In my previous post, I outlined steps to find 5 companies to choose from that have the potential to become your interior plant service provider. Once you’ve picked the 5 candidates, it’s time to narrow it down to the top 3 to submit a proposal. To prepare for the screening process I am going to outline a list of questions that you can choose from for the initial phone interview. Depending on your service needs, some of these questions may or may not pertain to your situation. When you place the call, explain where you’re offices are located and ask for the sales representative that would service that area.
Here are some of the best questions to use for screening the candidates:
- How long has your company been in business and who is the owner?
- What involvement does your ownership have in the operation of the business?
- What geographic area does your company service? If you have multiple buildings, or offices, you will want to know how this company will service those locations.
- What type of services does your company offer?
- What percentage of your business is devoted to interior plant services?
- What is the process for submitting a proposal?
- Is there a fee for a design consultation and site visit?
- Does your company offer rental and purchase options for both plants and decorative planters?
- What is the lead time for installation once I place an order?
- What types of seasonal rotation programs does your company offer?
- What is your company procedure for controlling plant pests? What types of chemicals does your company use for this control?
- What is your company policy if I am not satisfied with a plant that is delivered?
- How often does your company come to service the plants?
- What is your company’s quality control program?
- Depending on the program I choose, what is the term of the maintenance or rental agreement?
- What separates your company from the competition?
- What is your company’s cancellation policy?
The sales rep should be able to articulate a clear response to all of the questions you are asking. Any hesitancy or if the rep is unclear about their company’s services and policies might be a signal of something you should be aware of. If you are speaking to a young rep without much experience, that is no reason to cross them off your list.
Give the rep a chance to acknowledge that they are new to sales or to the company. If they don’t know the answer to their company’s position on something, they should admit that and ask for the opportunity to get back to you with more information. If however, they just respond that they don’t know that answer, try to make something up, or talk around the subject, then that is probably not someone that will be the best fit for your needs. The best scenario is to be connected with an experienced representative that can clearly answer all your questions. Ideally the phone interview should become more of a two way conversation. A good rep will be a good listener but also ask appropriate questions during the phone call to understand your needs and assist with your screening process. A good sales rep. is going to ask you some questions, to make sure your company is right fit for their service operation as well.
From your list of questions, if you feel that the rep has provided clear answers that fit your needs, go ahead and set up a meeting. The representative should schedule a time that he/she can walk through the space with you and take notes on where you want to place plants. They may want to take photos of some of the locations, so they can provide a professional photo presentation of plants for specific areas. As the rep walks through the space they may make recommendations to include plants in areas you may not have considered. It’s up to you if you want those areas to be included in the bid. However, if it is more important that you receive 3 bids that are comparable then ask the rep. to outline those additions on a separate quote. If your priority is design oriented, you may want to open up the first meeting to let the rep offer suggestions for placement and types of plants. From your first meeting you should have a good idea of what the rep will be like to work with. If you’re uncomfortable with the rep during the meeting, make a note of it for your decision making process. They are going to be your go to person if you choose that company as your plantscape contractor, so it is very important that you feel they are someone you can work with. At the close of your meeting the rep should be able to give you an idea of when they will get back to you with a proposal. Be prepared to set up a time to meet again for the presentation.