The door to your store swings open. The familiar chime from the door sensor rings through the air, instinctively pulling your eyes to the entryway. You see someone standing there, looking curiously at the hot tubs on your floor.

This person could be your next hot tub sale. Are you prepared?

When it comes to hot tub sales expertise, it's hard to beat Juliet Phelps. Co-owner of Ajax Pool and Spa in the competitive Aspen, Colo., market, Phelps has decades of spa sales under her belt and has won 13 Jacuzzi International Design Awards in a row.

How is she so successful? From sale to installation, she keeps three things in mind: trust, value and excitement.

We chatted with Phelps about these steps and how they lead to better sales in a spa store.

1. Trust

For most people, a hot tub is a big purchase. And like any other big-ticket item, your customer is likely worried about making the right decision. "Am I buying the right spa for my needs? What's the installation going to be like — am I going to get hit with a bunch of hidden fees?"

"You have to be transparent about the whole process and how much it costs," Phelps says. "Discuss all those details up front."

Phelps finds many customers come in with little to no understanding of what an installation entails; many are surprised to hear they'll need an electrician on site. The key is to stay on the same page as your customer and offer ways to make the process as easy as possible.

"I'll say, 'Hey, who's your electrician? Is it somebody you've used before? Want me to call somebody and make that appointment?'" she says. "That way, I can get the cost up front."

Trust is also created by establishing yourself as a knowledgeable professional. For example, a potential client recently came to Ajax and asked Phelps to bid on his spa project. He wanted to remove his custom gunite spa and replace it with a new Jacuzzi model. However, since the gunite spa was sunk into the ground, surrounded by intricate stonework, he was concerned about how the installation would take place.

"When he was interviewing different companies, he asked me, 'Why would you do it your way and not the other guys' way?' And I responded, 'Because my way would cover your warranty. If you do it the other way, your warranty will not be covered," she says.

Phelps explained that her installation strategy would keep the spa firmly in place and thus maintain the integrity of the stonework around it. Any other installation method might have caused the spa to shift, not only making the installation look messy, but also voiding the spa's warranty.

Despite a bid higher than the other offers on the table, the client went with her.

"My response to him was a knowledgeable response, and that gave him more trust in using me than other guys who offered a cheaper method," Phelps says.

2. Value

For your customer, "value" often means the same thing as "price." "Is this hot tub a good deal? Could I get the same model for a better price somewhere else?"

Yet value is more than a matter of cost — it's about what they'll get by buying a product from you in particular. That's why Phelps starts the sales process by introducing the customer to the top model first.

"I would say the first part of value is first impression," she says. "When I sell a spa, I'll take them to the most expensive spa and show them the tremendous amount of value that's in it: how well it's built, how nice the pumps are, how good the jets are, how good the lights are, how good the warranty is. And as they go down in price point, we start taking those things away.

"Say I went from a two-pump spa to a one-pump spa. I would tell the customer, 'Well, going from a two-pump spa to a one-pump spa should save you about $1,200.' Or, 'It's going to be $2,000 cheaper, but you're also going to have a two-year warranty instead of a five-year warranty,' which usually gets a guy's attention."

To take this approach, salespeople must be well versed in the assets found in each model, including warranty, strategic jet placement, a well-crafted base, features unique to the model (Bluetooth synching, LED lights, waterfalls, etc.) and more.

3. Excitement

When Phelps first saw Jacuzzi's new model, the J-500, she was thrilled.

"It has a completely different spa look. It looks like a Japanese bowl on the cabinet, which is illuminated, and it has a different texture on the exterior, like wicker or high-end furniture. It looks like it's right out of the Four Seasons," she says. "It made all our jaws drop."

The J-500 is now the most expensive spa in Ajax's showroom. While it may seem difficult to sell a spa with that kind of price tag, Phelps has already sold five this year, largely due to the way she pitches them to customers: by making them look exciting.

As outlined earlier, Phelps and her team begin the sales process at the top of the product line and move down; with the addition of the J-500, that's now where they start. When introducing potential customers to the spa, Phelps uses the same language from above. She compares the spa to an ornate Japanese bowl, and mentions its hotel-grade appearance.

"I put together a whole game plan about how I am going to introduce that new spa," she says.

Boosting the excitement is the design of the J-500's space. The floor model is located in the back of the showroom in its own enclave, giving it a sense of exclusivity. It's paired with an outdoor day bed and other high-end furniture, as well a Big Green Egg grill. (See p. 21 for a glimpse of the dispay.)

"Giving them that whole visual just gets them even more excited," she says.

The display and the pitch intertwine to stoke the customer's interest and get them enthusiastic about the hot tub lifestyle as a whole.

"Excitement is really something that drives sales," Phelps says. "You get excited about buying a new car, you get excited about buying a good cut of meat to make a wonderful dinner, you get excited about getting a new purse. You don't get excited about buying some plain old black purse because you need another black purse because the dog chewed the handle on the last one. You want to find something that excites you, has good value and then on top of that, you want to trust it's not going to fall apart. These same things apply to almost everything we buy, and it's no different with a hot tub."

Tie It All Together

The beauty of the above three steps is that they're never isolated; they work in tandem throughout the entire sales process to leave the customer excited and confident in his or her decision. Juliet offers a pertinent example:

"Sometimes I have a customer that really has a tight budget; maybe it's a family that can barely afford a hot tub. They don't want to throw down $10,000. They want to be sure they get a really good value. They want to be sure that they have peace of mind that whatever they buy is safe and is going to last a long time. And then it's an exiting thing! Lots of times, I deliver a hot tub and the kids already have their bathing suits on and the electrician doesn't come until tomorrow!

"To get to that point, this guy had to trust me. He had to trust that I was going to deliver it right and not wreck his backyard, that we would give him all the details, that I was going to come back and do all the things I said I was going to do, and in the end, he was going to have what I call 'pride in ownership.' Because what is that customer going to do? He's going to give you more business. He's going to come back time and time again and buy more things from you because he trusts you're going to give him value and good service. All those things turn into magic."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail cailley@aquamagazine.com.

Cailley Hammel is Managing Editor of AQUA Magazine.