I have to write this article about the erosion of our American
values--especially free speech in our industry. It seems that our industry is
allowing a gradual whittling away of our rights, and I'd hate to see that
happen. The image in the media--more importantly, the image may have in
ourselves--is that we are going to hell in a hand basket. We are seen as an
industry full of charlatans, praying on the weak with high pressure tactics.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Facts Have Been Twisted
I work as a trainer, recruiter and consultant, so I know the marketing
techniques of many dealers pretty well. I believe our industry has a smaller
percentage of "bad apples" than other industries. Sure, we have some
crooks in our ranks--every industry does--and they should be charged with
whichever laws they are breaking.
I watched the most recent expos?© of our industry on TV in horror--not at the
facts that were presented but what was left out. What I have heard is thatthe
manufacturer went to great lengths to fix the damage caused by a single
renegade dealer in its ranks. I have been told (but I have not verified it)
that the company offered the customers involved full refunds, delivered soap
packages that a dealer reneged on and bent over backwards to show its honor and
honesty. Where were these facts in the expos?©? Nowhere, because a story of
honesty and integrity gets smaller audiences than an expos?© with hidden
cameras. I could tell hundreds of stories--and I am sure you could, too--of
dealers who have gone beyond the call of duty to satisfy customers and dealers
who have donated bottled water in times of disaster. Why doesn't TV ever show
I would like to know how many salespeople are secretly taped before one does
something wrong. Why don't they report the percentage of salespeople they taped
were accurate and honest?
Overstepping Their Bounds
Added to media that is not bound by the facts are governments who I believe
may be overstepping their bounds. More and more dealers tell me they receive
calls from their state governments telling them what they can and cannot do.
Several dealers in a Midwestern state told me that the Attorney General told
them they cannot show articles from the web or magazines as part of their
demonstration. I cannot recall any law or area of the constitution that says
you cannot show articles by medical experts and published in magazines. Other
dealers tell me that they have been raided and forced to show everything in their
kits, all training materials, flip books and recent customer contracts. It gets
to me that our government will defend a person's right to watch pornography in
a taxpayer-funded library but can prevent trained water professionals from
showing articles that are published online and in prestigious medical
What Is Right and What Is Wrong?
The facts are clear. It is wrong to lie to customers and potential
customers. It is wrong to cause undue alarm for no reason. However, I believe
that if you stick squarely to the facts and you are doing it for the customers'
good, right is on your side.
What Exactly Is a Scare Tactic?
Scare tactics have been exaggerated to create scorn for many normal selling
techniques. This term is applied to our industry too much. If a realtor says to
a prospective home buyer, "You'd better get into owning a home now or
rising prices will put them out of your reach," is that a scare tactic? I
would say not because they are facts that are true and are being said to help
the client make the right decision.
I notice a difference in how we are judged as to how the rest of the world
is judged. For example, if 60 Minutes or Dateline does an expos?© of poor water
conditions in Atlanta, they are praised for their good work. If a water
equipment dealer uses the same facts, he is condemned. What's the difference?
Some say it is because the water dealer is using the facts to make money. This
line of reasoning over looks the fact that TV shows also run stories to make
money. I for one am not ashamed to tell you I do things for money. I don't
think it alters my ethics as I am a big believer in free enterprise. If a
company does good things, the public will reward it. If a company takes
advantage, I believe it eventually catches up.
Can It Be Because They Supply the Water?
I believe that the reason the government is more interested in controlling
the truth our industry spreads is because it treats the water. It's not about
the public, it's about reputation and job security. Remember, that when you
talk about improving water, some interpret that as saying the government is not
doing a good job. Notice there has been no crack down on dealers who improve
the air. That's because the government doesn't "treat" the air.
Do Seniors Need Protection?
I am rapidly approaching my senior years. Thank goodness I can still make
purchasing decisions on my own, and I am still able to resist high pressure.
The do-gooders who would regulate you tell me I will reach an age soon where I
will willingly write out a check to a high pressure salesperson for a product I
cannot understand and do not need. My mother-in-law is 84 and I would hate to
be a salesperson who tried to pressure her. Out of thousands of salespeople I
have met, I would consider only two high pressure. I would love to hear from
any readers who have purchased anything from high pressure salespeople. The
fact is that as an industry, we suffer from low pressure sales--not high. Sure,
there are some who use questionable tactics, but they are few and far between.
The fact is, the product we sell is so good, you don't need to use high
pressure to sell it.
What To Do About It
If you want the highest standards for your company, you don't need to throw
out all good sales practices. Here are a few things I suggest to make sure your
ethics are high.
* Set high written standards. Make
sure you have in writing what each member of your sales team is and is not
allowed to say and do. Write out a script for the demo and make your sales team
do their demo for you on a regular basis. Ride along on some appointments, so
you can see what they do. Inspect their kits and books. What do they have in
the way of articles, and how do they use them? Know what is going on and
discipline where necessary.
* Strong associations
style='font-weight:normal'>. Call and write your state and national Water
Quality Association and let them know they should continue lobbying to protect
you from government incursion. They should be prepared to take unconstitutional
laws and practices to trial if necessary. Keep these organizations informed of
any practices or changes in laws that you are facing.
* Encourage manufacturers
to act. Contact your manufacturer and ask
it to fight as well. Some manufacturers may act sheepish, hoping that if a controversy
arises, it can prove it had nothing to do with it. They should assist their
dealers in lobbying and in making sure that no state controls the industry more
than what is lawful and necessary.
* Take a stand
style='font-weight:normal'>. Is it the law or an extension of power? I am in
favor of obeying all laws with regard to selling as well as keeping high moral
standards. However, does it seem unAmerican for states to tell water equipment
dealers they cannot show customers articles written in prestigious medical
journals, published in magazines or on the Internet? Do you wonder by what
authority states have seized the presentation books of dealers who have not
been charged with any crime to audit them for "offending material?"
If you are against this type of abuse of power, if you feel it is unlawful
and unwarranted, take a stand before it is too late.
Government, Media Focus Too Much on Water Treatment Industry