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Dealing with Low-Ball Builders (Part 1)

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

I don’t like to discount prices to win business, and I don’t recommend you do it either. But lately, we’re seeing more and more of it with pool builders across the country.  Not just Florida and the West, but now in Texas, the Midwest and New England too.

I knew it was getting serious yesterday when one of my New York area clients faxed over an ad that his competitor started running:

“Pool Packages from $23,995”

If you’re not familiar with what it costs to build in-ground pools in that part of the country, you’ll have to trust me that this is aggressively at or below cost for anything close to a normal-sized, properly constructed gunite pool in New England.

But here’s the curious part – This particular client (not the company that ran the ad) happens to run a highly efficient, high-volume operation, designed specifically to build gunite pools for significantly less than his competition. The competitor with the low-ball ad has long focused on a lower volume, higher-end niche, typically selling pools for 2 to 4 times this “entry level” price.

So how does this competitor get away with selling pools at such a low cost? And more importantly – How do we deal with it? There are two answers, and due to space limitations, I’m only going to give you one of them today:

Salesmanship.

Now before you say “Yeah, duh,” let me point out to you the single most-often-ignored aspect of this discipline we call “selling.” It’s a craft. It’s a learned skill that plateaus when the training stops. When a fledgling sales rep goes from “pretty lousy” to “pretty good,” the owner or sales manager is usually “pretty happy” and the training pretty much stops. But there’s still a lot of opportunity ahead. There’s always more to be learned.

Personally, I don’t offer sales training, and I don’t make a commission off other people’s sales training either (though maybe I should…!).  But salesmanship is a “critical path” item in my goal of helping pool builders sell more pools. That’s why I’m giving you this recommendation today:

If your competitors are low-balling you, go get some sales training.

Sales has always been the lever that allows you to be something other than “the low-cost leader.” So if the market (or your sales team) tries to push you in that direction, youcan fight it with sales training.  Whether you’ve been in sales 6 months or 60 years, you’ll always be at least a little bit better after some sales training.

If you’re reading this message before Thursday April 16, then you’re in luck. The APSP just happens to be running a one-hour session on Sales Training for Pool Professionals this Thursday, 2PM EDT. It will be taught on-line by the very talented sales guru Eric Richardson, CEO of Growth Development Associates. If for some strange reason he doesn’t give you plenty of “sales tips for low-ballers” during the presentation, you’ll have a chance to ask him directly at the end of the call. I presume there is still time to sign up for this on-line session. You can register here.

If this particular session doesn’t work for you, here are a couple of other sales training suggestions. First, locate your local Sandler Sales Training franchise (www.Sandler.com), and get all your sales people on their weekly email newsletter list. Known as “The Sales Meeting Minute,” it’ll give one good sales insight every week. A perfect three-minute topic for your weekly sales meeting. The newsletter is fast and it’s free, so you can’t argue with that.

Next, if your sales team is in need of more serious assistance than just a newsletter or a one-hour webinar, you might consider talking to either one of these experts in our industry. Both are frequent and highly-rated presenters at APSP and other industry events:

  • Lew Akins has been teaching “Pool Sales training” for just about as long as there’s been dirt to build an in-ground pool. His sales training is right on the money, and worth every penny. You can reach Lew at (254) 933-8370 or at lew.akins@lewakins.com.
  • Rex Richard focuses on “getting inside your customer’s head,” and using that knowledge to sell them exactly what they want, exactly the way they want to be sold to. Excellent stuff for the advanced sales person. You can reach Rex at rex@rexrichard.com

Next week, I’ll share with you some other ideas beyond “salesmanship” to help you deal with those annoying low-ball pool builders.

Till then, let’s keep selling!

Brett Abbott Signature

Brett

©2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc. May not be used without permission.

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