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The Three Ps of Profitable Pools
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.

1. Pictures
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.

2. Pricing
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 reasonable number.

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.

3. Paperwork
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 seem fairer.

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 your numbers?
You will want to download our information package to learn how we will get you these results. Click here. Simply fill out the online form and you will be enrolled for our free drawing and receive an email with a complete description of our program. Print out the attached PDF file and record your 2002 numbers on the page provided.

You will need to gather this information:
- number of prospects you saw.
- number of jobs you were actually able to build.
Revenue- the total dollar amount of your sales.
- the total dollars remaining after paying direct job costs only.
- your business expenses that are not directly related to a job.
- the percent growth you want to achieve on the key metrics.

When ready, enter your numbers in the form at the right.That is the difference between controlling key metrics and trying to control the bottom line. That is what the Gold Medal Pool Builder Program is all about.

Join us for the Gold Medal Pool Builder Program and you can achieve your four key objectives: more leads, higher close rates, bigger sales and fatter margins, whose fulfillment will lead you to the holy grail of success, Gold Medal status.

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