We are working on our presentation to prospective pool or spa owners. In our market, today is a little different than the last three years. People aren’t looking for the cheapest price. They’re looking for relationships and value. So my employees are taking classes anywhere we can find them — from junior college to Skill Path adult education — to learn about engaging with people, being more sensitive, and focusing on the relationship instead of the sale.

If you don't know me and I ask you to do me a favor, you’ll hesitate. But if we’re best friends, it’ll be easier to do me the favor. So instead of trying to make the sale, we try to make friends. It’s a matter of building trust and being genuinely interested in who the other person is.

In the past, we went into a meeting with a prepared presentation. I might open my computer and have you watch my DVD or have you go through my portfolio. Now I’m engaging and asking you questions about who you are and what your lifestyle is like. I might ask you to picture yourself in your backyard and how you see yourself using your pool. Eventually, we might go to the DVD, but that’s not how we start.

We started this new approach in November so we’d have the winter to work on it. We play act a sales meeting. We take different roles — sometimes a salesman will play the prospect, others he’ll play the salesman. It’s been very interesting: When they play the prospect, they learn the craft from the other person’s point of view.