How to sell hundreds if not thousands of plants with “The Magic Candy Dish”.
Crazy like a fox. Follow along.
I am actually doing this blog post for Our Members, not really interested in showing it to the general public, but putting it here is the easiest way for me to convey my point.
Selling Plants Wholesale to other Growers.
This might seem really odd or foreign to some because they might be thinking; “Why would another grower want to buy my plants?” Trust me, they do. Growers buy millions of dollars worth of plants per year. They want what you are growing. If of course you are growing the right things.
But before we dive into this candy dish thing there’s something we need to talk about.
Lifetime Customer Value.
If you want to grow and sell plants for profit this is one of the most important things that I can teach you, and it has nothing to do with plants. It has to do with people who buy plants. For the sake of simplicity let’s make this really easy. The following groups of people buy plants.
- People who need to landscape a new house.
- People who like to garden and love buying a few new plants each year.
- Plant fanatics who just can’t get enough plants and just keep adding more and more to their yard.
- Garden Centers.
- Wholesale Growers.
That’s the short list. The really short list! There are many other groups that buy plants.
Look at my list. Some are people, some are businesses right? No, no, no! They are all people! That’s a really important point to understand. Numbers 4 through 6 own businesses, but it’s a real, live, breathing human being that does the actual buying for these businesses.
I can’t stress how important it is to understand that.
What do we know about human beings?
They are a sea of emotions.
Even big, tough, rugged guys in business have emotions and those emotions come into play with every decision that they make. They may not know that, wouldn’t believe it if we told them so, but trust me, it’s the emotions that matter. Their emotions come into play when they make decisions, especially buying decisions.
Back to lifetime customer value.
What does lifetime customer value mean? It is the total amount of money that a person or business is likely to spend with any one given business over the lifetime of their relationship with that business.
Pizza! I like pizza. We have a pizza shop down the road. What is my lifetime customer value to that pizza shop?
Not that much really. I probably order pizza from them about every 70 days???? I guess. Then once or twice a year I go there and buy a bunch of pizzas for a family outing or Our Annual Backyard Growers Shindig. But all told I might spend $300 a year with the local pizza shop and if it weren’t for those one or two big purchases that number would a lot lower.
How long will I do business with that pizza shop? Let’s say 10 years.
$300 a year for 10 years means that at best, I’m worth $3,000 to that pizza shop over 10 years.
Not a lot of money really. Not over 10 years.
What about a landscaper or a garden center?
This is where lifetime customer value really comes into play.
Even a small landscaper will likely buy $50,000 worth of plants a year. It’s how they make their living. They are in the plant buying business. Landscapers don’t grow plants. Either do garden centers. They both buy all of the plants that they need. They need to buy and resell plants just to stay in business! They need to buy and resell plants to make a living.!
So if a landscapers buys $50,000 worth of plants each year, that means he or she is buying $500,000 worth of plants in a 10 year period.
Big, big difference between what I spend
on pizza and what they spend on plants!
Re-wholesalers are people/companies that buy nursery stock wholesale and re-sell it to landscapers. Landscapers buy from them because it’s quick, easy and convenient. The re-wholesaler has a great amount of buying power because they buy so many plants in a given year. Most re-wholesalers have multi-million dollar businesses. That means that they have to buy millions of dollars worth of plants in a year because their primary product is plants that they buy and re-sell.
That means that a re-wholesaler who is doing a million a year in sales will buy 10 million dollars worth of plants in a ten year period!
Sounds crazy right?
It’s not. According to this Article, The Green Industry is doing nearly 200 Billion Dollars per year.
That looks like this on paper; $200,000,000,000.
You need to understand.
There’s a lot of money being spent on plants that most folks just don’t realize and the easiest money is in the wholesale sector of the industry.
As an example years ago I worked for this small nursery here in Perry. A few years back the local association held their annual event at this nursery. On the nursery tour that was being narrated by a friend of mine he said something that was very telling. He said; “We root about 500,000 cuttings a year, but we still buy in another 500,000 rooted cuttings per year.
At that time they were buying 500,000 rooted cuttings
per year from other growers!
And that’s why Lifetime Customer Value matters and why you always have to have that in the back of your mind as you seek wholesale buyers for your plants. I am doing this post because in conversation In Our Members Area a couple of people asked me how to “break in” to the wholesale market.
In short, you have to let wholesale buyers know that you have plants for sale. As simple as that sounds, it’s the truth. They can’t buy from you if they don’t know about you or what you grow.
And of course there area a million different ways to go about this but today I want to talk about approaching other wholesale growers who might be interested in some of what you grow. When the market is strong, as it is right now in 2016, wholesale growers often run short on all kinds of plants. And when that happens, they’ll be happy to buy from just about anybody that can sell them quality plants with fair wholesale pricing.
