By Scott Bailey
Do you want to make it big in POU cooler sales? If you said yes, please read on.
I have been involved in POU cooler sales and marketing for more than a decade. During that time, I have seen a lot of successes and a number of failures, too. Yes, the POU cooler business is simple, but it’s certainly not easy. Everyone wants to know, is there a shortcut, a formula, or at least some common denominator for success? There are no shortcuts, but there is a formula and some common denominators.
The POU cooler business in the US is going through some significant changes.
The good. We’re moving past the stage of early adopters and into the mainstream. A down economy and bad press about bottled water are driving consumers to seek cost savings and more environmentally friendly drinking water solutions. Just what every POU cooler sales organization has been waiting for years to hear, right?
The bad. Before you pop that champagne cork, there is a down- side. All of this attention has not gone unnoticed by the big bottled water companies. They didn’t get big by being foolish, and they certainly aren’t going to sit idly by while POU dealers convert their bottled water customers. Most are very active in convert- ing their own customers and have set up separate divisions for this purpose. Some have even ceased seeking new bottled water customers while they go directly after POU business. This increased competition, combined with a plethora of new POU cooler offerings, has driven price points down, and the low-lying fruit is disappearing.
The balance. It’s been said that a rising tide lifts all boats. That seems to be the case here; as consumers become better educated, demand increases. This makes the pie bigger, giving you a better chance of getting a slice.
While this article is focused on commercial drinking water, lets not overlook a newly emerging phenomenon. Increased POU cooler awareness, combined with lower price points, will drive demand for residential sales that weren’t feasible just a short time ago. This is a great opportunity to cross-sell commercial and residential drinking water.
Now that the stage is set for opportunity, what is the formula for successful POU cooler sales, and how does it work? First, you have to decide if this business is really right for you and determine just how much of a commitment you are willing to make. If your business is focused primarily on other types of water treatment and you just take cooler sales as they come along, that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with that, and you don’t need to read any further. If, however, you want to make it big, can see the opportunity and are willing to make the commitment, read on.
Now that you’ve committed to being successful, you’ve already taken the first step. The rest is simple, but not easy. More than any other factor, your success will depend upon you and your ability to recruit, train, manage and maintain a solid sales organization. If you’re not into the everyday feet-on-the-street, door-to-door, pound-the-phones, B-to-B sales grind, then this business isn’t for you. Simple, not easy.
You have to know that customers are not going to come to you. If you build it, no one is going to show up. That’s why manufacturers spend a lot of time and money marketing to you, the dealer, rather than directly to end users. This gives you retail margins and the opportunity to build a huge recurring rental revenue stream. I am assuming that you are renting rather than selling systems. This topic could be an article in itself, but let me just leave it with, RENT don’t SELL your systems. It’s also a good time to tell you that some manufacturers couldn’t resist this same opportunity, and are moving into the dealer channel with direct sales to end users. It would be prudent to find out if your supplier works directly with end users before you make a big commitment to their product line, but keep in mind that this is a two-way street. On the one hand, you run the risk of having to compete directly with your supplier and on the other, it could be an exit strategy for you if the company should want to expand through a dealer roll-up. It’s your call. Here’s the formula, fol- lowed by a simple example:
- NEW contacts per rep per day x Days in the field per month x Appointment rate % x Close % on appointments x Average coolers per deal x Sales reps = Coolers placed per month
- 10 NEW contacts per rep per day x 20 days in the field per month = 200 new contacts per rep per month x 15% appointment rate = 30 appointments per rep per month x
20% close on appointments = 6 deals per month x 1.5 aver- age coolers per deal = 9 coolers per rep per month x 5 sales reps = 45 coolers placed per month
See, I said it was simple! Now run your own numbers and see how it works out. As you can see, it is a numbers game!
The not easy part
In order for this formula to work, you have to be able to monitor and manage activity levels to maintain the numbers. This requires diligence and day-to-day sales monitoring and mentoring. If you are not the person for that job, you will need to hire someone who is. More on that when we get to the common denominators, but while we’re on the subject of numbers, let’s get into data management. There is no way that you can pull off this feat without good data management. Every sales rep should be required to log all of their activity into some type of data management system. It doesn’t really matter which system you choose, as long as you make sure that it fits in with your long-term objectives and management style. On the surface it may seem expensive, but to put things into perspective, the cost is no more than a cell phone and the payback in terms of sales management, forecasting and the value of a solid set of customer and contact data is almost incalculable. Imagine how much time and money is wasted when you’ve had a sales rep on the payroll for several months and he/she leaves without you retaining any of their contact data! Now multiply that over several years and compare it to having retained all of that information. Not only does this information facilitate efficient sales management (and continuity), it also increases the overall value of your business.
