The Three Ps of Profitable
by Hal Slater
Which of these would you want to achieve to increase
your business' performance: a) higher margins, b) higher volume per sale
or c) a higher close rate? Why not go for all three? You can by taking
the same approach to investing in high quality tools for your salespeople
as you do for your other crews. Based upon over twenty years of experience
selling high end pools, here are the tools that I believe they need.
There is no question about it, pictures sell pools. Even if they are pictures
of someone else's pools, you need pictures to communicate ideas and excite
emotions. It is best if they are pictures of pools you actually built
and I oppose the policy of "adopting" competitors' pools unless
so stated on the photo. I have to confess, I "adopted" the pools
at the Taj Mahal and Hearst Castle, for my photo album, but I didn't claim
to have built them. Not only do you need pictures, they must be good pictures
of good pools. This may seem obvious to those who have been making the
investment of time and money to accumulate good pictures, but I know that
there are many who do not understand.
I have known perfectly competent contractors
who went on sales calls with an envelope full of snapshots and/or loose
enlargements. Some would make the investment in a cheap three ring album
to hold a randomly (dis)organized collection of snapshots. The fact that
they sold pools is incidental, not proof that their system was adequate.
It is more of an indication of their untapped sales potential.
Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of using
a high-quality calfskin album, loaded with beautiful enlargements, organized
in way that supports the message, will never want to go without one. The
effect the album has is immeasurable. Imagine the impression you have
made when they pause to stroke the album BEFORE THEY OPEN IT to look at
the photos. Follow that with fifty or sixty 8x10 or 9x12 photographs with
a copy of your logo on each page. Organize the pages so that, as you are
able to focus in on what your customer wants, you do not have to leap
around to find the photos they need to see.
Your local photo supplier or luggage store will
have high quality albums available. Look for an album that will accommodate
A3 (11.6x16.3) sized paper and that has NO EXPOSED METAL, it scratches
their furniture. I spend about $300 per album and it is worth every bit
of it. This is your product's first impression and, as irrational as it
may be, the quality of your photo album is the starting point.
Get a digital camera that ACCOMMODATES A WIDE
ANGLE LENS and, of course, a wide angle lens. Without it, all you will
get are large snapshots. Pools are too long for a normal frame. Without
a wide angle lens, by the time you get close enough to show detail, you
can't show the whole pool; when you get back far enough to get the whole
pool, you lose the detail. As for the camera, my experience shows that
a 3.3 mega-pixel image will print a beautiful 9x12 enlargement. This level
of resolution is very affordable.
You will need a large format inkjet printer if
you have more than one salesperson. There are many manufacturers with
printers in the $500 range that will accommodate A3 paper. I have found
that ink and paper (Epson Heavyweight Matte Finish) cost about $3.00 per
finished page. If you only need one album, check with your local copy
center to compare their cost to print pages from your camera's memory
card or your CD.
Photography is all about light and different
pools shoot best under different conditions. This system will allow you
to take many photos on the spur of the moment, at virtually no cost (get
rechargeable batteries), so you can capture each pool in its best light.
Once you have a great photo, you are minutes, not days, from putting it
in your portfolio. This keeps your pictures current, exciting and enticing;
and you will make more sales because of it.
This is a topic loaded with controversy and, though some readers may disagree
with me, I STAND AGAINST VOODOO PRICING. What is "voodoo pricing"?
Voodoo pricing is the policy of preparing a pool estimate by calculating
its wholesale cost (actual cost for you to build) and adding the markup
to determine the retail price. This puts the presenter in a difficult
situation because the only "justification" for the total cost
is some vague concept of the magnitude and quality of the work. Also,
if the customer requests any changes, the presenter is forced to risk
making a mistake by doing the math in their head or they must retreat
and work in private to prevent the customer from learning the markup.
Pricing should seem transparent to the buyer.
If not, an atmosphere of suspicion develops between the presenter and
the customer. There are two ways, of which I am aware, to prepare a retail
price list: one that "packages" elements like raised bond beam
with the required forming, steel, concrete and tile in a single unit cost;
or a detailed, item-by-item price list that reflects the wholesale cost
after the markup is applied.
Using either of these formats helps the presenter
make the sale in two ways: they show the magnitude of what is involved
in building the project and they demonstrate the overall fairness of the
pricing. Rather than choking on a single huge number, they are able to
adjust to the cost as it gradually grows in size, reasonable number by
This approach also protects your profit by forcing
the buyer to negotiate at retail and take responsibility for the cost,
based upon what they are requesting on the pool. It also prepares them
to expect a cost adjustment when they request changes, though that adjustment
may reflect a credit to them, depending upon the nature of the change.
This approach requires you take a totally transparent and ethical approach
to pricing, too. You have to ask yourself, "Am I willing to give
up those little bonuses I get when I am able to reduce the job cost without
their understanding, in order to to assure my profit on every piece of
work I do?" I personally think you should.
Paperwork is the bane of great salespeople. It interrupts the "flow
of the moment" and requires good penmanship and spelling. Regardless,
a single written word (or lack of same) can mean thousands of dollars
in lost profit... that will not be discovered until late in the project.
It is important that documentation be thorough and accurate AT THE MOMENT
OF THE CLOSE. This really requires: 1) the use of three part NCR forms
that 2) ask for the necessary information and 3) provide a way to note
any last minute agreements, specifications and/or changes ON ALL COPIES.
Professionally prepared paperwork propels a powerful
presentation. Selling is NOT "talking them into it." It is a
show, and your paperwork is not just a means to document agreements. It
is a sales prop that has the ability to completely reassure an anxious
buyer that you know what you are doing and they will receive what they
expect. That assurance can make the pictures seem prettier and the prices
Some of the important, and often overlooked,
elements of the process that need documentation are: the survey, the rough
sketches, the price breakdown, the final agreed-upon design, and any semi-standard
terms not on the contract. Consider having an artist prepare all of your
documentation in a cohesive, attractive professional format and imagine
the difference it could make in the perception of your firm in the eyes
of the pool buyer.
Implement these suggestions and you will accomplish
the three magical marketing effects with your sales: higher margins, higher
volume per sale and a higher close rate. You will also find your buyers
to be less suspicious about money during the course of construction, which
will ease the stress in your office. This system works as well as it does
because, contrary to popular belief, reasonable people don't want the
rock-bottom lowest price on their pool. They just want to feel secure
in their belief that they have been treated fairly. Show them that and
they will respond.
Would you like to see how much you could improve
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