Anytime you are selling anything to anybody, the difficult part is getting in front of the decision maker is. And it’s even more difficult if you don’t know who the decision maker is. And if you do know who the decision maker is, it’s still likely going to be difficult to get that person to give you a few minutes.
And . . . just trying to do that is going to be pretty intimidating for many people. I know. I hate cold calling so much that I never do it. I always find a way to put my message in front of my prospective customers in such a way that they are compelled to call me. Or not. But over the years I’ve been pretty darn successful getting people to call me. Because I am not about to call them!
The benefit of getting prospects to call you is that you are only talking to interested people. Let that sink in.
Step by step, The Magic Candy Dish.
As I go through these steps, make sure you are thinking about “The Lifetime Customer Value” of the person that you are . . . shall we say; courting?
Buy a plain glass bowl. I paid $1.50 for this 6″ glass bowl at Walmart.
Make a little label that looks like this;
We are giving the prospect two ways to contact us. I mention on the label that this is a cell phone number because I want the decision maker to know that this line rings on my person and he or she won’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to reach me or play phone tag. I want them to know that these calls are important to me.
It’s really not an advantage to portray yourself as a big time, professional operation. Growers understand that a person who grows a few thousand liners at home, in their backyard, can offer them quality and great prices. They don’t care that you are a one person operation.
Notice the simplicity of the URL? LinersbyPam.com. Very easy to type into a browser and the URL explains exactly what it is that you do. You grow and sell liners. It’s as simple as that and it’s important information for them to know.
Liner? Mike, what Do You Mean by Liner?
For the person who just happens on to this page I guess I better explain what a liner is. A rooted cutting is exactly as it sounds, a cutting, pretty much a stick, with some leaves and roots on the bottom. A liner is a rooted cutting that has been grown out for one growing season. It is starting to branch out and has a much heavier root system than a rooted cutting. Growers like liners because they make up into a saleable plant much faster than a rooted cutting.
Tape the Label to the Inside Bottom of the Candy Dish.
Of course using an actual sticker or a label would probably better than taping it, but for this example I simply made it on paper and taped it in place.
Using card stock paper make some bookmarks that look like this;
Whoops! Ignore my typo or typos, I see at least one.
In my haste to get this post done I didn’t proof read my bookmark well enough. However, I will tell you that many years ago I sent out a letter to 350 people that was loaded with typos. All my fault, I was in a hurry, had to get to work, but at the last minute I decide to trim the letter down to one page instead of two.
I trimmed it down, printed it and took it to the copy shop and ordered 350 copies. On the way home as I was reading the letter I noticed the typos. But I said to myself; “I’m a landscaper, not an English teacher, people care more about the offer than they do my grammar.” That was pretty much true except for the one lady (I assumed it was a female, figured she was an English teacher, but maybe not.) who circled every typo in red and mailed the letter back to me anonymously.
$10,000 worth of typos.
I really wish she had included her name and address because that letter brought in well over $10,000! I would have like to share that with her. But anyway, I still suggest you proof read better than I did.
Back to the bookmark.
Why a bookmark? It doesn’t have to be a bookmark, but a bookmark actually has some value and can really have a long shelf life. I know that I am always looking for things that I can use as a bookmark, scraps of paper, a candy wrapper, anything I can find and once I find one that works pretty good I tend to move it from book to book when I start new books. I once grabbed the channel guide from a hotel room that is about the size of bookmark. Years later I was still using that channel guide because it worked well as a bookmark.
Putting the words (free bookmark) at the top of the bookmark is a subtle suggestion. And it really takes your promotional piece and turns it into a thing of value. Not necessarily high value, but if you are an avid reader you know the value of a good bookmark.
In this step you need to identify the businesses in your area that might be good prospects for the plants that you have to sell. If you need to you can get a list of all of the licensed growers or plant dealers in your area from your state department of agriculture via a simple public records request.
Once you’ve identified the top five or ten that you deem to be your best prospects you will take your candy dishes, with the labels attached to the inside bottom, a stack of bookmarks, and several bags of chocolate candy. Hershey’s Miniature Chocolate bars work perfectly for this. Not many people can pass up free chocolate. Especially late in the afternoon, right before dinner. The temptation is far too great.
You enter the business, set the candy dish on the receptionists desk and say; “Here’s a little chocolate candy for the folks in the office compliments of Liners by Pam.” or whatever the name of your business is. As you are making your explanation you simply slip 5 or 10 of your bookmarks into the candy dish as you are dumping in the chocolate bars.
As you leave let the receptionist know that you will be back to refill the candy dish so ask her to keep it near by. Then you leave. You’ll leave her a bit perplexed but chances are she might pick up the candy dish and start showing it around the office. Because . . . it’s a unique and novel approach to calling attention to the plants that you have to sell. Chances are the decision maker, the person who actually decides what to buy, is going to come across the “Magic Candy Dish” and your free “bookmarks”.
Think Lifetime Customer Value!
