by John ‘Legend’ Bokor, Haviland
Pool professionals and consumers are embracing salt-chlorine generators and reaping the benefits of this technology. However, retailers are learning that this is not a product you sell and walk away from. Consumers need to be educated on how the product works and provided a simple salt-system maintenance program. Not only will a well-organized plan ensure customer satisfaction but will also lead to a regular stream of profits for retail stores.
Selling Salt Pools
It’s unfortunate, but consumers are mostly misinformed about what the salt-chlorine generator does and how it works. Whether the product wasn’t explained to them by their pool professional or perhaps their own research is misinformed, many consumers are under the false impression that installing a salt-chlorine generator is all they need.
“We find that most consumers think that a salt pool doesn’t use any chlorine,” says Kathi Belcourt, retail manager of Aqua Tech Pool, Spa & Bath in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Many consumers believe, she adds that the installation of that magical device eliminates the need to do anything else to the pool.
Unintentionally, pool professionals selling salt-chlorine generators aren’t always taking the time to explain that the salt-chlorine generator is reducing the amount of maintenance needed to sanitize pool water, but it doesn’t eliminate the need to shock, oxidize and ‘algae-cide’ the pool water to keep the chemistry balanced.
Dan Cosby, store manager of Dartmouth Pools in New Bedford, Massachusetts, says that the misinformation about what salt-chlorine generators do for pools made it difficult for Dartmouth Pools to integrate them into the business at first. Pool professionals need to spend more time educating consumers on this product. It’s important to use clear language and state the facts.
“We quickly learned that our retail team had to all get on the same page and be sure that the information we provided was presented in a cohesive manner using the same terms,” Cosby says.
It’s important to convey that salt-chlorine generators eliminate the need to put chlorine tabs, granular chlorine or liquid chlorine into the feeder once a week. Instead, consumers just add salt into the chlorine generator at the beginning of the season — making it more convenient and safer to sanitize the pool water by eliminating the handling of chemicals.
“The success of the salt-chlorine generators comes from the fact that people do not want to handle chlorine tablets and they don’t want to deal with chlorine feeders and chlorine feeder fumes,” says Jonathan Schulhoff, retail manager of Arthur Edwards Pool and Spa Centre in Millers Place, New York.
Once the consumer has the salt pool they want, retailers need to educate the consumer on how to get the most value out of their salt-chlorine generator investment. This is a huge potential profit center that allows specialty retailers to drastically increase their profits with a salt support chemical maintenance program.
Selling Salt Pool Support Programs
The profits and other benefits of salt-chlorine generators continue when retailers market products and service that compliment them.
The first big hurdle: explain to salt owners that their pool water is special, and they need a special maintenance program to protect their investment.
“Many of the consumers who come in and ask to make their pool a salt pool think that the system uses no chlorine and worst of all, they think that because they are using salt, they are going to save money on chemicals,” Belcourt says. “Our job is to explain how it all works, how their salt pool requires special salt-support products and that, by following the program, they will enjoy the many benefits of having a salt-chlorine generator on their pool for the long term.”
It’s hard to take all the time needed to explain the complexity of how a salt-chlorine generator works and how it changes the makeup of the pool water, such as why the device creates heat, how it changes the pH, why there might be an increase in corrosion and scale and the importance of not adding phosphates to the water. Some customers are going to want to know why all the products are different from what goes in regular pool water. But some customers just want a simple recipe.
Provide Salt-Pool Prescriptions
It’s alsoimportant not to oversell the value of the salt-chlorine generator. Continue to state the facts: a salt-chlorine generator sanitizes the pool but you still need to keep the water balanced, otherwise algae will develop, the pool equipment (including the chlorine generator) could end up with corrosion and scale and the salt-chlorine generator could potentially be less effective as well.
