While in Kauai, Hawaii, last February enjoying TCIA’s Winter Management Conference (WMC) 2022, I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with Mike Earl. Mike, a CTSP and Certified Arborist, is owner of Old Growth Tree Service, LLC, an accredited, seven-year TCIA member company based in Eagle, Colorado, near Vail. Mike and I had a great time collaborating, sharing ideas and enjoying each other’s company. He had made a visit to my operation in the past, and I had seen his operation in Colorado. We’d worked together on and off through the years, supporting one another through phone calls, emails and other forms of communication. After the meeting in Kauai, I knew we needed to do a bigger project together, though I was not sure what it would be.
When I returned to work, I had an epiphany. What have I done in the past to really help improve the training of my sales team to ensure they are most effectively serving our clients? We’ve done sales meetings and other informal sales trainings, but it was always a one-dimensional process coming from only me, or them sharing just their experiences. While they are a great team and do a great job, it wasn’t as structured and thought out as the training we do with our production, maintenance or plant-health-care teams. This is where I thought Mike and I could put something together that could be really special.
After talking with Mike, we decided to work on this project and invite Joey Eves, CTSP and owner of Coastal Tree Care, an accredited, seven-year TCIA member company based in San Diego, California, and Darren Diaz, CTSP, QCL and CEO of David’s Tree Service, Inc., a 22-year TCIA member company based in Huntington Beach, Calif.
I met Darren at TCIA’s Executive Arborist Workshop (EAW) in Dallas, Texas, in 2021, and we hit it off a few months later when he came up for a shop tour and weekend of shenanigans.
Joey and I had met at WMC in Puerto Rico several years ago and became close friends, going on countless adventures together, including dirt biking in Colorado and a motorcycle tour through the Sierras with Jeff Grewe, president of Arbor Aesthetics Tree Service, an accredited, 10-year TCIA member company based in Omaha, Nebraska. We’ve also camped on the San Diego coast and had a great Airbnb weekend in Kauai. Joey and I have helped push one another to new business heights that would not have been reached had we not met.
The four of us agreed to have Zoom meetings once a week for 90 minutes at a time and really identify what each of us could improve on to better serve our clients through the sales process. Initially, I had the idea to have a group Zoom meeting with all our sales-team members to share what we had created together. Within weeks of our group collaboration, we realized what was truly needed was to create what we named our “Sales Summit.”
Structuring the Sales Summit
Joey offered San Diego as a host city for our Summit. Similar to a TCIA EAW event, we would all fly in and spend 72 hours working together in a conference room, split into smaller-group breakout sessions for problem-solving aspects of the sales process. Finally, we’d regroup with everyone to discuss our findings as a whole.
We’d format the Summit around analyzing the sales process as three different components:
Philosophy: Why do we sell tree work?
Pricing: How would we price the project if the client wasn’t there? The nuts and bolts of bidding a project.
Process: When meeting with clients, what are the steps to determine what their true needs are, communicate the value of our services to them and have them most likely choose our services?
We made the decision not to do this alone and to seek expertise and experience to ensure our best outcome for this event. Joey suggested we employ Steve Heroux, a sales guru with a great sales-training platform, www.victoryselling.com, already in place. We then had our team start working through his process. We organized the logistics of our Sales Summit, agreeing to have everyone arrive on a Sunday night and kick things off with a great dinner at a very swanky restaurant right on the Pacific coastline.
Night one, Joey made sure we had a private outdoor room, with all our food being served cocktail-party style. He ordered steaks, prawns, fish, sushi and countless other delectable appetizers. The food was glorious and the drinks were even better. Everyone mingled and got to know each other, which we believe was the most powerful part of the Summit.
Why waste the most valuable time in a conference room with the standard, “My name is …, I am from …, I’ve been doing trees this long and I like fishing/golf/travel …” These types of forgettable introductions could consume the first hour or more of our Summit and simultaneously destroy any potential energy or excitement around the event.
