Darth Vader’s Guide to Automatic Pool Cleaners

 Automatic pool cleaners make life easier–both for the pool tech and the client.  But with so many on the market, how do we determine which one will meet their pool’s needs? It is not practical to delve into every single cleaner out there.  So how do we know which one or ones to recommend? I am going to share with you how I get from, “Hi, how are you?” to “Enjoy your new cleaner.”

It’s Simple, Really

 With any sales opportunity, I look at it as problem-solving.  There are two main requirements involved in solving a customer’s problem:  Ask questions and then shut up and listen.  Two ears and one mouth, right? Let THEM tell you which APC (Automatic Pool Cleaner) they are willing to buy. Find out what their needs are and offer the cleaner you have in stock that is the best fit.  Easy, peasy.

If you’re busy telling, you ain’t selling

Best Automatic Pool Cleaners

Buying an automatic pool cleaner is a lot like buying a car, at least for your customer it can be. Some will want the most cleaner for the least amount of money, and others only buy top-shelf. The bottom line is they are often overwhelmed, and more often are clueless to how many options exist. They want us, the experts, to be knowledgeable and make recommendations based on what their specific situation. So, I’m a mind reader.  

They also do not want to feel like they are ‘being sold.’ The first inkling that they are the ‘up’ unknowingly wandering the lot, and they’ll begin to second guess your good intentions. After all, you are only trying to help them find the best APC (automatic pool cleaner).

Take the APC and these droids to my ship

People have the most endearing relationships with their automatic pool cleaners to the point that they actually name them. Not only do they name them, but often assume everyone “knows” their cleaner by name and Star Wars droids seem to top the list. Here are the TOP 5 list of Star Wars droid names for Automatic Pool Cleaners:

  1. Droideka
    • “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” (1999)
  2. Battle Droid
    • “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” (1999)
  3. C-3PO
    • “Star Wars” (1977)
  4. BB-8
    • “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015)
  5. R2-D2
    • “Star Wars” (1977)

Three main types and dozens of options

Pressure Cleaners– those that attach to the pressure side (return) of the pool’s circulation system tend to do a better job with larger debris, and an okay job with the fine stuff.  You may know this as a “booster pump” cleaner.  The water that is returning “pushes” the unit or “drives” it’s wheels. Because these units are self-contained in debris collection, they do result in less debris for the filter to collect.

Suction Cleaners–  These excel at sand and silt. They’ll gather their fair share of leaf debris, but nothing much larger than palm size.  They attach to a dedicated suction line or directly into the skimmer and uses the water being “sucked” out to operate it. These units do well with the fine stuff and come the closest to replicating the method you use with a pole and a hose.

Robotic Cleaners– Completely independent of the equipment.  Uses a standard 110v outlet. They have a self-contained canister for debris. They run around like little tanks, and many will even climb walls and scrub the tile line. It’s not uncommon for these units to filter the water as they roam about and that results in longer filter runs (more time in between backwashes), removing particles in some cases to 2 microns. That’s about the size, or smaller than a DE filter collects.

Not spending a lot of time on the whole suction versus pressure versus robot thing because I know you already know this, but it helps me set up whats coming next.

The best automatic pool cleaners

Are we replacing an existing cleaner?

Ask the guest if they already have a cleaner.  Find out if it has worked for them or not.  Ask what they like, or dislike, about their current APC.  A lot of times they love their cleaner, but it has just gotten past the point of repair.  This is an easy opportunity to replace like for like, especially if they already have a dedicated line for a booster pump in place. Maybe they have already had their best automatic pool cleaner and they want to have that one again?

Tip:  Don’t ever knock a brand or model of cleaner. It can be viewed as the same as bad-mouthing a competitor. Besides, you don’t want to make the customer feel they previously made a poor decision or steer them away from replacing it with what they really want.

Is there a cleaner you had in mind?

In the day of the internet, most computer literate folk do their own research before coming into the store.  They may have read reviews or even contacted the manufacturer.  You know almost without a doubt they have been price shopping on Amazon and possibly a competitor. They may be leaning towards a particular brand or model.  Use this as your launching point on which cleaners to show them.   If I don’t carry the cleaner or If the cleaner they have researched won’t work for them for whatever reason,  I always compliment their choice, research, and time spent. Then I explain why a different cleaner will exceed their expectations.  We don’t want the client to feel like they were “wrong” or “wasted their time”.

If I have the unit in stock that they came in and asked for, I go get them one. The easiest way to close a sale is to sell them what they want. Talking them out of one unit and into another always runs a risk that the unit will be returned. This may be their best automatic pool cleaner.

Tip:  I always lead with “we sell our cleaners for the lowest price possible to still get the manufacturer’s rebate.”  This way they know they will have money coming back and glean some info onto why your price point is where it is.

