Former Business Development Representative at POOLCORP
Joel has over 15 years experience in the swimming pool industry and was a leading Business Development Representative for 14 seasons for POOLCORP. In 2002, he joined POOLCORP and was responsible for the New Jersey and Pennsylvania region as an outside sales representative working directly with pool contractor customers. Joel now works for Merlin Industries, a vinyl and pool cover manufacturer, as the Regional Sales Manager covering the Mid-Atlantic region. Read more
Joel, can you share a short introduction to your role and responsibilities at POOL CORP?
At POOL CORP, there are different positions; I was in a position called BDR, business development representative. It’s the sort of title that goes to outside sales people these days. I had a portion of New Jersey and my customer base consisted of service companies – sometimes they’d stand alone – retail services and then there was a tri-sector customer, which was a retail store that does construction and runs a service. I had all three of those and anyone in my position would have the same mix, regardless of where they were.
As a BDR at POOL CORP, your responsibilities were to budget and, annually, you are going to go through all of your accounts. You’re going to come up with where they are, where you see them going and you will budget for growth from there. You don’t just do that by putting a number on it; ultimately you have to assign values to it. You might say, we’re going to do so much in this product category and so much in that product category and so on and so forth. You would be looking at whether or not you are going to get their chems; if you don’t have them currently, can you get them? If so, what is going to be the course of action? How do you plan to go about it? Is there a manufacturer that you need to bring in as a third party?
As a distributor sales rep, there’s no better sales call you can do with a client, in most cases, than bringing in a third-party manufacturer, such as somebody as I am now, working for a manufacturer. What happens there is that your manufacturer meets you at the client’s office space or store and they will give you a certain amount of time and they will present their product for you. You are the distributor bringing in the manufacturer and that’s a big part of how your meetings will go, at different times of the year. The selling cycle lends itself to a chunk of time. In the North East, mid-Atlantic, New England, that chunk of time is, basically, from the beginning of January until the end of April. When you get to the 5th May, if you haven’t got someone’s business or you haven’t already put yourself in a position to get the business, odds are that they are so busy at that point that they’ve already gone a different way or, frankly, they were never going to go with you to begin with.
You want to be wary, sometimes, with the customers you are going to get in late April, beginning of May, because there’s usually a reason for that. Maybe there is a credit issue or a disgruntled issue or maybe their suppliers don’t want to deal with them anymore. So there are a couple of factors to be conscious of.
But the selling cycle is very intense. You’ve got four months, from a distributor and manufacturer side, from the mid-Atlantic up to New England, to secure your business for the year. That means closing down on the early buys you pitched in the previous season, at the end of the year and getting them to come to fruition and map out those orders, hammer down pricing and then schedule delivery. Pricing is a big part of what you do in the distribution side. It’s not nearly as much a part of the manufacturing side; it’s really more about touches. But in the distribution, you are constantly dealing with the pricing side of the equation because so much of how a small business thinks about how they do, is largely based on their cost. A distributor, like POOL CORP, tries to constantly preach value and high-margin products and private-label products, where there is more margin.
Just taking a step back and looking at POOL CORP as a business, how would you describe the feeling of working there?
Everybody has a different experience. I started in 2002 and I left in 2015, so I was there for 14 seasons. I would say, in the beginning, as I was learning the industry, as I was fresh and new to it, it was interesting, entertaining and educational; I enjoyed my first couple of years. I did feel, however, at a certain point, whilst you were told that the opportunities were exponential, they were actually rather limited. As a sales rep, you either want to be a branch manager or get yourself to regional. For me, I had no interest in being a branch manager; I wanted to be a regional manager. There are only so many regions and, therefore, there are only so many of those jobs to go round and there are so many BDRs. So you end up hitting a ceiling in your pay scale. There are four tiers of pay and I was at the highest end of the second tier and I got stuck there.
For me, that side of it, the culture of it, was probably good at first and then, later, not so good for me. Overall, it’s a great stepping stone for someone who is learning to be a sales person, who wants to learn the basic building blocks and fundamentals of a sales person. You really need to have some form of outside sales experience before you take a position as a BDR and a distributor, particularly in a company like POOL CORP. They are heavy on technology and reporting. Over the years, they’ve welcomed in all the new technology such as the CMR, the CMS, sales digest and things like that; I’ve utilized a lot of those programs. They are all helpful.
The culture, in general, is an open-ended question; a high-gain question. It would be very easy to stick my foot in my mouth. I would say that I enjoyed the culture and, probably, was my own worst enemy, in certain respects. It is a big company and there is a structure to who is in charge. Sometimes, when you’re younger, you don’t really want to accept that. As you get a little older, you start to realize that there are people in charge that you need to answer to and show respect to. At this point, I’m almost 49 and I’ve come around full circle to understanding that a bit better.