Yes this will cost you a few bucks. Is it worth it? Absolutely if you helps you sell some plants and pick up a customer that buy from you over and over for years and years.
Here are some things to think about.
This will work if you put the candy dish in the right businesses and refill it a few times. There are a lot of factors in play that most people never even think about. They are . . .
The Law of Reciprocity.
Most of the companies that you target with this approach will not be big companies started with a great big pile of stock holder money or the funds of a millionaire or billionaire family. Most of these businesses, these nurseries, were started by one person with a dream, a great deal of ambition and a handful of rooted cuttings.
They know what it’s like to strive and to struggle. They will recognize and appreciate your boldness. They will admire you for getting out there and doing what you have to do to build your business. They will admire your creativity and respect the fact that you are willing to work hard and put yourself out there in this manner.
Then there’s the law of reciprocity.
The law of reciprocity is pretty well documented in the world of psychology and basically says that when you give something to someone they feel compelled to give you something or do something for you in return. As simple as it sounds it is a fact and it can be powerful. By you simply giving away a small amount of chocolate candy, even though it is painfully obvious that your motive is to sell your plants, you are immediately elevated in the mind of the receiver.
Not only did you give away some chocolate, but you gave away a valuable candy dish and you promised to come back and refill the candy dish. For many people that’s almost incomprehensible and might be deemed foolish.
This approach flips the entire experience of selling on it’s head.
Think about the hundreds of people who walk into reception areas everyday attempting to sell. Attempting to get an appointment. You can spot them a mile away. You know how they dress, what they carry, how they carry themselves and how overflowing they are with fake charm.
The receptionist is the gatekeeper. He or she is trained in how to deal with, speak to, “get rid of” sales people. And chances are the standard answer is not; “Please have a seat and I’ll see that Mr. Jones sees you right away.” His or her job is to politely tell them something then send them on their merry way.
But you and your chocolate candies?
It’s a different approach, an approach that is designed to get the decision maker to call you.
The “Hidden Benefit”of “The Magic Candy Dish”.
The people in this industry move around, change jobs, change positions etc. But they seldom leave the industry. The green industry is very addictive. I know dozens of people who have been working in this industry since we were all in high school. Many of them, most of them, have moved from nursery to nursery, doing different jobs along the way, but they don’t leave the industry.
They know people!
So even if the company that you approach is not in the market for your plants, somebody in that office might know exactly who could use your plants. Might be a long shot, but you just never know.
Cold Calling and the Lifetime Value of a Customer.
I told you that I hate cold calling and therefore I never do it. That’s not completely true. And you need to know that when I was young, right out of high school, I truly was an extremely introverted person who hated talking to strangers. Hated it! Scared to death.
But I was working for this landscaper who honestly didn’t know a lot about plants. It was obvious to me that I knew ten times what he did. He would come to me and have me decipher his invoices because he did not know any botanical names. While in high school I had spent two years working in a large wholesale nursery and I learned a great deal about plants. I learned a lot!
But this guy, we’d be on a landscape job and he walk up to the customers and start babbling off about the plants, mispronouncing all of the plant names but he had a big smile on his face and all the confidence in the world. I thought to myself; “If he can talk to people then so can I!” I had a desire to start my own landscaping business so I knew that I’d have to actually talk to people.
So one day I mustered up all the courage I had and knocked on the door of a new home that needed landscaping and asked if I could design a landscape for their house, no charge. The lady said go right ahead.
Long story short I got the job and I made more money in one day than I ever had in my life.
So there! Cold Calling Works!
But I still hated it so I wouldn’t do it. But one day I actually knocked on the wrong door and told the lady that I was there to look at the landscaping they called about. She seemed puzzled and said; “I guess my husband must have called.” and took me around the house, showed me what they wanted done, and I told her I’d put together a plan and a quote and get back to her in a day or two.
Hot under the collar! Boy oh boy!
When I got home I realized my mistake. I knocked on the wrong door! Right development, but wrong street, wrong house. These people hadn’t called me at all. Just as I was realizing my mistake the phone rang. It was the lady’s husband and man oh man was he hot under the collar. I didn’t call you! Who do you think you are?!
As he was blowing off steam I tried to calm him down and apologized for my mistake and told him how it had happened. Once I convinced him that it was an honest mistake he said; “Well, you have all the information you might as well go ahead and give us a price.”
Not only did I get that job, but I did work at their home on several different occasions and for years I plowed snow at both of their businesses and their home. I also landscape the home of this man’s parents! Actually maintained a relationship with them for over 30 years.
I told you that to tell you this.
Getting the word out about what you do, what you sell, is how you build a business. I still hate cold calling and won’t do it. But my dislike for a technique that actually works has turned me into a pretty good marketer who has developed many systems for getting interested prospects to call me.
The candy dish idea? Not mine, I learned it from somebody else.
Questions or comments post them below.