One more thing about the numbers. Notice that I used the term ‘new’ contacts in the formula. This is an often-overlooked factor when it comes to sales prospecting. Most sales people get excited about callbacks. Why? If that prospect were perfect you would have already made the sale. How much time do your sales people waste calling back the same prospect over and over again, before eventually giving up? Meanwhile, they are not acquiring new contacts, so their pipeline withers away and they never get to the prospect that was ready to say yes. New contacts are the lifeblood of any sales pipeline and should always be given the highest priority. Make your new prospecting calls before anything else and your pipeline will never dry up.
Attitude. Successful entrepreneurs in any business tend to be optimistic. Any time you set out to do something positive, you are going to face challenges and resistance. Those who roll with the punches and keep moving forward will eventually make it, while those who worry about every possible problem generally give up, or are miserable, or both. Again, simple but not easy. You are going to run into challenges. You will have a water leak at some point. Your top sales rep will quit. Your service van will break down. There will be competitors. You will lose deals that you were counting on. The winners keep their heads down, focus on the goal and keep moving forward. Your attitude is infectious, good or bad.
Goals. Successful people have a plan. Do you have a written business plan? Does it include daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals and objectives that must be met? You can’t get there without a map, and you must refer back to the map on a daily or weekly basis to make sure that you’re on course. Be sure to include the formula described earlier.
Charisma. Great sales managers, and leaders in general, usually have a certain charisma. You know the kind I’m talking about. They get along with other people, are able to attract new recruits and motivate salespeople in a positive way. As mentioned earlier, this person may or not be you. Be honest with yourself. If this isn’t your personality, you may need a partner or sales manager with this characteristic.
Commitment. There’s no substitute. If you burn your boats at the shore so there is no going back, you will greatly increase your odds of success. With full commitment, you will always be looking for ways to make it work, rather than trying to decide if you should give up.
Consistency. The most successful sales organizations find something that works and then they repeat it. Over time, consistent actions build into forward momentum. No action, no momentum.
Making the numbers happen
Coming up with a formula or a plan is one thing; the hard part is making the numbers happen. As a marketer, I would be remiss if I didn’t give you specifics on how to increase your close rate and consequently, your odds of success. Image is everything! Okay, maybe not everything, but it may be everything that your prospects know about you, your company and your product. Remember, you’re not just going up against mom-and-pop shops these days. You’re now competing with multi-million (and even multi-billion) dollar companies with large marketing budgets. Develop a clean look and a concise marketing message, then repeat it throughout your organization. Consistency is the key to making a lasting impression and maximizing your marketing dollars. Be sure to put your logo and message on everything, including service vehicles, printed materials, embroidered shirts, sport bottles, etc.
A professionally designed logo, collateral materials/ brochures, website and product sales videos are a must. It’s not likely that all of your sales reps will be superstars, but with good training and materials, you can increase results across the board. A well-crafted sales video that can be played on a portable DVD player will make an impactful presentation in less than five minutes, every time, without deviating from the script. That’s something that very few, if any, sales reps can do on their own. This type of presentation has been shown to increase close rates by as much as 50 percent.
Before you start to feel overwhelmed with the daunting task of developing these tools from scratch, look for a supplier that can provide them for you. Choosing the right supplier/partner will go a long way toward helping you reach your sales goals.
Now that you know the formula it’s time to apply it. Remember, it’s simple but…
About the author and company
Scott Bailey is Vice President of Marketing for the Chester Paul Company’s Linis product line and has been involved in the sale and marketing of POU cooler systems since 1998. Previously, he was Vice President of Marketing for Pure Heath Solutions, Inc. (PHSI), where he was responsible for the design and development of collateral materials, sales videos, websites, advertising, branding and dealer programs. The Chester Paul Company, founded in1948 as an industrial distributor selling only one product line in southern California, has grown into a major supplier of water purification products and distributes hundreds of product lines worldwide.