Editor’s note: This article went to press coincident with the merger of APSP and NSPF into the...
Steam is rising from the portable hot tub industry. It was another generous year in spa sales: 88...
After 17 years serving as the face of Tara Manufacturing, Ron Shults, the company's vice president of sales,...
"Everyone lives by selling something."— Robert Louis StevensonOf course no one ever thought of Robert Louis Stevenson as a salesperson but he clearly understood that everyone (even a consultant like me) needs buyers for their "product." Whether you are in pool construction, service or retail, you will undoubtedly see opportunities to profit from selling equipment. Your goal, of course, is not to close a deal but instead to open a relationship. This article discusses a few ways to do that.
Creating a relationship that will result in a pool equipment upgrade usually means overcoming the buyer's roadblocks, of which there may be several. A pool owner's first objection to equipment replacement will be that their existing system seems to be working fine. Don't fix it if it isn't broken, right? Well, just because the equipment seems functional doesn't mean that it is operating efficiently or, more importantly, safely.
The second roadblock is usually the owner's reluctance to spend money. Even if you can convince them that their pool is no longer considered safe, they may choose frugality and justify that decision by saying, "The only thing making this pool less safe than it was five years ago is unnecessary government regulations." We can overcome some of those objections by showing how quickly an upgrade will pay for itself through reduced operating expense.
A third roadblock is often timing. Once a customer commits to upgrading equipment, they may delay the implementation for any number of reasons. This is where I simply explain that all of the benefits are only enjoyed after the upgrade is complete. Whether it's a matter of improving safety, reducing energy or cutting chemical expense, sooner is better.
The last roadblock is trust. Have you established trust with that customer so that he or she will buy from you? Or will they take your great ideas and find someone else to do it? Will they find the parts online and attempt to upgrade themselves? That is the test of the relationship you've built in the time you've been given.
The sales process with equipment upgrades typically starts with a verbal discussion. At a retail store, for example, it might be the pool owner asking about new heaters because theirs isn't working as well anymore. That's the opportunity to ask about pumps, filters, chemical automation, LED lighting, etc.
In the case of a service professional on the job, the discussion might simply begin with a statement such as, "Good afternoon Mrs. Smith. The next time I visit we should have a serious discussion about upgrading that old filter of yours. It's so old and terribly inefficient that a new one will pay for itself in just 18 months!"
Once you have the customer's attention, keep things simple. Verbally listing 20+ reasons why all the various pieces of equipment could be better isn't going to work. The customer won't understand half of it (too technical) and as their attention drifts, they'll start thinking, "This guy is trying hard to sell me something I don't even think I need." Trust is lost and so is the potential customer — maybe forever!
One way to prevent this from happening is to prepare simple images that convey a concept without all of the technical details. These images can be a short presentation of just four or five slides on a tablet, or even printed on paper. If you want it to look like the info was customized for them, print it with their name on it and hand it to them. (Be sure your contact info is all over it, of course.)
For example, if you are trying to explain how much power their current pump uses versus a new variable speed pump operating at low RPM, then perhaps create a simple bar chart where 50 watt light bulbs are stacked to represent the power requirement. Customers generally don't know what kilowatts and watt-hours are but probably have a good understanding of the power requirements for lighting. Seeing it graphically will put it in perspective.
In many cases, the customer might only need a single piece of equipment replaced. In those cases, it won't make sense to present data that is only valid if multiple pieces of equipment are replaced. It is also easier to sell a single component at a smaller cost than to jump right in with a big number to replace everything. For these reasons, I would focus my equipment-upgrade sales tools on one component at a time.
If a customer needs a new pump and heater, for example, don't confuse them by talking about both simultaneously. Focus on the pump first. After showing them a couple of charts, try to close with something like, "Would you like to get this ordered today so you can begin enjoying these benefits as soon as possible?" Once they commit one way or another, then address the heater. "Now that the pump issue has been addressed, let's focus on the heater. I think you will be impressed with the new technology…"
Let's list some of the most common reasons for equipment upgrades:
Now let's examine those reasons on a product-by-product basis:
Before you try to get a customer to upgrade their equipment, spend a little time researching your local power company and state energy commission for potential rebate programs. They come and go depending on the funding, but you should know exactly how your customers can take advantage of rebates — and rebates can be very alluring to customers considering an upgrade.
