The 100-Year Flood

Managing leads amid the explosion of interest in hot tubs

Ben Poggemiller, co-owner of Urban Life Pools & Hot Tubs in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada, says with so many hot tub deliveries in a short time span, he’s had to learn quickly which tasks to prioritize and which can wait. Even as owners, “We’ve had to pitch in with deliveries and service calls just to keep up,” he says.

 It’s a sentiment felt throughout the industry in 2020, with the pandemic affecting an enormous uptick in hot tub sales. Inquiries and demand for product are at an all-time high, and no one is quite sure how long this will last. Managing the explosion of leads, however, requires new approaches.

“Spa dealers have pulled out all the stops,” says Kristan Hart, senior account manager at The Get Smart Group in Angels Camp, California. “They are restructuring staff. They are changing the services they offer. All of them are working extra hours. Pool and spa businesses have to be flexible.”

Meredith Volpe, sales manager at Ocean Spray Pools & Spas in Westhampton Beach, New York, says her sales staff are putting in even longer hours than usual. “Our sales staff has always taken calls, emails and texts on their days off and their own time,” Volpe says. “A great salesperson is never out of reach with their clients, but the hours have increased since the beginning of the pandemic.”

For Poggemiller, putting the work in to creating ready-to-go responses improved efficiency. “We have worked hard to template out answers to common questions and ways to guide people through the sales process,” he says, “so that when someone emails, calls or messages us on Facebook, we already have the language to help them find the right tub. For the most part, we get a lot of repeat questions and inquiries, so it made sense to write out our answers ahead of time.”

Automated email follow-up systems have become a lifesaver for many spa businesses in the past few months. “Businesses see the best results when a lead is contacted within five minutes,” Hart says. “Salespeople are simply too busy for that right now. However, an automated email follow-up system means the lead receives a personal email within moments of reaching out.”

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With well-built email campaigns, Hart says, a lead should receive follow-up emails every few days. The sales team will be able to see valuable information, like which emails are opened and what links readers clicked on. This type of automated system costs little and it keeps the conversation open.

David Carleton, owner of Spa Pool Marketing Success in San Diego, is a big believer in automating online processes. “I have a lot of dealers that have had their leads increase by 150%, 200%, 300%,” Carleton says. “This can have a tendency to overwhelm the dealers. What I’ve tried to do with my clients is be sure they have systems and automation to handle the everyday stuff.”

Pam Vinje Isbell, president and CEO of Small Screen Producer in Houston, is helping her clients manage leads by creating interactive videos and online comparison programs for their websites. This gives potential customers the opportunity to filter out information they don’t need and get to what they’re looking for. They end up getting their questions answered quickly, and the sales team can see what their leads are looking for. This way, when the salespeople follow up, leads are already narrowed to true interest.

“What I’m trying to do is get people off the phones because they can’t handle 50 calls,” Vinje Isbell explains, “and they don’t know if it’s an interested customer, a tire kicker, an outraged person — they just don’t know. It’s hard to put salespeople on these calls. [The funneling process] is all done ahead, so when it goes into the salesman’s inbox, he understands what the person is looking for. It also allows him to figure out how he can upsell it. It’s like a pre-sales screener.”

Carleton says spa dealers need a strategy to manage the barrage of interest. “It’s raining leads right now,” he says, “but that’s not always going to be the case — and you have a tendency to put off more people if you don’t follow up. Give your customers and prospects as many ways to communicate with you as possible.”

No matter the approach, these hectic times require teamwork. For Volpe, it’s just a variation on the regular routine. “Normally after-hours leads are assigned to a specific salesperson; however, during the pandemic, it hasn’t been easy to keep up. The client is top priority, and getting to them quickly is essential, so if a lead is open for an extended period, another salesperson will step in and take over that lead. Since the goal is giving each client or potential client the best possible service, teamwork is crucial.”