swimming pool association

First contact to design

By Brett D. Holland, Treasure Pools / brett@treasurepoolsfl.com

Over the last three months I have been asked a few times on my approach to new potential clients.  So for this month’s article I have decided to share my design schedule.

When a new lead first makes contact with our office we ask for the typical information:  customer name, address, phone number, email, and what type of watershapes they are interested in, pool/spa, features, etc.  This information is then passed on to the designer to make first contact.  This is the first of many opportunities in the design schedule for you to separate yourself from the competition.  The sooner you are able to make contact the better.  The old saying of “the first impression is the most important” definitely comes into play here.  It is imperative to make contact that first day even if its an e-mail at the very least that you received their info and will be in touch the following day due to appointments etc. 

During the initial contact as a designer it is important to “pre-qualify” the customer.  Making sure the client has realistic expectations of what pools cost prior to your site visit will save you time and money!  Most designers in today’s market are pretty busy.  The last thing you want to do is block a day/time out for someone, spend several hours designing their project to then find out they have a $20K budget.  However, you have to be careful not to sell yourself short and scare them with price.  You don’t want to waste a lead that you may have been able to close by getting in front of them.  This is a delicate process, and if done correctly will be extremely useful.  I suggest focusing more on starting price and not address any options at this time.

The site visit…. If you’re not 10 minutes early you are LATE.

Upon pulling up to the site, I am immediately looking at access/obstacles etc.  I will inspect both sides of the house from the front prior to walking up to the door.  The appointment will often start with a conversation in the rear yard, listening to the client on how they envision their outdoor living experience.  While listening I am usually already designing on my tablet.  Creating a design based on if they are leaning towards geometric or a freeform watershape.  This is yet another opportunity to give a lasting impression.  Being able to show a customer a rough draft of a design before even sitting down at the table will separate you immediately.  There are programs available for this.  Look into “Augmented Reality.”  This is the way of the future for many different industries, and in the next 3-5 years will be used by most consumers on a daily basis. 

Prior to going inside the home I make sure to take several photos of the site:  both sides of house, pool equipment location, back of the house etc.  I then will transfer the rough design from my tablet to my laptop for the main design consultation inside.  Designing “with” the customer not “for” the customer is the single most important part of the design schedule.  It is our job as designers to share our experiences with the client and give them different scenarios to think about.  Leading them to decisions and making the design “their” design is critical.  Pay attention to the house orientation, north, south, east or west.  Where will the sun be in the morning/afternoon?  This is important for sun bathing placement,  either in the pool or on the deck.  Discuss if and how they plan on entertaining on the deck area.  This question needs to be asked to make sure the proper amount of deck is provided for their needs.

It is not uncommon that only one out of four designers will actually design with the customer.  If you find yourself spending 5-10 minutes on a site visit, then sending a design “for free” along with an estimate to your clients, you may want to consider a different approach.  In most cases, your design is being shopped out to other builders.  Rather than spending your quality time doing designs/re-designs for free, I would recommend spending your time learning your tools so you are able to design “with” the customer. 

The relationship built with your clients during this design schedule will place you in the best possible position to close the sale.  They will appreciate you spending the necessary time with them and covering all the aspects for their project.  We are one of the few industries that sends out designs for free.  In my opinion we need to work towards not doing that and spend more time designing with the clients. 

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