Here is an actual email I received today:

I am interested in possibly scheduling an appt. with your company. We have a large lot and have been here for about 4 years and the weeds are overwhelming us. I am not sure if you do natural type projects with little to no chemicals, that is what I am looking for. My husband wants to do it all, but does not have the time. . Wondering if you do free estimates as well.

(Name Withheld)

First I should explain. I am no sales guru. You will not find my face on the cover of a book that teaches readers to earn millions in 7 easy steps. I’m a landscape contractor, just like you (most of you, anyway). Probably with truckloads more web experience than you, but still, we’re cut from the same burlap.

Now, let’s dig into why Blake (Alec Baldwin) in Glengarry, Glen Ross would call this lead “dead wood”:

First, you’ll notice no phone number or address is given in the email. That tells you this prospective client is uncertain enough about whether she even wants to hire someone to do this that she is leaving those details out. You’ll have to jump through a few hoops to get those, apparently.

Next, take a look at the second to last sentence “My husband wants to do it all, but does not have the time.” For those unfamiliar with clientspeak, this is code for “We really don’t know how much this is going to cost, but our budget is small enough that we were going to it ourselves.  We thought we’d contact you to see if you’d charge us much more than what it’d cost for us to do it ourselves.” If you’ve been in business for more than 15 minutes, you know that doing a project for the cost of retail materials is just not possible. The only sense they have for costs of the project is what they priced or estimated themselves, which is often several miles away from what it would cost to have the job done professionally.

Lastly, she’s asking about a free estimate. Not that we don’t do it; we do. But when it’s a specific point of inquiry, it’s one more card stacked on the low budget deck.

The likely outcomes for this project? Either they get it priced, fall back in shock and horror, deciding to do it themselves as they curse the landscaping industry for being so profit-crazy, or they just decide to do nothing. It’s too much work for them, but too much money to have done.

In my return email (hey, I’m a giver) I cut to the quick. If this prospective client can’t provide these pieces of information, then this is more than dead wood. This is dead wood covered in gasoline. I think I’ve got a match around here somewhere…

Hi (Name Withheld)-
Thanks for your note. I’m going to need some information from you:
What it is you want done (are you just looking to have your lawn weed-free?)
What your budget is for the project
Your telephone number
Your address
When you need this project completed
Get back to me with that information and I’ll be able to provide more info for you, as well as potentially setting up an initial visit.
Best regards,
Jeff Pozniak
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