Thursday, May 27, 2010

Welcome to the World of Sales Mr. Superintendent

Golf Course superintendents face lot of challenges in selling major capital projects to management, owners and boards of directors.
In these cases the superintendent is the seller and the management, owners and boards of directors are the buyers.

What are the reasons that make it difficult to sell project to management?

The reasons are:

Tactical vs. Strategic
Superintendents tend to sell tactically while club management buys strategically. This leads to a gap or mismatch between what club management presumes it needs and the arguments used by the superintendent for convincing them what the club actually needs. Focusing on project management tools, techniques, technology etc. will not work with club management as they generally look at the “Big Club Picture”.

What club management needs or what are they interested in?
Club owners, boards and managers are interested in:

Strategic Business Decisions - Decisions that would enable strategic advantage, examples are:
  1. Increased dues income
  2. Reduced maintenance / cost of maintenance
  3. More business activity in rounds, special events and F&B
  4. Increasing Market Share
  5. More Members / Players from your immediate 10 mile radius
Strategic Selling Techniques – They are increasing market share, creating new markets (unique club events, appeal to wider demographics), possible club expansion (facilities), competitive advantage against other local clubs, increasing business revenue, increasing profits and ROI (Return on Investment).

What Club Management doesn’t need or what are they NOT interested in?

Remember, as a rule, superintendents are oriented towards Tactical Selling Strategies, which most clubs’ management are generally not interested in. Tactical Selling Techniques emphasizes on; cutting costs, specific quality improvement and organizational effectiveness.

Operational vs. Strategic

Golf course superintendents are operational in approach and focus on specific tools and features of a project. But club management is generally interested in strategic tools that add value to the membership and business.

Insensitivity to organizational changes

Golf course superintendents need to be sensitive to the difficulties caused by changes in organization culture. Implementation of new project or processes results in significant changes in the internal work environment. For example a new project implementation may require using sophisticated technology while other departments will not reap the benefits. Also, bundling projects so that social members get a portion of capital often works to popularize a project along multiple demographics.

Conflicting needs of various divisions in the organization

Superintendents use a common approach without understanding specific needs of various sections in the clubs’ organization. A superintendent needs to be dedicated and aware at a club-wide level so as to follow a consistent approach across various divisions within the club organization. Even though the golf course is the number one asset at most clubs, funds and improvements can not only be directed to the course.

Varied thinking of club management

Each manager, owner or board member has a different mindset to a new project. The superintendents use the same approach in selling projects without understanding different buyer’s mindsets. The clubs offerings are varied and so is the decision maker’s. Most clubs offer dining, tennis, swimming and fitness as other functions that need capital funding from time to time.

Political under currents

Political undercurrents in club culture also make it difficult to sell a project. The superintendent needs to be alert on any organization changes that may affect the delicate project dynamics.

Insufficient training

Club management often feels superintendents are already practicing project management and strategic planning and the superintendent may require the need advance their education to achieve the clubs’ organization goals.

How to sell projects to club management?

Superintendents often argue that timely capital projects help in higher standards of maintenance. Instead they should explain how new capital projects will lead to more dues income and an increase in rounds played leading to additional revenues for the club. A well executed capital project will enhance the members experience and add value to the club business.

What are the ways to sell a project successfully to club managers, owners and boards of directors?

Superintendents should focus on the following to sell a capital project successfully to club management:

Focus on Measurable Results - Measurable results examples – increase revenue, staff growth and retention, capturing new members, improving on the local club competition. These parameters are integrated with organizations strategic objectives.

Assess Organizational Environment – Assess the organizational inclination towards a new project. This could be done by taking an inventory of successful and less than successful projects. Then identify key reasons for failure or success using surveys and project archives. Having done all the above a better strategy could be derived to sell the capital project.

Ensure Strong Buyer Seller Relationship - A professional relationship should be maintained with club managers, owners and boards. Above all, the superintendent should universally known be trustworthy and capable to carryout the duties of owners representative and / or project management.

Understand Individual Needs - Since club management have different opinions on a capital project, superintendents must invest time and effort in understanding the clubs’ needs.

Avoid Project Management Jargons – While selling capital projects to club leaders superintendents should use simple business terms such as long term benefits, higher ROI, NPV (Net present Value), Savings, Success, Competitive advantage etc. Very little selling ground is gained by explaining that a new irrigation system will report local soil moisture and salt concentration conditions and apply water based on evapotranspiration though the improved Penman-Monteith equation. This type of technical speak will have a negative impact on you’re your layman audience.

Additional Opportunities

Be sure to have all information, needs and benefits for the project and don’t present the project without knowing the odds for approval. Most often a waiting period can be considerable before a failed or unapproved project can be presented before the membership again.


By understanding some of the dynamics of capital project approval your odds of convincing the decision makers on the importance of your project will improve dramatically. Superintendents by nature don’t require selling as part of their daily job description. However, sometime during your career you will be in a position to sell a large capital golf course project, good luck and keep these tips in mind.

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