Are You Selling What Your Customer is Buying?

Over the last 20 years, consumers have changed dramatically. Yet, many water equipment dealers are still selling the way their fathers did. The result? Frustration, as they may not be selling what their customer is buying.

Customer Evolution

Twenty, 30 or 40 years ago, the average customer was a married man living in a rural area with serious water problems. He had a lot of time to see “the water man,” and he cared about durability, savings and company reputation.

Every demo began with a flip book of the hydrological cycle, a picture of the company president and a history of the company. The demo was filled with descriptions of how resin worked and all the reasons why a particular brand was superior to another. Many dealers threw in some scary stuff about health, showed the customers how much they could save and voila … sales were made.

Today, the average customer is a married woman with children who has no serious water problems. The hot button is taste. She is not interested in long demos, technical information, gimmicks, scare tactics, telemarketing or trickery. She is the best-educated consumer in history. She has very little time, and she is accustomed to multi-tasking.


In today’s throwaway, multi-media society, customers are less concerned with how long a product will last and more concerned with how a product will make them feel. This has caused advertising to shift from providing information to depicting an emotion or lifestyle.

As proof of our claims, take a look at television commercials, which are good references because companies do a lot of market research before they spend millions on television ads. In the past, ads emphasized technical information. Car ads focused on transmissions, engines, etc. Bufferin ads used cartoons of stomachs to show how fast they digested the product. Pepto-bismal showed how it coated the stomach. Ralston Purina and Johnson & Johnson showed pictures of their presidents and factories.

Today, however, few television ads provide technical information. There are no ads showing the company president or the factory. What do they show? Benefits and lifestyle. Let’s look at a few examples. Do McDonald’s advertisements show the high quality of the beef they use or how they cook it? No, they show a grandfather bringing his grandchild in for a burger. They don’t sell beef; they sell love. Do car commercials explain how the transmission works? No, they sell status and luxury.

One recent ad for dandruff shampoo shows a man using the shampoo, and then a woman appears and gets in the shower with him. This apparently sells far more shampoo than a scientist on camera describing the chemicals in the shampoo and how they prevent dandruff.

Moving with the Times

So, why is the water equipment industry clinging to the past?

Well, change is tough, and smaller water treatment companies don’t have the millions of dollars that big companies put into market research. Also, manufacturers conduct sales training in our industry. Naturally, they are proud of their products and believe that talking about resin and valves sells equipment. Many of us just haven’t noticed the market has changed, as many only sell to people who call in, and those folks have a big need and a big problem.

There is a solution, however. Dealers can use a new type of demonstration, like the one our company has developed for the industry. It takes less than an hour and is geared toward selling lifestyle, not resin. There is an important place for product knowledge. After the customers fall in love with the luxury and lifestyle, they need facts to logically justify their purchase. That is where technical information is invaluable. Product knowledge is certainly indispensable in situations where customers are comparing one brand to another; however, these incidents only occur after the consumer has fallen in love with the product.

The proof is in the closing. The lifestyle demonstration we teach was developed and proven with hundreds of young salespeople selling on 7-grain municipal markets. They averaged a 50% closing rate. The public has spoken. How is your demo working with today’s young families on non-problem water?

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