Monday would start with Steve introducing the group to the Sales Summit and spending four hours with the team discussing his philosophies and objectives in sales. After Steve’s introductions, we would break for a group lunch with more socializing.
That afternoon and into Tuesday, we would go into breaking down the three pieces of the sales process as we saw them: philosophy, pricing and process. Each one of our four business owners would make a presentation. Then we’d send groups out for smaller breakout sessions on those topics. The groups would return with feedback, and, finally, we’d put thoughts on big Post-it notes on the wall. This, we felt, would get everyone leaning in, passionate and working through the Summit process together.
Monday night would be a fantastic, upscale, beachfront, Latin-fusion dinner.
Work the plan
We planned the event and the event went as planned. Monday blasted off with Steve Heroux leading a new group of friends learning from a professional about the nuts and bolts of effective consulting with current and future clients to make sure all their needs and expectations are being met. After lunch, Joey Eves smashed it with a world-class presentation on the philosophy of why we do what we do. Without any further discussion needed, he hit all of it. Then our teams went into breakouts and came back with more than any of the four of us even knew could be achieved.
Darren Diaz was up next, and, with the bases loaded, he knocked it out of the park, with nothing left to be said about pricing. Until the breakouts, when our team members taught the four of us what pricing is all about.
Our sales teams exemplified the power of collaboration with 10 minds working as one, filling in blind spots that were unknown to our business owners, who each have anywhere from 20 to 35 years of experience owning tree-service companies.
That night drinks were flowing and everyone was having a good time. Day one of our summit had been a success – the four of us won day one. In the end, the team members schooled the bosses, and there was a well-deserved smirk hiding inside each one of our most capable, humble and appreciative team members. They all knew they, too, had blown us away with their efforts and contributions.
Sales Summit day two
Tuesday morning we were up early for another group breakfast and then dove back in for more meetings. I took on processes, ready to share my 35 years of experience, and thought there would be nothing left on the 3-foot Post-it notes now hanging slightly crooked on the textured walls. Again, the teams filled several more Post-its, and again I learned how much I did not know about my job of 35 years.
Mike Earl brought it home with a plant-health-care (PHC) session that was better thought out and presented than I have ever witnessed. The man is a genius and more than comfortable in the deep end of the PHC pool. We had some snacks and worked until two in the afternoon, at which time we all went and had our last group meal together.
This one consisted of an incredible taco bar with an assortment of delicious fillings. I’ve never seen a group so enthused, with everyone wanting to go sell right then and there. That evening everyone parted, and we hopped on planes back to our respective areas of service.
The teams decided to continue communicating with one another with weekly Zoom meetings and updates.
The seminar worked. All four companies experienced increased closing rates, higher customer satisfaction and better returns on the job. The relationships between the production crews, the sales teams and the office staff also have improved. Communication is much better, and it just seems to have been a win all around.
We have created a plethora of information we are all utilizing. We’re going to hold this information close to our collective vest, because it’s what we created, and if we gave it away, it would not be worth much to anyone else.
If you’re interested in moving forward with something like this, give me a shout and I will be happy to share with you how we did it and how you can do something similar to create your own results and your own findings.
First bit of advice is, hold it in San Diego and have Joey pick your restaurants. Be ready – Joey brings a stocked quiver of surfboards and surf accessories. Several of the team members ended up at Tourmaline Surfing Park in Pacific Beach for some post-Summit wave therapy.
Got to love TCIA, WMC and the connections made there.
Tad Jacobs, CTSP, QCL, is president of Treemasters, an accredited, 14-year TCIA member company based in San Rafael, Calif., and a member of TCIA’s Board of Directors. He also is a former member of TCIA’s Peer-to-Peer Networking Group.
He presented on “Leadership in Tree Care” during TCI EXPO ’21 in Indianapolis, Indiana. To listen to an audio recording for that presentation, go to this page in the digital version of this issue of TCI Magazine online at tcimag.tcia.org and, under the Resources tab, click Audio. Or, under the Current Issue tab, click View Digimag, then go to this page and click here.