By Marianne Metzger
It’s your marketing efforts that bring a prospect to your company, be it the Yellow Pages or newspaper advertising, trade shows or direct mail (or all four and more!). However, the prospect must be converted into a lead. You can accomplish that in three easy steps.
Analyze your current customers and products
Who are your best customers? Look for common characteristics and identify certain buying patterns within your customer base. Once identified, use these characteristics to quantify whether your prospects should move to a lead.
You should develop a qualification checklist from your customer analysis and some basic sales qualifying questions. These questions—and the answers the prospects provide—will help you determine what the problems or concerns are that could be motivating them to buy.
The following are some basic qualifying questions:
- What is the source of their water supply? Does it come from a city? A well?
- Do they have any specific concerns about their water quality?
- Are they experiencing any problems—mineral build-up, odor, color or bad tasting water?
- If it’s well water, you should ask further questions—well depth, testing records. (Homeowners should be testing their own private wells for bacteria once a year at minimum.)
- Do they live near a gas station, farm, landfill or golf course?
- Are there any other underground storage tanks known to be in the area?
As in any interview, structure your questions to get in-depth answers, not just a “yes” or “no” response. “Are you worried about water quality? Yes”. No insight gained there. But, “What about your water worries you?” will garner a more detailed reply.
These questions will uncover your prospects’ specific concerns that motivate them to test or treat the water, as well as give you the answers to what other contaminants have the potential to be present. Once you have gathered all the basic contact information and answers to your checklist questions, you can rank your prospects based on how well they meet your qualifications. This information will be helpful in recommending water testing as the first step in solving their water quality problem. You can point out what can be impacting the water quality and what forms of treatment are typically recommended for those problems.
The third step in qualifying leads is to rank them in order of best-to-worst opportunity based upon the criteria you came up with in analyzing your client base. This method of qualifying leads allows you to follow up on the most promising leads first, before spending a lot of time with prospects that are unlikely to buy.
Now that you have qualified your prospect into a lead, you can follow up with an in-home presentation or business meeting. Your qualified prospect or lead should have some kind of concern or problems with their water quality that motivated them to respond to your marketing efforts.
How to proceed
An important step in selling water treatment equipment is educating your customers about the potential for water contamination and how different treatment systems are designed to treat specific types of contaminants. Your client may be concerned about the staining in their laundry and on bathroom fixtures. This probably happens most frequently as they can directly see the problems. You need to educate your client on how water can become contaminated. Water is commonly called the “universal solvent” because of its ability to dissolve almost anything it comes into contact with. It is common for minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese and arsenic to be present in groundwater or private wells. This is a result of the water coming into contact with rock formations containing these minerals. In addition, water is known to dissolve metals from pipes and fixtures, gases and dust from the atmosphere and other water-soluble compounds. It’s this superior solvent action of water that allows it to be easily contaminated.
This is also a good time to discuss the different types of water treatment equipment and what they are designed to remove. You can explain that a softener’s main function is to remove the hardness minerals, yet it can aid in removal of iron and manganese. Reverse osmosis (RO) and distillation are mainly designed to remove inorganic contaminants, while carbon filters are designed to remove organic contaminants. Now that they know there are different types of treatment systems that are designed to remove the various types of contaminants, they need to understand that it can be more complicated than that. They need to understand that high levels of certain contaminants can wreak havoc with a water treatment system. For example, high levels of silica can damage or shorten the life of RO membranes. Treating water is often not an easy task, especially when dealing with the unknown.
Once you have educated your client about water quality and the types of treatment, this is the perfect opportunity to offer water testing so as to make an accurate diagnosis of the water quality problems and to then determine what types of treatment equipment will best treat the water quality issues at hand. This is where many water treatment dealers break out the home testing kits. While these in-home kits can be valuable in testing for items that have a very short holding time such as chlorine or pH, they cannot test for everything a laboratory will be able to analyze. Also, keep in mind that consumers may be distrustful of salesmen using these kits as there have been incidents with sales people using these in-home kits to scare consumers into thinking they have severe water problems. In an effort to build trust with your potential client, offer to have their water analyzed by an independent third-party laboratory. Explain to them that by sending the sample to a third-party laboratory, which has no stake in the sales of equipment or services you provide, they are assured an accurate, unbiased analysis of their water. In addition to them obtaining an accurate water analysis, this more comprehensive test will help in determining the best method of treating the water to your client’s satisfaction. A complete water analysis will highlight any and all water quality concerns.
Once you have the analysis, you can meet with your client and go over the results. Taking this kind of time with potential clients shows them you are not just interested in getting in to sell equipment and getting out. It builds their trust in you as a resource and instills confidence in your treatment recommendations. Based upon the lab’s test results, you can make your specific recommendations on what treatment system will take care of their original concern as well as any other contaminants that have shown up in the analysis that may cause health problems or problems with the water treatment.
Taking the time with your new clients to ensure you address all their concerns appropriately will also help tremendously in getting referrals. Whenever someone has a good sales experience they are much more likely to recommend you to friends and family, which can lead to more sales.
About the author
Marianne R. Metzger, recently appointed to Manager of the General Products Business Unit, has been with the Cleveland, Ohio office of National Testing Laboratories since 1997, consulting with customers regarding drinking water quality issues and testing needs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental geology and political science from Case Western Reserve University of Cleveland, Ohio. She has authored numerous articles and given presentations on issues pertaining to drinking water quality, treatment and testing and is a contributing editor to Worldwide Drilling Resources. Metzger can be reached at (800) 458-3330, ext. 223 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.