Similar Article: How To: Cleaning a Swimming Pool Salt Cell ?

Tell me about your pool

What kind of pool? Plaster, Vinyl, or Fiberglass?

  •  How deep is the pool?  Certain cleaners have a limitation of how deep of an end they can get out of
  •  What is the surface of the pool?  Some cleaners work better on certain finishes or require special parts (cork shoes, etc.)
  • Do you have a variable speed pump or a single speed pump?-  A lot of newer cleaners are designed to operate with lower flow.  This is great for variable speed pump owners. In my experience, some APC’s do not perform well with a single speed pump as the RPMS are too high for constant use.  We know most clients leave the cleaner in the pool all. The. time.
  • Do you have a designated suction line?  A booster pump?  How many return inlets do you have?  Do you have more than one skimmer?  These all play a role in which cleaner you need to suggest to meet your guest’s needs.  Obviously what family of cleaners depends on their equipment.  The return of the water will lead you to determine if you need a gear-driven model.
    • If they have a designated suction line and basic debris you would go with suction. 

Tip:  Always ask if they plan on leaving the cleaner in the pool all the time.  You can discuss safety and manufacturer’s recommendations as it relates to this, it is a great segue into robotics.

What sort of debris do you get into your pool?

This is a great chance to discuss WHAT exactly we are picking up.  Ask about trees, dogs, and landscaping.  Ask if their gardener gets junk in the pool when he comes.  We need to know the size, frequency, and severity of any foliage that enters the water.  Some cleaners (Like a diaphragm cleaner) won’t handle certain types of leaves like palm frawns. Those with dedicated steering patterns (also a selling feature) are good for leaves of palm-size, as mentioned above, but long or stringy will clog up the turbine.

Tip:  If you aren’t sure what leaves, seeds or berries a tree disperses, Google that sh*t.  Show the photo to the guest and confirm that is what they are getting.  They may not be correct in what trees they actually have.

Did you want to do suction or robotic?

 A lot of pool owners aren’t even aware they even have this choice.  I always quickly explain the luxury of a robotic even if they say they want to do suction or pressure side. Robotic cleaners work with all types of debris.  And are great for any pool.

Tip:  I always touch on the perks of not having the machine in the pool all the time.

Features and Benefits

 Now that you have determined the owner’s needs, you are ready to help guide them to the unit they described.  I Always lead with the highest priced cleaner that meets that mirrors what they had told me, this gives me the option to drop sell should they flat out the object to the price. If I was to start low, working your way upward is a more challenging task. 

Finding the best in automatic pool cleaners

Don’t be afraid to use your customer’s words and match the benefits of a specific unit to the key needs/wants they had shared. This is also a great method of handling objections if they start to lean toward hemming and hawing. Make it a personal experience and by all means, use terms that the customer can understand.  If you try to dazzle them by throwing up techno-jargon you’ll not likely ring anything in the till. If there were negative things they didn’t like about their former cleaner, explain how they won’t experience that now – though I’d again reserve this for handling an objection.

Do talk up the lack of maintenance the unit needs and depth of warranty.  Uses your sales 101 training to close the deal.  I try to limit my suggestions to 2 cleaners while guiding the guest to the one they are secretly telling me they should have.  Too many choices overwhelm the guest and will leave them not ready to make a decision.

Tip:  If you owned the customer’s pool and had their specific needs…what cleaner would you put in your pool.  Be honest.  A bigger sale doesn’t necessarily mean a better sale if the client’s needs could have been better met.  

Do your homework and get excited

 Enthusiasm sells.  Ask them what they are going to name their new cleaner.  Have fun.  If you aren’t sure about the features and benefits of the automatic pool cleaners you sell…find out.  Ask a colleague, look online, call the company, or hit up your rep.  They are usually available to do some in-field training.  They may even have a sample cleaner they can loan you to try out.

Tip:  If you have cleaner displays always put it in the client’s hand so they get a sense of ownership.  Show them how it works using the head instead of just pointing to the box. Learn to read the closing ques. Go get them one in a box, let them carry it . It’s got more weight to it than they likely thought; if it’s heavy it means they are getting their money’s worth. Beside’s, nothing feels more like something belongs to you than carrying it around.

Most important, don’t oversell it. When it’s a done deal it doesn’t get anymore done than that. If you let your mouth drag you beyond the point of no return, you’ll know. You’ll know because they’ll tell you except their words may sound like “Okay, let me think about that and I’ll probably be back this weekend.” Guess what? “this weekend” is a magical place like “forever after” and exists only in fairytales and only sometimes in real life. 

I would love to hear your best practices for suggesting and selling automatic pool cleaners.   This is just what has worked for me.  What works for you?  Comment below!

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