In today’s pool industry, every dig is critical. But in trying to get that signature on the dotted line, some sales professionals will push the limits of what they can promise and at what price.
Yet with margins shrinking across the board, companies can’t
afford to make less than needed profit, nor do they want to find
themselves struggling to explain why the crews can’t deliver
that amazing new waterfeature.
To address these issues, some businesses have instituted standard
procedures to garner the most sales, at the highest profit possible
and with the fewest headaches. Here, three experts explain their
Ron Robertson, president
Robertson Pools Inc.
Our salespeople are on a commission-only basis, with a potential
for overage. If they’re not making money for my company and
I’m still paying them, there’s a problem. A salesman
will get stale if you just keep paying them a salary.
But our salespeople can make more than the basic commission. We
have a par that we want to meet on each job, based on cost plus a
certain percentage. If somebody sells a job within 3 percent of
par, they get a 6-percent commission. If they are more than 3 but
less than 7 percent from par, they lose one percentage point. At 93
percent of par or less, the salesperson loses another point.
But if they bring that job in above par, they get 50 percent of the
For the first two to three months they’re with my company,
salespeople work on salary and just train with the sales manager.
The sales manager sells pools, and he trains the new person to work
in our way. Then we start feeding them leads after a couple months.
My newest guy made his first sale three months after he started. I
think a longer training period prevents mistakes down the
Staying in line
I believe the most positive thing we do is carefully audit every
job. Several eyes look at each project even before excavation, and
this eliminates a lot of surprises.
Every job is audited by the sales manager before it goes to
construction. If he finds that the salesperson underestimated the
square footage of the deck, for example, he adjusts that and takes
it off their commission.
Then I get the plan, and I look at it with a construction eye. I
make sure the job actually can be built, that the plumbing will
work correctly — that type of thing.
Throughout construction, I get every invoice. If I see a
discrepancy and have to make an adjustment, the salesperson gets a
back charge if it was their mistake. I can back charge the whole
difference or part of it, based on how bad the error is.
When the project is completed, it goes through another audit. As
long as the cost fits somewhere within a few percentage points,
it’s a clean job.
If a salesperson is back-charged, they have two weeks to respond,
and if they say, “I just missed that gas line — I
didn’t even look at it,” they get back-charged. If they
say it was on the plan but the gas guy ran the line in another
direction, then I find out what happened and the salesperson may
not get the back charge. If it’s an act of God, then the
company eats it.
Andy Everleigh, president
Environmental Pools Inc.
Our compensation varies. We have some salespeople who are
commission-based, but we’re trying to phase out of
I’m looking to get off the old-school way of commission-only
and move toward salary plus commission, because our salespeople get
so much help from the corporation. Because of the magnitude of the
projects, they usually work as part of a team, say with our
landscape architect, as opposed to the old days where one sales guy
was closing the deal.
This means the salespeople aren’t doing as much as before, so
the commission scale is going down. In the past, the commission
would be so high that you couldn’t justify giving that amount
and then paying someone else to do the design work. So we’re
moving toward offering a salary and lower commissions. My
preference would be to have everybody salaried, with a landscape
architect supporting each salesperson.
Because projects have become larger, our salespeople now get a
piece of the hardscapes and a lot of other amenities, as opposed to
just the pool.
Salespeople always complain that there aren’t enough leads,
especially in this market. So we’ve created an incentive
based on how many new leads they can generate on their own.
We’re specifically looking for landscape architects and
high-end home builders. The sales representatives must talk to at
least three or four people in industries related to ours. At the
end of the month, the one who generates the most sales based on
those self-generated leads receives an incentive.
It’s been amazing. Salespeople typically want the leads given
to them, but as they’ve gone through this exercise, they
found they can generate new leads and sales on their own.
We began another new incentive in the last few weeks. We’ve
had each salesperson revisit past prospects who never made a
decision. These are homeowners who they had visited and done design
work for since 2007. In the last three weeks, we’ve probably
sold four jobs based on that program, and we’ve gotten a
number of new appointments.
The initiative holds us accountable, because the salespeople must
commit to calling seven to 10 clients. At a meeting the following
week, they have to report on who they contacted. At the end of the
month, the one who generated the most sales from former leads will
get a bonus. Even if they don’t win, they’re still
making more money.
I think these incentives have been working out because consumers
feel a little more confident. They’ve said, “Thanks for
calling us back. We were thinking about you.” I don’t
think we would have even gotten a response a year ago.
Staying in line
Sometimes before they sell a job, we send a project manager out to
do pre-site inspections. Especially if we’re doing a
vanishing edge or raised spa, we need to shoot elevations before we
could put a bid together.
We usually want to know where the gas lines are, where the
electrical service is — all those little gray areas that
always come back to bite you. Then we know the salesperson
I believe doing this will get deals sold. Clients say, “The
other builder never even mentioned that. They never looked at
Customers always want a discount — it seems they don’t
want you to make any profit whatsoever. So we have given the sales
staff more flexibility with pricing than before, but it’s
done through the office rather than letting them decide
arbitrarily. If a potential client says that another builder gave a
lower price, we may have our sales manager step in and give a
contract analysis. He’ll look at the other contract (if the
client will show it to us) and compare it to ours. Customers figure
the salesperson just wants the deal, so they trust the manager
more. He’s giving them more of a view from the outside
Jordan Clarkson, vice president and general manager
Pools by John Clarkson
Our salesperson gets a blend of salary plus commission. I think
that encourages him to be part of the process the whole way. If
they’re just paid commission and they collect when the pool
is dug, then they have less incentive to participate, because
they’re not getting paid to be part of the process —
they’re being paid to sell.
Staying in line
The way we keep people from promising things we can’t deliver
is by having the salesperson look at a project through the whole
process. So even though he’s not an on-site supervisor,
he’s very involved with the client all through the project.
If the salesperson or consultant knows they have to face that
homeowner, they’re less likely to bend reality. They’re
also going to be more understanding of the process. We encourage
training on the construction part of it, so he knows how a pool is
built and better understands the costs.
The salesperson also talks to the company owner or construction
manager to make sure we can deliver what’s promised. We do
that on anything out of the ordinary, anything that’s newer
to us. We have a very good team where we encourage communication,
so we’ll all meet and go through a particular design or
detail. Maybe it’s not the whole project, but say we’re
doing this fire feature and we have to figure out how we are going
to make it work, how we are going to coordinate it.
We use a particular estimating system, so we have a way of
accurately pricing pools. Then, when it goes beyond that, the
salesperson will meet with a manager.
And once the project is sold, they have to turn it in for review.