A beautiful swimming pool no doubt will bring referrals for new clients, but it won’t necessarily get the contract signed. If you’re up against several other bids, you’ll have to convince homeowners why your company can deliver above the rest.
So what do you need besides a top-quality product? A really good salesperson who can close the deal. That professional represents the company, its culture, and acts as an educated pool expert. He or she should be able to answer any question that a prospect throws their way, in a manner that builds trust and confidence.
“Sales is all about satisfying prospects,” says sales consultant Mario Rosetti, president of Rosetti Enterprises in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your showroom is, because nothing matters until it’s sold.”
From hiring agents with the right skills to offering valuable incentives, managing a sales team is an art form. But with the right formula, you can build the perfect sales team for your company.
While some companies choose to keep a dedicated sales team, others entrust leads to existing staff members. Why not have a salesperson who is also an engineer or project manager? By doubling your expertise in one individual, you present potential clients with experienced staff who can answer their questions with firsthand knowledge.
At Robertson Pools, a PSN Top Builder based in Coppell, Texas, the sales professionals are called “designers”in recognition of their design and engineering skills — and what the mean to the customer.
“They are the face of the company,” says Dave Campbell, director of operations. “The customer is with them through the design process up until the build.”
The designers examine a potential client’s backyard, make note of elevation and other factors, and ask the homeowners questions about ideas, needs and wants. They’ll then create a 3D rendering on the computer, invite the homeowner to the showroom and present the design.
Mike Giovanone of Concord Pools and Spas in Latham, N.Y., also a PSN Top Builder, runs his company similarly. He wants his salespeople to serve as the customer connection throughout the job.
“We have project managers, not salespeople,” he says, noting that these individuals are fully responsible for the project, as well as all the paperwork, contracts, construction format, coordination, and communication with homeowners. With that, they are also responsible for the customer service.
They also carry a lot of the responsibility for consumer satisfaction, which is monitored through exit surveys. “If we get a four out of five rating, I want to know why,” Giovanone says.
Project managers at his company must have at least one year of field experience with the building crew before they can serve in that post.
People never stop being students, and that’s also true when it comes to sales. When onboarding a new salesperson, it’s critical to make sure he or she knows exactly what’s involved in building a pool for a client, and how to upsell that client.
Today’s more informed clients want a builder’s rep to perform a different function than before. “They don’t want to hear your opinion as much as they want you to validate their research,” Giovanone says. “People want to know about how much you care, not how much you know. They pull out their cell phone and point it at you and say, can you do that?”
Rosetti agrees, but says the building company still remains the expert in this scenario and needs to show that. It’s up to the salesperson, he says, to fill in any informational gaps and propose solutions.
“Prospective clients will be all over the internet, and they may know what they want to accomplish,” he says. “But they don’t know how to accomplish it.”
For that reason alone, it’s important for sales staff to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technology, as well as be able to explain to homeowners when something they want may or may not work well in their backyard. “What you learned last year can be out of date this year,” Giovanone says.
For this reason, Campbell holds monthly sales meetings that feature a guest speaker — typically a vendor who can demonstrate a product and offer some technical training, but the company will also bring in sales coaches to teach different sales tactics.
Michael Giannamore, owner of PSN Top Builder Aqua Pool & Patio in East Windsor, Conn., will pair a new hire with an experienced salesperson to show them the ropes. In return, the trainer will also receive commission for every pool that the new hire sells as incentive to make sure the trainee is catching on.
Commission is, of course, the biggest incentive, and many salespeople work on commission-only. However, it helps to provide more than just money as a way to reward successful sales. Some builders send their top-selling salespeople on vendor incentive trips. Others reward top-selling sale professionals with more leads, or higher-quality leads.
But a salesperson must work for the company’s interest first, not their commission. So they must be trained to avoid signing a check that the company can’t cash. How do you prevent your sales team from making promises that the builder can’t fulfill? Work closely with them to understand that false promises can undermine a company’s reputation, which harms referral traffic.
“If you concentrate on the prospects rather than the commission, they’ll earn more ...” Rosetti says. “You can’t get a lot of quality referrals unless you are satisfying the customers.”
At the very least, add a line in the contract that the deal isn’t valid until signed by a company officer, Giannamore says, offering a tip he learned from car sales. Even if the salesperson isn’t necessarily making false promises, customers sometimes confuse what different building companies have offered. The details need to be in writing and validated by someone in the company who can verify that those offers are valid and possible.
Make it a team effort
Another great reward is to create a supportive work environment, so the sales staff enjoys coming to work every day. A positive team culture also unifies the company when it comes to consistent branding and messaging.
“We constantly train and emphasize our company culture,” Giovanone says. “We have a strong handbook. If someone calls us, they have to get the same information, whether from me or a manager.”
Campbell makes sure the designers learn from each other about what they can and can’t do, which builds camaraderie. It’s worked: Most designers have been with the company for more than a decade, and even some for three decades.
Holding regular meetings enables managers and owners to hear what leads the sales team are pursuing and provides an opportunity to offer suggestions that can help close the deal. It not only holds the sales team accountable, but lets everyone get together to talk, share advice, and bond as a company, which is important for morale.
“Not only should your sales team go around the table and talk about what they’ve sold, but talk about how to overcome problems and deal with people,” Rosetti says. “You can’t manage sales. You can only manage people.”