real pain to sign and return that proposal every year. It’s inconvenient, it’s easy to forget, and it can simply fall through the cracks.

Plus, there’s something about it that conveys insecurity. It’s like saying, “Are you sure you want to hire us again this year?” And is that the message you want to send?

Of course not! You’ve done the work and earned your stripes. You can be confident that your prices are right, your services are good, and your relationship is strong. Make it easier for your customers and yourself, and stop messing around with annual proposals. 

That’s right: I am giving you permission to do away with them altogether.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, “What if spring rolls around, I mow their lawn, and they refuse to pay?” In my experience, this is extremely rare. And in my opinion, it’s a small price to pay for saying goodbye to the hassle of proposal season. 

You never have to spend another springtime fussing with paperwork and worrying about the future of your business. If one grumpy (former) customer gets a free mow out of the deal, then so be it.

Notices and raising prices.

Let’s talk about what to do if you do need to raise prices. I mentioned earlier that you don’t need to raise prices for every job; just the ones that aren’t earning you any money. If you did your job costing correctly, it should be easy to target the accounts you want to save. You can also decide which ones you’re willing to sacrifice.

It’s never fun to let go of a customer—unless they’re a nightmare to work with. But you can’t make room for more profitable jobs if you’re not willing to cut the financial slackers.

I mentioned the 30-day price change clause before. But there are a few other best practices you can consider bolstering. First and foremost, keep in touch with your customers. This is vital for building a strong relationship. 

Price increases will seem more palatable when they know and trust the people they’re paying. And of course, send them a thank-you note at the end of the season.

When spring rolls around again, don’t send out lawn care proposals! Send out notices instead. Let your customers know that you’re excited to see them soon, and add a note about other services you offer. 

If you’re raising your prices, this is a great time to mention it. There’s no need to go into detail on price increases—and definitely don’t share that not everyone is getting one! But if you want to offer a brief explanation, you certainly can.

Man-hour ratings ensure profits.

There are three things your lawn care company should always be aiming for:

  • Long-lasting relationships with your customers.
  • Good work.
  • Man-hour ratings that keep your profits growing.

So quit messing around with proposals, and just send out a thirty-day notice when you need to raise your prices. If a customer decides they don’t need their lawn mowed anymore, let them come to you. It all comes down to this: Work smarter, not harder. Act like the company you want to be in five years, and you’ll get there in no time.

Keep clipping!
Dave