I mentioned earlier that my husband and I are buying a house. Since we bought a new house with an unfinished back yard, we also went shopping for a swimming pool.
Now if you have followed the housing market at all, you may know that Arizona is still the second hardest-hit market in the country (behind Nevada) as measured by existing homes that are “under water” on their mortgages. To say that home sales over the past few years have been slow is a grave understatement. So it’s got to be true that pool sales have been stagnant and that pool-building companies have been hurting for business.
We talked to four pool builders, each recommended by our builder or a friend. We met with each of them before we read any online reviews so we could keep an open mind. In each case we told them that we were comparison shopping for bids (which I’m sure a pool builder would expect given the size of the investment).
Two of the four had invested in “Pool Studio” software, which enables the salesperson to design your pool digitally within the exact dimensions of your own back yard. They had a great advantage in that within the day we had multiple views of a draft design and complete pricing information. That was the first differentiator. Second was how quickly they set an appointment for us to come back and willingness to work with us on design options. We’ve never bought a pool before so we appreciated a lot of help from the salesperson. Finally, there was a sense of trust communicated by everyone we met from the company that we actually chose. It’s a second-generation family business operated by two brothers. For our second appointment, the owners came out to greet us and chat. They have invested in an immaculate showroom with two outdoor pools illustrating differences between and geometric and freeform pool design, so they can show you how things look “for real” as well as in the design.
Our salesman had already been to our house (we have not moved in yet) to inspect the yard and offer more suggestions. He spent three more hours making improvements to the design without really raising the cost. Before he would accept a down payment, he wanted to meet us at the house to show us how much space the pool would take up and make sure we were satisfied with our decision. He told us which decisions could wait and which finishing touches could be delayed if necessary. The walk-through (by the way on a weekend) led us to make a couple more changes, and we received new design pictures before Monday morning.
We are going to close on the house August 30th, and the company we chose intends to be ready to begin building our pool on September 1!
Once we made our decision (within a week from our first visit to a pool builder) we notifed the others that we had signed a contract and thanked them for their assistance.
We received one gracious follow-up note thanking us for the opportunity to be considered and wishing us well. But we received two very inappropriate responses, as follows:
“I must say I’m disappointed because I really didn’t show you what we have to offer. I measured the property and gave you a tour of our facility. I guess I was not aware of your timeframe which is totally my fault for not asking. You obviously have your reasons as to why you made your decision before I could provide a design and price. I’m anxious to see who you’re building with so I will keep a close eye on the permit report.”
Aside from that being mildly threatening, this owner is clueless about how his competition is operating. They asked our timeframe in the first interview and delivered accordingly. Our salesman did not let any time lapse between meeting us and delivering us a draft pool design and a price.
The second surprising response was from a salesman who, on the day we visited, said it was too hot to be outdoors so invited us to explore the sample pools by ourselves, without any kind of guided tour! When thanking him for his assistance, we said price was a differentiator. Here’s the response we got:
“I know I was a day late in getting the pool price to you, but likewise I did design your pool and get it to you on the same day. You had the opportunity to meet me so you know from my age that I am not a neophyte in the pool industry. In fact I have successfully sold over 35 million dollars in pool sales in the past 14 years, and never has anyone beat my price for the same pool. I will send you a $200.00 gift certificate that you can use or purchase of chemicals or other items of your choice if you will forward me a copy of the itemized breakdown for your pool.”
Once again it’s all about him and nothing about us. No “thank you,” no “I appreciate the chance to bid,” just an insulting insinuation that we are too stupid to know what we are buying and an inappropriate request that we give him a competitor’s detailed pricing. He went on to complain that we didn’t give him a chance to improve his bid, which is the same argument we got from a Honda salesman last year–after we bought a Toyota!
So, these sales people think there are no consequences for how they handle rejection of their offer. But the internet is full of review sites–Yahoo reviews, Yelp, etc.–and like other buyers, we consulted those sites before we made our final decision. Everyone can post reviews about companies we chose NOT to do business with as well.
I think how you handle yourself when you lose a sale is just as important as when you win. A gracious, professional stance builds your reputation; a grudging whine confirms that we were right not to choose you.
How do you handle rejection in your sales process?