In addition, it's helpful to become familiar with the energy savings tools available online. The big three manufacturers all have calculators that compare existing energy consumption with future consumption if a variable speed pump is used. These energy studies assume certain performance characteristics based on expected average plumbing configurations, but they are accurate enough for justifying equipment upgrades.
Your sales process should focus on a long-term strategy of creating relationships instead of simply trying to get the quick sale. By keeping things simple, you will overcome objections and build trust.
Once you quickly get through the basics, ask the customer if they have any more questions or if they would like more details. You certainly don't want to start with the minutiae, but occasionally a sophisticated customer might want a bit of that. Try to avoid the confusing discussion about total dynamic head, system curves, etc. It is important for you to understand it but probably not necessary for you to explain it.
Depending on the type of equipment being replaced, it might be the case that certain warranties are only valid if an authorized installer does the work. There may be contractor licenses or electrical codes requiring specific certifications for the installer. Certainly issues such as programming and calibration should only be done by someone specially trained for the task.
These are all things that builders, service professionals and retailers can do that are not available from an Internet purchase. Keep that in mind when developing the sales strategy and documents to support the sale. Your last slide or sheet of paper should simply list a few key bullets that separate you from others:
And when you inevitably get a "no", don't think of it as a waste of time. Even if you pitch and upgrade and they don't buy immediately, at least they know who to contact when the time is right for them.
If you are going to relate things to power consumption, use a symbol such as a light bulb and make the units of measure actually mean something. For example, 1 bulb = 50 watts. If you are comparing money savings, use currency as the icon. Everyone understands that the short stack of bills is worth less than the tall stack of bills (assuming the denomination is the same).
It is important to think about the context in which the graphic is being used as well. If we are trying to reduce operating expenses, then fewer light bulbs is more desirable than more light bulbs. On the other hand, people would rather have a larger stack of money than a shorter stack — in that case, use language like "more money in your pocket if you replace your [equipment type]" to get that message across.
David Peterson, P.E., SWD, is president of Watershape Consulting, a pool design firm in San Diego. He obtained his B.S. in Civil Engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is a licensed engineer in several states. A 20-year veteran of the industry, Peterson is a Platinum Member of Genesis, where he is chairman of education.
Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail email@example.com.
Whether you're an independent service technician or CEO of a major manufacturer, whether you sell to directly to the consumer or to the trade, it hurts to see customers leave. Because staying in business largely means retaining the business you’ve fought so hard to win, understanding why your customers decide to take their patronage elsewhere is critical, if not at times a little painful.
When customers say goodbye in the pool and spa industry, there are plenty of reasons to assign...
Do you have an amazing wrap on your truck or van? An immaculate interior? Does your vehicle turn heads wherever you go? Show us in our Truck & Van contest, which is back this year for another spin.
To enter, snag a few photos of your vehicle (hi-res is best) and fill out this form with details about your vehicle/wrap. We'll honor winners in three categories (and give our a few honorable mentions) in the August...
As with anything, there's an impressive learning curve when it comes to the pool and spa industry. There's the technical side, like learning the nuances of water chemistry and the equipment pad, but there's also a host of lessons you simply won't learn in a classroom.
That's where I come in. To better prepare up-and-coming service techs for the wild adventure that is pool service, I put together a list of just some things you'll come to learn on your route.
Three years ago, I merged my father’s company with my grandfather’s nearly 70-year-old company, one of the oldest companies in the country. Both worked their entire lives in the pool and spa industry and so have I, starting at age eight, but the merger took place without either of them. Both passed away from cancer years ago; my grandfather when I was 18, and my dad when I was 30. You could say I learned everything about pools from them, and boy, did they know a lot. But I haven't been able...