You gotta show 'em to sell 'em, right? That old adage applies to swim spas and saunas, casual furniture and fire pits, but does the direct experience of a fiberglass pool help customers decide to buy?
Yes, of course it does, and that obvious truth is the driving concept behind the new Pioneer Valley fiberglass superstore in Westfield, Mass. With an immaculate array of six different models set in comfy vignettes, it provides customers the chance to immerse themselves in the pool they are about to purchase.
They can feel the water with their fingers and touch the decking with their bare toes. They can see the crystal clear reflections shimmering in the sun, and hear the soft whirr of the VSP that comes with the package. And there is precise product pricing posted clearly on a poolside placard — all of which inspires a sense of solidity to the transaction and commitment from the builder.
The idea for a fiberglass pool park idea came to Pioneer Valley Owner Clancy Kaye 15 years ago. In his vision, customers were strolling around in the sunshine, dipping their fingers and toes into fiberglass pools, settling into Adirondack chairs, catching the scent of barbecue on the breeze, and contemplating what could be their own lifestyle with a few payments of mere money.
"I was thinking of something similar to an automobile dealership, right? Where you walk into a showroom, and there's maybe a Corvette and a couple other shiny cars, and people are milling around, getting brochures, talking to salespeople."
Kaye had some drawings done and ruminated for a while. Years went by. The business thrived, but the idea would not go away. And then one day, with the fiberglass category enjoying steady growth and the pandemic surge in full swing, he decided what the heck.
"I said, 'Let's build this. Let's put six fully functional pools in the ground, with a variety of hardscapes, all with automatic retractable pool covers, so when people come here, they can have most of their questions answered immediately in terms of pool style, color, and things of that nature."
WHAT IF YOU COME OUT?
The underlying genius of the idea is that by forcing customers to come to the store, it 1) automatically qualifies leads, and 2) simplifies and shortens the sales process.
It qualifies leads because by taking the time and effort to travel to the destination superstore, customers already have a little skin in the game. They've already put in their ante, so to speak. They've spent at least an hour of precious time, maybe more, and burned some gas.
"Over the years," Kaye says, "often people would call and say, 'We'd love to have you come out.' And I'd think, 'Well, I'd love to have you come out.' Because we cover a lot of territory, and driving can take hours, so why don't you come here where we can sit down and talk about our beautiful pools? I always feel like if there's a little bit of pushback on that, then maybe he's not motivated enough.
"If somebody says, 'Geez, that's just too far.' Well, sorry, (laughs) then it's probably too far for us, too. You can't be crisscrossing the state, running yourself ragged for people that really don't care about it."
The park further streamlines the sales process because it answers so many questions without words. With the pool configurations on display, customers gather information with their eyes, ears, nose and fingertips. And with a price tag on each pool, the money dance is shortened as well.
"We believe that the sooner the customer can get a price, the better," Kaye says. "And I think the customers really appreciate that. I mean, I know if I'm shopping for a car, I want to go to a lot where the price is on the car. I don't wanna have to mess around and have the guy say, 'Well, let me go check with my manager.' (laughs)
"I think that's very powerful. When it comes to price, let's just rip the bandaid right off. Let's not screw around, just tell them the price."
YOU GOTTA SEE IT TO SELL IT
Every salesperson knows that while catalogs, videos and advertisements are helpful, there's something very powerful in seeing the product. The primacy of physical presence is hardwired into the human brain. And the more products you have on hand, physically present, the more powerful the effect. That's why dealerships with full lots, and grocery stores with full shelves, and spa stores full of spas, all sell more.
That phenomena is in play at the Pioneer Valley superstore, coaxing customers to buy. Live product demonstrations help, Kaye says, especially with expensive add-ons like automatic pool covers. Massachusetts is one of the states where an automatic pool cover can replace a fence in local building codes, making it far more financially attractive, and the demo unit gets the conversation going.
"When people are out there next to the pool, and Tyson [director of sales Tyson Chamberlin] hits the switch, in 35 seconds the pool is uncovered. It's crystal clear, pristine, and they're like, 'Oh, yeah, I gotta have that.'
"That automatically starts the discussion: 'The automatic pool cover is 18 grand, but look, you'd probably spend $10,000 on a fence, right?' So that $10,000 is now a deposit on the 18 grand for the cover.
"Having it right in front of them makes it easier to sell those things, water features and anything else that we have out there that people can get inspiration from. It's a natural discussion. And it helps them make a decision."
Automation and equipment work the same. All the purchase details that normally have to be verbally described or computer visualized are self explanatory in the pool park.
"People often want to know how big the equipment pad is, and how loud the pump is, for instance. Here we can show them:
'Hey, can you hear that? That's the variable-speed pump.'
'Geez, I can't even hear it.'
'That's right. That's the idea.'
"Automation is the same: 'Let me pull my phone out and show you how we can start these water features from right here.'"
THE NATURE OF FIBERGLASS
In a way, the Pioneer Valley superstore is a natural progression in the growth of the fiberglass category, which has been vigorous for decades. At the turn of the century, the volume wasn't there, nor was the widespread installer expertise to put in zero-defect pools on a meticulous schedule, on a steady basis. But builders have perfected the process of delivering a reliable, attractive fiberglass pool.
"The guys really make this all happen," says Chamberlin. "Without a great team of installers and support people in place, you know, we couldn't possibly do this the way we do it. They take a lot of pride in their work. They work very long days, and they work hard."
"Fiberglass has come such a long way when you look at the shapes and sizes, features and benefits available today that weren't there when I started," Kaye adds. "They have dramatically changed, and that's changed how people look at fiberglass pools today. We can build a fiberglass pool as good as anything else out there."
The rapid market share growth of the fiberglass category is due to its unique characteristics. Fiberglass pools go in fast, and they are more standardized and affordable than other inground options. Fiberglass lends itself to the superstore approach because of its manufacturable, standardizable characteristics, and that ultimately makes it a powerful value proposition for consumers. They can have a beautiful, affordable pool, fast. And when the sales and specification process is streamlined by a pool park, that strong attractive feature is magnified.