‘All I Knew How to Do Was Sell’
Randy Williams is sold on RainSoft and has been for decades. He first heard about the company through one of his high-school buddies. “I was flat broke. I was looking for a career. When I saw my first demonstration of the RainSoft product, I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t everyone who sees this buy it.’ The light bulb went off in my head; I truly thought this is a future I could commit to,” he said.
And commit he did. Today Williams is President of RainSoft of Huntsville–Pure Water Inc., which he runs with his wife, Lisa. They’ve been in business 24 years. “We’re one of the most successful dealerships of our size in the whole RainSoft company, globally. We’re in the top five every year as far as volume goes. I just stay motivated. We’ll hit $3 million this year. Last year we grossed $2.9 million and we’re already up 18 percent since the start of the year,” he said.
He started out working with his high-school friends in Arkansas. “I had to learn how to do a presentation. I wasn’t very good at studying or retaining all that stuff. I was the worst one in the class but I loved working and talking with people. I was learning how to present, how to do a demo and I got pretty good at it. I started having a lot of success and getting a lot of recognition: pins and plaques and feel-good stuff like jackets and conventions. Then the guys I started with decided to open up their own dealerships. One went to Missouri and is now one of the top dealers in the world. The other two moved to Tennessee and have since sold their businesses for a good price and are now retired.”
Those departures left Williams as the one to manage the office, which he did for a few years. “Then, in 1995, I had the opportunity to be a dealer. I had no money to buy a building, no operating capital. All I knew how to do was sell. But I knew if I had the opportunity, I could sell my way to build it. I had two choices: Peoria, IL or Huntsville, AL. I was living in Arkansas and knew that with my southern accent I wouldn’t be able to give the product away up north. So I said: I’m going to Huntsville.
“I remember my first month. I found a little office to lease. I didn’t have any sales guys but my brother came up with me and he’s pretty good with his hands. I sold 11 deals my first month knocking on doors.” His brother did the installations. “From that point on we have been in the top five or above ever since. It was tough at first but I had seen the future so I stuck it out,” he said.
“That was my springboard to hire sales reps, marketers, surveyors, service techs, installers and an office manager. I’ve reached pretty high levels, like the President’s Advisory Council, six times. That’s tough to do but I’m out selling and having fun.” The company now has 27 employees and five service vehicles. “I work with the sales guys and installers, I do all the marketing. I am here early, work all day, then grab a lead and run it at night to make a sale.” He puts in about 14 hours a day. “I don’t see any other way than doing that—it’s just my daily routine.” Meanwhile, his wife and Wendy Embrey work together in office management. “Wendy has been a valuable, committed employee for 22 years,” Williams said.
The walls and counters of their office are lined with awards from Aquion, RainSoft’s parent company. Williams thinks awards are an important key to success. “By achieving awards, the money will take care itself,” he said. “We just came back from our international convention, where we were awarded the number-five office worldwide and I was awarded the number-one dealer in the world. It’s hard to catch me. Every month I try to stay at the top.”
Is he just a natural salesman? “Well, I’ve only got what God gave me as far as talent goes. I think you have to be honest and believe in the product. I train the guys to work hard, have a great work ethic and believe in the product and the company. I train others to do the same things I learned. I teach them how to get awards. You have to be there to help people get good water, be honest with them and just help them enjoy the benefits of what having good water can do for them in the home.
“The biggest challenge has been finding the right people who would commit to long-term success. After years of turnover, I started to figure out that to get good people you have to pay them well. In order for us to do that, we must reach our goals every month. I am hands-on in every department, every day. I try to keep everyone motivated to do their best. If everyone is busy and we’re reaching our goals in selling, everyone stays happy.
“The majority of our market is municipal water, which is hard and has chlorine. I believe the customer should have the best water for their home and for drinking and cooking purposes. The products we sell the most for this are the RainSoft whole-house conditioning system, carbon filter and RO drinking water system. I believe that if one of these pieces is taken out of the package, we leave something in the water.
“Getting leads for sales reps is the biggest challenge of any dealership. We need to see every homeowner and this will require the partnerships of the big-box stores that have these homeowners going into their stores. Finding ways to get the message to them is the focus of the industry.”
Williams is making inroads. “We are in all the Home Depot stores in our area. They asked us maybe six years ago; Home Depot has a choice. They are very particular about who they want to do business with. We wear their logo. And now we’re in Sam’s Club. We have the licensing, master plumbers and we’re heavy on insurance, workers comp, background checks. This gives the customer confidence that when we come in their homes, the job will be done well and the equipment will work properly.
“I believe the water conditioning industry as a whole will only get bigger and better because the challenges the municipalities face will only get worse. My hope would be that water treatment products come to be recognized as a major appliance in the home, not as a luxury, but as a necessity.
“My five-year plan is to be out of debt, pay off the real estate, equipment, vehicles, etc. My 10-year plan is to retire comfortably and pass the dealership over to my son, Matthew. He’s only 16 and still in high school. He needs to focus on his education first, then decide what he wants to do in his life. We own our own building, we own the business. We have a lot of things in place. I don’t plan on going away anytime soon. I still have another 10 to 12 years in the business. Then we’ll see.
“The water business is a great business to get into. Even though it’s been around 50 to 60 years, I think it’s still in its infancy as far as people’s awareness of having good water in the home and how to do it. I’d recommend this to anyone who wants a career that’s very awarding and rewarding. It’s fun. It’s valuable. It’s legitimate. I just love it. Everyone deserves good water.”