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Dealing with Low-Ball Pool Builders (Part 2)

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

Let’s jump into the second half of this challenge of dealing with under-cutting pool builders.

This is the epitome of an educational task for you and the prospective pool buyer. A big honking discount will likely seem very appealing to the cash-strapped homeowner.  But they have no idea how they’re flirting with disaster.  Your challenge is to educate your prospect without bad-mouthing your worthless, no-good jerk competition. So first let me offer some guidelines before we talk strategies. When this issue comes up, remember these rules:

  1. No bad-mouthing anyone.
  2. You’re no longer a “sales person.” You’re now a “consultant” or “trusted advisor.”
  3. Recognize that at least initially, this prospect is unlikely to believe you, and will consider everything you say to be “self-serving.”

With these restrictions in place, let’s talk strategy. First, you have to position yourself as the trusted advisor.  Here’s one way to do that:

“Mrs. Smith- That sure sounds like a heckuva deal. Too good to pass up, don’t you think? See, at <my pool company>, we would never build a pool like that, for a variety of reasons. That’s just not the way we do business. So let’s just take us out of the running for a minute, shall we? That way, you and I can have a discussion without you worrying about me trying to sell you something.  Does that sound reasonable?

“Great. Now Mrs. Smith, I think it may be possible to get a pool in that price range, but you’ll have to be very careful.  You see, things can go right, and they can also go very wrong. So here are some suggestions to help improve the chances that this works out well for you.

“See, one of the big problems with this industry is that while you’ve got a lot of great pool builders in town, you’ve also got a handful of builders who get themselves in trouble – usually financial trouble – and they’re forced to close their doors. It’s almost always because they’ve run into cash flow problems, and they couldn’t pay off their subcontractors to finish the job.

“So we want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. In the best-case scenario, when a builder goes out of business, they’ve already finished your pool, and there aren’t any warranty issues to worry about. On the other hand, what sometimes happens, and by sometimes, I mean every year this happens to someone – The builder runs out of cash and goes out of business before he finishes your pool. And now you’re stuck with a big empty hole in the ground. So then you have to pay someone else more money to finish it.

“So here’s what you should do. First, before you sign the contract, ask for an adjustment to the draw schedule.  Make sure that when the gunite is completed, the builder has less than 50% of your money. And make sure that the final 20% or so is held until the pool is 100% complete.”

Whoa! – You’re helping them buy from your competition? Yep. Because if they’re only going to buy on price, you’ve already lost the deal anyway. But if “risk” and “security” and “trust” and “peace of mind” are important to this homeowner, then you’ve still got a shot, and you’re positioning yourself perfectly for it.

Obviously, you’ll want to modify the above script as appropriate for your situation.  In the course of your conversation, you may want to find a way work in some of these other tidbits of helpful advice:

“Be sure to visit their facility before you sign a contract. That will give you some hint of whether they’re doing OK, or actually struggling to make ends meet. For best results, you should visit them unannounced.”

“You should definitely look them up on BBB and Dun & Bradstreet. That won’t tell you everything, but it will give you a hint if there’s a history of trouble. You should also search the name of the pool builder with the word ‘complaint’ on Google. If the builder has burned anyone in the past, there’s a chance it could show up on Google.”

“And probably the smartest thing you could do is find out who their primary contractors are for steel, gunite, plaster, etc.  Give them a call, and find out which builders they recommend. If a pool builder is behind in payments to the subs, you’ll know you need to steer clear.”

“One other thing you have to watch out for is them leaving things out of the contract, or using sub-standard methods or materials. What looks like a good deal might actually be a “bait & switch” trick.  If you want, since we’ve already agreed that <my pool company> is no longer in the running, I’ll be happy to take a look at their proposal, and let you know if anything’s missing, and whether or not it’s a good deal.”

Whoa, again! You would do that? Sure, why not? Don’t you want to see your competitors’ proposals? Besides, look at the credibility you’ve gained. We’re still trying to win them back, you know.

Let’s close this rather unusual conversation on a positive note.

“Once again, Mrs. Smith, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about your pool. Now if for some reason things change, and you decide you want to have another conversation about <my pool company>, I’ll be happy to meet with you and discuss some alternatives…. Meanwhile, feel free to call me if you have questions with the other guy’s proposal. I wish you the best of luck.”

As you can see, I’m a firm believer in “taking the high road” when it comes to dealing with your worthless, no-good, low-balling jerk competition.

Best regards,

Brett Abbott Signature


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

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