By Brian Van Bower
It’s a question often asked by pool builders across country: ‘Where can I find ‘high-end’ clients?’ Not only do they want to find these often elusive and discerning individuals, they also want to know how to better deal with them once a project is underway.
The short answer is, ‘You don’t find them, they find you.’ No amount of advertising or promotion can ever match the value of a solid reputation built on consistent high-level performances for other elite clients. That said, these individuals pose unique challenges; they typically look for the best options and are willing to pay a premium to get exactly what they want. Pool builders in smaller markets might think the following strategies have no bearing on them because they don’t have these types of clients in their customer base; however, there are high-end customers to be found even in the most modest locales. Homeowners across North America are building dream castles with 20-car garages; these people are clearly able to afford whatever they want when it comes to their backyard.
For an experienced pool builder, the key to dealing with these situations is preparation—being ready to tackle these projects and clients as they come. The process itself, however, can prove quite complicated. Working with upper echelon clients means accommodating an entire range of issues that cut to the core of how top builders conduct business. By learning how to establish rapport at the highest levels of the market, you can also learn the defining principles of client relationships that have a role at every level of the pool and spa industry.
Have no fear
When it comes to business, personal attitude often determines success—or failure. When it comes to dealing with high-end clients, you have to believe your business is capable of delivering over and beyond the dreams of even the most exacting homeowner.
While they may seem intimidating at first, you must approach these clients as equals; don’t look up or down to anyone. Often, the happiest and most successful individuals appreciate the blue-collar tradesman just as much as the white-collar professional. They value the hard work other people do (in part because they don’t want to do this work themselves). They also appreciate craftsmanship when they see it. Pool professionals typically have no trouble relating to blue-collar people; they do, however, tend to get anxious when dealing with those who have wealth, fame or power.
Overcoming this anxiety is the first step in dealing with high-end clients. You must learn to relate to people who lead lifestyles that would otherwise be beyond your experience. In North American society, people are often taught that rich, famous or powerful people are ‘special’ and should be regarded with awe. While these people are certainly worthy of respect and admiration for their success, it is counterproductive to assume there is no way to bridge the gap between your world and theirs.
As a professional, you must recognize these issues and patterns exist and must be retooled if you expect to cross social barriers and work effectively and efficiently with elite clients.
Find common ground
When interacting with high-end clients, your focus is naturally on the creation of the project itself, whether it is a simple pool or a full backyard renovation. As such, the best way to seek common ground with a client is to show that you appreciate excellence when it comes to the final product and job performance.
Every member of your staff must adopt this approach. They must understand that high-end clients have different expectations; this can be challenging for a young group of workers, many of whom are simply trying to make ends meet. As a leader, you must ensure your employees appreciate the way these clients think. The goal should be to encourage workers to maximize quality standards at all times. Creating a culture of quality and excellence offers the surest path to common ground with all clients, no matter their income bracket.
While quality and attention to detail speak volumes, the ability to relate to these clients also involves frames of reference that are outside the pool industry and the services it typically performs. On some level, this means knowing a thing or two about the fine arts, automobiles, architecture, interior furnishing and the like. When it comes to high-end clients, understanding the good life is quite relevant to your ability to do business.
This is not to say you need to know all there is to know about every possible luxury. However, by challenging yourself to become more knowledgeable about certain things you will show the client an appreciation for some of the finer things in life with which they tend to surround themselves.
Knowledge is power; it can give you the confidence to move in bold new directions. By learning about art history, for example, you will not only feel more comfortable talking with clients about their tastes, you’ll also improve your ability to design projects worthy of being called ‘art.’ The key is to keep an open mind.