Luckily, chemical manufacturers have created products that are specially blended to specifically work with salt-chlorine generators. Just like specialty compound pharmacies are now blending vitamins and prescriptions to customize programs for consumers, pool stores need to be the supplier of specialty products tailored to the salt pool and even more so, to how the pool is used and by whom.
There are so many different chemical support options available that Aqua Tech offers three different brands to provide a good, better and best selection. “We decided to embrace salt-chlorine generators realizing that, not only is the equipment profitable to sell, but the salt-support chemical program is also highly profitable,” Belcourt says.
And again, just as patients are loyal to their physicians, salt-pool customers are very loyal to their pool professionals. “One of the greatest benefits we have seen from salt pools, is the incredible customer loyalty and relationship we build with the customer as a result of spending the time to educate the customer on the science and chemistry of the product,” Belcourt says.
Here are several strategies that retailers are now using to successfully sell salt-support maintenance programs:
Create a ‘salt pool’ section
You don’t want potential customers overwhelmed when they walk into your retail store. Grocery stores all have an organic section — follow this example and create a space in the store specific to the products salt-pool owners will need. You don’t want a consumer with a salt-chlorine generator to head into the general chemical section and be overwhelmed — especially in the heat of the season when the store is busy and you might not have staff available to help a client immediately. Use signage and videos to get the consumer to the right section of the store to pick up what they need until someone can attend to them.
Cosby’s store has a salt pool section and he explains that walking people to that section and having everything in one place makes it easier to point out what the customer needs “We have it displayed in such a way that it’s simple to understand and purchase,” he says. “We even find that customers sell to one another — when one salt-pool customer sees another salt-pool customer walking out the door with a salt support product, they look over and ask the customer why they are purchasing that product.”
Add salt support to your water testing software
“We are extremely busy during our very short season here in the northeast, so the best move we made was to incorporate the salt support line of products into our water testing software,” Cosby says. “There was something about the customer seeing the printout in black and white that helped us sell and discuss the products and the unique salt-pool maintenance. Once we did this, we immediately watched our sales of salt support products increase dramatically.”
Arthur Edwards Pool uses a borate-based salt support product line, so testing for borates has been a game changer Schulhoff says. “We use the LaMotte Spin test and have included borates as one of the items to test on every water sample,” he says. “If we didn’t include borates as part of our test, our customers might think we were trying to sell them snake oil, so testing for borates has been a big win for us.
Brand the salt support program
It’s important to have a go to salt-pool program that includes products for startup, scale inhibition and booster for use in the heat of the summer when bather loads are high. Be sure that the salt-support program you provide to your customer includes a chlorine-free shock, a scale preventer without phosphates and an algaecide that won’t be broken down by the salt.
Color-coding is an excellent way to keep it simple. Consider creating a customized maintenance placard that the customer can take home and post in the pump room or on the refrigerator. Take the time to brand it with your company name, too: Label it ‘Pool Store’s Salt-Pool Maintenance Program.’
It’s also important to have staff who enjoy explaining water chemistry to those sitting at the water testing bar of the store, which is a great place to educate the consumer. Another option is to set up a ‘pool school’ class at the beginning of the season to help the consumer understand what is happening in the pool water and why it needs sanitization, oxidation and algaecide.
Many people prefer the safety and convenience of a salt-chlorine generator and are willing to pay for that ease of use and convenience. Consumers need to be educated on how salt-chlorine generators work and need to be provided with a simple salt-pool maintenance program. Not only will a well-organized plan ensure customer satisfaction, but it will also create customer loyalty and a long-term stream of profits for retail stores.
John ‘The Legend’ Bokor is the Midwest regional sales manager for Haviland Pool and Spa Products. He joined the company after nearly 25 years in the pool retail industry. Bokor, a certified pool operator (CPO), regularly speaks to professional dealers and pool owners within his territory about water chemistry and maintenance. John ‘The Legend’ also is the host and star of: Legendary Pools & Spas —a successful video series highlighting the best of the pool and spa industry. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.