Friday, October 30, 2015

10 Biggest Mistakes Pool/Spa Retailers Can Make.

1) Carrying the same things as every other store. Selling the same brands at the same prices as everyone else, does nothing to distinguish your store from the competition. Choose products that represent a special value or contain unique features. That way, when your customers need something, they know it is worth the trip to your shop. Private labels are a great way to offer something nobody else does. Independent manufacturers (hint –Advantage) can accommodate you by putting your brand on the product itself for relatively small quantity buys.
2) Letting the service aspect of the business slide. Servicing pools and spas on a regular basis can generate more profits than selling products. Also, service contracts that bring in money every month are critical for cash flow. Service can be a real cash cow . . . and someday, you can sell the routes if you like. Make sure your people have all the right tools to do a good job efficiently. Consider getting them a portable vacuum system. Pool Service Pros tell us that collecting the money is the hardest part of the job not to mention unpleasant. Encourage automated monthly payments with a free service call or something compelling, it will pay huge dividends.
3) Lowering your prices to compete with the internet. This is a recipe for disaster. You have to convince your customers that the installation and maintenance services and the availability you provide in your brick and mortar location are worth the cost. Always select vendors with solid MAP pricing programs to eliminate the problem altogether (hint – Advantage).
4) Oversizing the equipment beyond what is needed. It might generate more revenue to sell more pool pump than the customer needs but it is short sighted. Take the long view and explain to your customer how much energy and/or money your solution saves them and they will trust you year in and year out to be their pool/spa guru. Don’t oversell variable speed pumps. Most customers will do just fine with a two speed pump and a timer as they will only use the two settings anyway (yes, this is Title 20 compliant.) They will appreciate you saving them money.
5) Carrying too much inventory. There are vendors that will sell you the items as you need them with substantial discounts on a few as 6 items mix and match (hint – Advantage). Don’t tie up needed cash in mountains of products. Buy what you need when you need it or order modest amounts of product.
6) Flying without a net. Make sure you are fully insured by a reputable company. Insurance is not the place to cut corners as this is ultimately the only defense you have against all the things you can and can’t imagine. A little $60 rider for a product we hadn’t carried before saved our company . . . we wouldn’t have been able to afford the legal costs never mind the payout without it.
7) Not enough variety. There are customers at every price point and you should always have the alternative for them – Good, Better & Best. Select a product mix that offers a range of solutions and brands.
8) Lack of follow up/follow through. Treat every customer like the precious jewel they are. If today you sell a guy a spa pump, maybe next year he’ll buy a spa from you, if his experience was positive. Be over the top responsive. Thank you cards and referral programs are great ways to develop a relationship over a long time horizon.
9) Not enough training. Even veteran sales people can lose enthusiasm and focus. Keep feeding the sales staff a steady diet of encouragement and inspiration. Product and sales training are essential components of a well run retail establishment.
10) Let small details slide. How you do the little things speaks volumes about how you do the big things to a customer. When you go in a restaurant and the restroom is dirty and unkempt, how confident are you that the kitchen is clean? Same idea. If your store looks shabby and the stock picked over, customers aren’t going to have a good feeling about the items you offer or the quality of your service. Take the time to keep the store clean, bright and inviting. Small details matter.

Written by:
Lyann Courant
CEO, Advantage Manufacturing.
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