Last week, I had the distinct and unexpected pleasure of going through a three-day sales-training program. At first, I said, “I'm an editor, not a salesperson. What's in it for me?” I also was concerned about the three days this would take out of my busy schedule. The program was set up as a series of role-playing exercises, and we were divided into teams of sellers and clients. We all had the opportunity to play the role of the client and sales team in order to understand the process from both perspectives. After initial hamming-it-up by some participants, we settled down to the business of developing our presentations, gaining information from our clients and responding to their concerns. Later we analyzed the experience as a group. It was a great exercise that made me realize that we are all involved in the selling process, but we often don't recognize it as such.

So you, too, say, “What's in it for me?” Whether you are a golf-course superintendent trying to “sell” your next year's operating budget to the greens committee, a grounds manager at a park or school lobbying for capital expenses or you are directly involved in selling your landscape or lawn-care services to your customers, you need to have the skills to successfully persuade your audience that your idea, budget, service or other offering is a worthy investment. A good relationship with your client, an organized presentation and a sincere interest in — and good understanding of — the needs of the audience to whom you are presenting can go a long way toward the gaining acceptance of your proposal. Take the time to hone your selling skills even if you are not “in sales.”

Aside from the focused content of this particular training program, I learned another important lesson — that of professional development. It's easy to get in the rut of assuming you know it all and don't have the time to learn more and improve yourself. Don't go that route. You have a great opportunity to advance your professional development that's just around the corner. The conference season is just beginning, so take advantage of the educational programs they have to offer. Who knows, if you're like me, maybe you'll find that they can teach old dogs new tricks.

To some degree, you're all involved in landscape design, whether it's a design around the golf course clubhouse, park entrance, school grounds or residential property. Presenting a landscape design and selling its attributes to your client (be they a greens committee, park planning commission, school board or residential customer) can be a slippery proposition. Here, you are selling an intangible concept rather than something they can easily grasp and visualize. Computer graphics offer a solution to the visualization dilemma that hand gestures and blueprints just can't seem to satisfy. You can create before-and-after images to give your clients that mental picture they need. Learn how computer-imaging techniques can help you create that perspective in our opening feature, “Picture this,” by Tony Bertauski, beginning on page 12.

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