Premiere Hot Tubs

Austin, Tex., hot tub store owner reflects on his business reputation, outlook

WHEN BILL MEYER, owner of Premiere Hot Tubs in Austin, Tex., talks about his focus on closing sales, he wants one thing to be clear: It’s not about the hard sell. “We’re very educational in the way we sell hot tubs — but we’re not in the education business. We aren’t charging tuition to walk in the front door; we have to sell hot tubs.”

The company’s closing rate jumped dramatically last year, and Meyer says there are many reasons why. The store itself is a destination, he says, so it doesn’t see many drive-by shoppers. Premiere has made an effort to improve by working on three things: the sales process, showroom visuals and utilizing promotions.

“When I say ‘closing,’ I’m not referring to closing on the first visit,” Meyer says. He has a joke or expression — all based on truth, he says — related to most all business situations. “You sell the hot tub on the first visit. You may not write a sales order for two years, but you sold it on that first visit.”

To improve the sales process, Meyer says it defined why it was selling hot tubs, then taught that process to his employees, expecting them to sell the way he wants them to.

In the showroom, Meyer did a lot of work to make the visuals compel people to buy now utilizing posters from his hot tub brands as well as some explaining the experience of buying from Premiere.

“If I think somebody’s ready to buy a hot tub, I will find a reason to convince them that the time to buy is now — that’s the whole promotion piece,” Meyer says. “It’s a sense of urgency, of why it would be advantageous to purchase now.”

The reason to buy now may be a sale or what you’d think of as a traditional promotion, but Meyer says it could be anything. He recently did a site survey for a man who was in the midst of building a new home. The customer wanted to put off the hot tub purchase until after the house was built, but since the delivery would require a crane, Meyer suggested it get done now before the driveway was completed. “It was a pretty good reason for urgency, albeit unusual, but I realized it was there,” Meyer says. “It’s best if your reasons are real.”

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A relative newcomer to the industry, Meyer started his business in 2006 when he purchased a franchise and moved his life from Southern California to Austin. The franchise relationship didn’t work out as planned, but the industry had its hooks in him, so he started Premiere.

“There’s a silver lining in every cloud,” Meyer says. “It was a big cloud, but it made me learn this business very quickly. I started Premiere with only three years of [industry] knowledge in 2009 in the middle of the recession, but we’re more than four years old and still here. We’ve grown every year.”

Since Meyer’s not beholden to an industry legacy or operational history, he feels no guilt in abandoning what doesn’t work: For him, that’s selling entry-level tubs. He says it just hasn’t been effective for his business.

“I’m increasingly focusing on what the name Premiere Hot Tubs means in this market,” Meyer says. “It does not mean cheap hot tubs. To me it means the best of everything — your best customer experience, your best website, the testimonials and the best value.”

Despite his efforts, Meyer simply couldn’t move tubs in the low-end price range — which he admits is not a bad problem to have. Low-end tubs didn’t fit into the image he’s worked hard to create at Premiere.

“It’s critically important that you develop an identity for your company,” Meyer says. “Why are people choosing to come to you? This is the kind of business where there just aren’t that many competitors in a given town. You’re not selling pizzas.

Bill is one of our highest-quality dealers. He gets involved with all aspects of our product from the engineering to the marketing; he is willing to overview and critique both. Clearwater Spas values this from his knowledgeable and particular perspective.

Larry Richards, vice president, Clearwater Spas