As a product manager of point-of-entry systems, I have often been asked, “How does one sell ultrafiltration (UF)?” This question is born out of two issues: First, dealers may view UF systems as niche technologies that do not offer the robust sales opportunities that more general products can offer; and second, in the eyes of the consumer, there are other systems that can do the same thing for far less money. Right or wrong, these views make the recommendation and selection of a UF system less likely.
While UF systems often are considered a part of the toolbox of standard water treatment products, they have capabilities that make them best suited to specific filtration applications. Some of these applications were discussed in my previous article, “Alternative Applications” (November 2013). Given the seeming ambiguity of a UF system among other water treatment options, how does one differentiate the story of a UF system in a fashion that resonates with customers and shows them it is the right product to purchase? If the application is appropriate, how does one justify the use of such a complex piece of technology to address a customer’s water needs? This article will detail five steps that will help dealers effectively sell UF systems to the general market consumer.
Step 1: Understand how to tell the story.
Water treatment can be a challenging topic of discussion for many consumers. The impurities being treated, the variety of devices available, and the functional options offered by these devices can be complex and difficult to explain in layman’s terms. Customers may not be interested in all of the technical details; rather, they may prefer to know whether a particular problem can be solved by a recommended product.
Adding value to the treatment devices being installed and explaining their benefits are extremely important when introducing a solution like UF. The customer should feel comfortable after the installation and confident about the resultant water quality.
Step 2: Identify the water challenge.
When discussing UF, it is important to explain what the technology does and, equally important, what it does not do. This will help set the right expectations for resultant water quality and product performance. For example, many UF systems are certified to reduce viruses and bacteria in water, along with turbidity, colloids and cysts. These systems do not reduce hardness, chlorine or total dissolved solids — a common misconception.
It is also important to perform a water test before each installation to understand the water challenges prior to recommending equipment. If the test shows alarming levels of bacteria in the water, consider the amount and determine whether additional treatment devices, such as a chlorinator, are needed.
Step 3: Shape and share the "value" story.
Creating a story about a product not only acts as a sales pitch, but also as an opportunity to shape the product’s value proposition. Today, consumers are more informed and invested in their purchases, from cars to phones to home improvement. Therefore, showing and sharing the value of an investment like UF water treatment is crucial to ensuring a sale.
UF technology has been proven for decades, which can be demonstrated to the customer. The message here is, “Instead of installing a water treatment product that may take care of half of the job, or requires monthly cartridge changes, install a UF system that is proven to perform.” This message is strengthened by describing to the customer what the UF system does differently from other systems. This includes providing bottled-quality water at every tap in the home. Shaping the story by sharing the value that a UF system can offer helps the customer’s decision-making process.
Step 4: Choose the right product.
Sizing any water treatment system or component correctly is essential to achieving optimal product performance. Each UF system has a different performance specification, which should be considered before installation. It is important to consider flow rates, gallons filtered per day, self-cleaning processes, system controller capabilities and the overall life of the product.
If a system is selected that does not achieve the desired flow rates, for example, customers may see a reduction in water pressure, which can result in the dealer making another trip to the home to add equipment — or, even worse, to replace the system altogether. As previously mentioned, many UF systems are certified for virus and bacteria reduction. It is important to take this into consideration after water treatment needs are determined.
Step 5: Maintain the system and the customer relationship.
One of the key factors to ensuring that a product lasts for its expected life or beyond is proper maintenance. Just like an oil change for a vehicle, regular maintenance must be done to ensure that UF systems perform optimally. Not only does regular (annually is common) maintenance give the product a longer life, it creates a recurring revenue stream for the dealer. Offering this service at the point of the sale is a great way to lock in future service calls and ensure customer satisfaction. It is hassle free for the customer and helps to reiterate that the purchase was indeed a wise one.
From approaching prospects with a clear understanding of their needs to ensuring that the value provided lasts beyond the sale, applying these steps can shape your sales approach in a fashion that differentiates you from other business owners. It also can support the business growth and customer base expansion, not only for UF sales, but for water treatment sales in general.