Successfully selling a swimming pool starts long before your prospective pool owner even darkens your door. Just like any other effective operation, pool sales can be broken down into steps. Developing an organized method for sales success rather than randomly scampering after leads will guarantee you higher sales volume, higher profit and better use of your time. You can sell pools the easy way or the hard way. Selling the easy way is more fun and much more effective. While many of these steps are things any successful pool builder already knows, creating an organized plan that incorporates them all will ensure that none are overlooked.

THE PRE-SALE

Greetings. Your prospective client's very first contact with your company is critical to sales success. Everyone in your organization should be trained to greet the prospect effectively and pleasantly and leave a good first impression, whether in person or on the phone. Greet prospects as if they are valued guests in your home. Be sure that every member of your staff understands how important this is.

Solidify The Lead. Make sure all employees have a supply of your store's lead sheets and train them on their importance. Have them get contact information (name, phone numbers, address, e-mail) and find out where the prospect heard about your store; this is important information that, when recorded over time, will help you make advertising and marketing decisions. Next, qualify the prospect by finding out what their budget parameters are.

Get The Appointment If the prospect appears to be serious and ready to set an appointment, the sales department should follow up promptly. If you sell hot tubs or aboveground pools, this step should take place immediately. If you sell custom pools requiring special design work specific to a site, then the salesperson should make an appointment to look at the customer's property.

The First Meeting. Ideally, the first contact should take place in a setting you control with an environment that helps make the sale. Have a beautiful display pool, create a lushly landscaped Shangri-La that engages your customers' senses of touch, sound, sight and smell and sells both the pool/spa concept and the idea that yours is the best company to execute this concept.

This is also an ideal setting to sell additional items that add to the bottom line: patio furniture, .oats, toys, games, outdoor kitchens, barbecue grills, sport courts, fencing, gazebos, landscaping, etc.

COLLATERAL TOOLS In addition to your sales environment, it is important to have effective printed material, photography and even audio/visual aids to help sell your company in general and the pool or hot tub in particular. A digital business card in CD form that effectively presents your pool-building skills and experience is one idea. Make sure, however, that any photography and graphic design you use is high quality and professional looking. It is important to sell your company's image before you can sell your product.

I developed a tool for our company that gives prospective pool owners an objective way to measure and compare the companies they are considering. This matrix is a series of questions they should have each company answer, and each question has a score value. They then add up the scores and can compare them on a spreadsheet. Give the potential customer a completed matrix for your store along with several blank copies so they can have the competing pool companies complete the form. This puts your competition on the defensive immediately, gives them an extra chore to do before they can even be considered for the job and establishes your company as a prepared, professional, serious company that's ready and eager for comparison.

After establishing your company's credentials, turn your attention to listening carefully to your prospects. Find out what they are looking for through carefully directed questions. Listen and take notes.

Once you have the information you need to work up a proposal, set the next appointment for a specific date and time. If you don't, you could have difficulty reaching them, or worse, they could buy from somebody else before you get back to them. With an appointment agreed upon, they will be more likely to feel a commitment to you. Also, when people buy an unfamiliar product, they often appreciate being guided through decisions, and making the decision process easier for them gives you an advantage.

THE PRESENTATION

There are a lot of new technologies available that can help you present an outstanding design proposal, including CAD, computer imaging and digital photography. Most people have real difficulty imagining how things will look, so make things easier by showing them. If your presentation skills aren't quite up to snuff, educate yourself by attending the AQUA Conference sales seminars, the Genesis 3 Design School and any other opportunities for professional growth.

When you meet, be on time and prepared. Sell the sizzle! Do not dwell on equipment, plumbing and technical details. Sell on how much the customers will enjoy this concept, how it complements their home and how it will improve their lives. And be sure to have your contract prepared and ready for them to sign.

CLOSING THE DEAL

Customers may want to make revisions before closing the deal, so be prepared to do them on the spot. Offer your most elaborate and expensive design first, but if they don't go for that, have lower-cost options or freebies to sweeten — and then close — the deal. People like to feel they are getting a good buy. If the options are rejected and the changes are too complex to do on site, set another specific appointment to meet, and plan to close then.

READY TO BUILD

When you close, set a positive and reassuring tone for construction. It is very effective to immediately give the customer a gift when you sign a contract. Our standard gift is a copy of Cruising Through Pool Care the Wise Way , my pool-care book. I always tell the customer, "Our job as a company is to build the very best pool, and your job as a pool owner is to read the book so you can keep it that way."

This does several things. It makes customers happy, it gives them information they need, it creates a more secure feeling and results in fewer questions when the pool is completed. It also vastly speeds up the turnover of the pool to them, cuts down on warranty issues and saves time for both you and the customer.

We also give the customer a letter detailing what to expect and what will happen during construction, and a clear guideline on collections. We give them a $25 gift certificate each time they bring in their draw payment on time.

All of these things, and perhaps a few other little gifts, are presented in a cute tote bag. The customers love receiving their welcoming gifts and the whole tone is set from the beginning for a happy customer.

DURING CONSTRUCTION

Remember, happy customers refer other customers, so keep in touch with the customer during construction. Have a designated employee who is tactful and friendly serve as a liaison during construction. That person should make sure good communication is maintained, letting the customer know about changes or delays and reassuring them along the way.

A clean job site makes a great impression on the homeowner, so keep the area policed and be sure all your subs and their employees meet your professional and customer service standards.

AFTER CONSTRUCTION

When the job is completed, photograph the pool and send an evaluation form to the customer asking for feedback. Include a gift certificate to your store and a thank-you card. Include plenty of business cards and ask for referrals. If the pool is one of your special ones and wins an award, have a little party for the owners and present them with a duplicate award.