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Not Using Tech Speak

Nobody cares how much you know until
they know how much you care

The other day, I was listening to an AM radio station. They were playing some of the old time radio programs. I was fortunate enough to get to hear the old Abbott and Costello routine of "Who's On First?" This is the routine where Lou and Bud are discussing the St. Louis baseball team. The question was asked about the name of the first baseman. The name of the first baseman was "Who", but as Lou hears the answer he does not realize it is an answer so he repeats, "Yeah. That's my question. Who's on first?"

The routine is fun to hear or watch as Bud and Lou go through the entire baseball team which has players with unique last names such as "What" and "Why". While this may be an entertaining comedy routine, it surely is not entertaining or fun when it happens in a pool and spa store.

Too often, I have had the occasion of watching customers walk into a pool store with a jar containing a sample of the water from their pool, only to leave thirty minutes later with enough chemicals to start up a new pool, and that infamous, "deer in the headlight" stare.

The retailer may be proud of him or herself for having made such a large sale. But, what happened to the customer while they were in the store?

It has been my experience as a retailer selling pool and spa chemicals, that over 90% of the customers do not have a working knowledge of the chemicals and mechanics of the workings of their pool.

For years, we witnessed customers walking in our store carrying the empty 2 1/2 gallon "chlorine jugs", asking to have them refilled. As we asked them how their pool looked, the usual answer was, "OK. I just need to shock the pool."

When we asked why they needed to do that, few knew why. Most customers told us they only had a one step test for chlorine, so we knew they had no way of knowing if they had chloramines in their pool. They would test the ph level, and other than those two tests, they knew of nothing else.

In the store we were recently visiting, the "Abbot and Costello" routine began as one employee began testing the customer's pool water. As they tested for chlorine, free chlorine, ph, metals and every other possible test, you could see the customer's eyes began to glaze over as if they had gone through a complete physical with their doctor and cardiologist.

While correct with his testing and selection of products, the salesperson began telling the customer all that was wrong with his pool and what each of the chemicals was going to do for the pool. The glaze on the eyes of the customer intensified. And with every question they asked, the more they were confused with the solution.

Soon, the customer had a cart load of merchandise in tow as he headed out the door with the cart and now empty water sample container.

Again, you may think there is nothing wrong with this. But too often in our store we would be the recipient of a visit from this same customer within one to two weeks of their visit to the competition. Their explanation of the problem with their pool was quickly followed by their version of the story we just told you. It was the retail version of Abbot and Costello.

Perhaps, the customer performed a test of their pool too soon after using the chemicals and then used too much or too little of the chemicals in their second attempt. Then again, they may have become lost in the variety of chemicals and instructions, and made a mess of the whole situation.

When we were visited by this customer the first thing we did was to ask for a written inventory of what chemicals they had on hand. We provided them with a new sample bottle and an easy explanation of how to draw a sample from the pool.

As much as we thought the customer was overwhelmed in the last experience, we went to great length to develop a solution slowly and with plenty of education. (Notice this is education as compared to information)

One of our first questions was to ask if there was to be a party or other special event by which time we must have the pool in shape. With the first visit, we told our customer our only objective was to get the chlorine back in line. We explained how we tested for chlorine and chloramines.

To explain chloramines, we would illustrate using a "pac man" and showed how the chlorine (pac man) would get tied up with the "dirt" in the pool, and that the shock treatment was what it took to untie the two so that the chlorine could again be free to get back to work and stick the dirt in the filtering system.

Perhaps this was overly simplified, but it was amazing how customers would begin to understand the workings of their pool. Once we had adjusted the chlorine, we would balance the ph, and then move on to checking for metals and cyanuric acid levels. We explained cyanuric acid as being the "sunglasses" for the chlorine in the pool.

Within a few days, we not only had solved the problem, but we now had a customer who understood what was happening with their pool. Because the customer had purchased so much at the competition, they had little need for chemicals initially.

As we explained how to use each of the chemicals, we took the time to explain the difference in the quality of what the customer had purchased and the product we were going to sell them when what they had bought was used up.

Did we manage to convert every customer? No, because there are some customers who will take their new found knowledge and return to the competition. And there are some people who are always going to shop for the lowest price. And the customer you gain because of your having the lowest price, is the same customer you will lose when somebody else has the lowest price.

But, by a factor of several times over, the dealer who subscribes to the theory of solving the problem before working to make the sale is the one who will have a new answer for the Abbott and Costello routine.

"Who's on first?" You are.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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