Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

Do you feel like you’re just a number when submitting a project proposal? Most likely you are. In today’s connected world, it’s becoming more and more common to see clients requesting proposals by email, and expecting a return proposal be sent electronically. No doubt, it’s a quick, easy and efficient way of communicating. It’s also completely impersonal.

When you submit and respond to a proposal via email, it becomes nothing more than a business transaction. Your client then simply reviews the numbers and selects the lowest price.

As I travel the country meeting with landscape contractors, I am seeing a disturbing trend of salespeople doing nothing more than submitting their proposals by email. Don’t get me wrong, email is a great tool. You can create some pretty amazing proposals electronically. However, it’s certainly not the best way to be successful in sales. Submitting your numbers and hoping for the best is not a great strategy.

How do we change that? Start building relationships! To go from just being a number to building a long-term, loyal client relationship takes time and effort. If you are successful though, your results will be well worth it.

  • Your sales will increase.
  • Your profits will soar.
  • The quality of your prospects and clients will be better.

The first step in building relationships is to define your ideal client. This step is critical in determining where to focus your efforts. Then, decide how best to start building great relationships.

Regular face-to-face meetings and handwritten notes may sound old-school, but they are still excellent ways to connect better with your clients.

I have created a list of 20 Relationship Building Habits and here are my top 5:

1. Take a prospect or current client to lunch. Doing this became difficult with restrictions due to COVID-19, but restrictions are now loosening up. It’s time to get back to setting up lunch or breakfast meetings. If they are busy, offer to bring lunch to their office. Everyone has to eat!

2. Send handwritten notes. Handwritten notes make an impact. People love getting a letter in the mail. Unfortunately, this is becoming a lost art due to email and social networking. It takes no more than five minutes each day to send a thank you note, a congratulatory note or a birthday card.

3. Write a testimonial for one of your clients. We always want to post a testimonial from one of our clients on our websites. It gives you and your business instant credibility. What if you did that for one of your clients? I guarantee they’ll love it. You first need to find out what business they are in, and then become a client of theirs.

4. Set up monthly face-to-face meetings with your clients. It’s quite easy to forget about your existing clients when you are trying to close prospects. Your existing clients are a great source of revenue and referrals, so make time to see your top clients monthly. If they do not want to meet face-to-face, this is where technology helps. Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meets all work well. I also suggest trying It’s a great way to walk your client’s property virtually with them. You can point out potential enhancement opportunities on your virtual walk-through.

5. Reward your clients when they give you referrals. There is nothing better than getting a great referral from a client. Most turn into new sales. If you get a referral from a client, sending flowers, gift baskets or gift cards are great ways to thank them for the referral. It does not have to be much. Consider building a relationship with a restaurant or a florist where they will discount the cost of the gift cards to you if you commit to a minimum number of cards over one year.

Relationship building is not a one-time marketing effort. Relationship building needs to become a habit. It should be the way you do business going forward. If you do this, I guarantee that you will be extremely happy with the results!

Note: if you would like a copy of all my Relationship Building Habits, please send me an email at