By Gary Coon

If you are in residential water treatment sales, your business revolves around sink demonstrations, explanations of equipment, reasoned closes and asking for orders. If your presentation is well crafted and professionally delivered, you usually end up driving back to the office with an install date. But even the most sophisticated and skilled among us have encountered a prospect whose litany of reasons for not buying includes: I can’t afford it; it costs too much; now is not a good time; we never make a decision the first night… the list seems endless. Similar Situation Selling makes overcoming objections easier. But before wading into the mechanics, let’s first consider the important distinction between a condition and an objection.

A condition is a valid reason why your prospect cannot accept your offer even if he or she wanted to. It may be that your prospects are unemployed have no cash, are not credit worthy, or their house is in foreclosure, etc. Any number of circumstances makes it impossible for people to buy and in the world of selling, we collectively refer to them as conditions. When you find yourself faced with a condition, pack up and find another venue. Nothing short of you offering to pay for the system yourself, will make the sale happen. Objections, on the other hand, are imagined reasons why your prospects refuse your offer. In other words, they are fully capable of buying from you, but despite your presentation, they value their money more than the benefits they perceive as your product. Changing this mindset in your favor is at the heart of overcoming objections. Enter Similar Situation Selling.

This technique involves conjuring up a fable-like scenario (similar situation) wherein your prospects see themselves conducting business or behaving in the scenario in a fashion that strongly parallels accepting your offer. And the beauty of our business is that saving people from the perils of nasty water opens up a universe of potential closing scenarios. This is because few things improve the quality of our lives in as many ways as clean water does. And once you, the salesperson, have internalized the myriad benefits, dozens of closing scenarios are easily envisioned.

To give you an idea of just how creative you can be, let’s suppose you are in a selling situation and get the following objection: “Well, Gary, you clearly have an excellent piece of equipment, but we are already used to spending the money you say we are wasting, and besides, we’re just not prepared to make a decision right now.” Later on, I’m going to briefly discuss the psychology behind these types of objections, but for now, let’s overcome it by using the ‘Hole in the Gas Tank Close.’ What does a hole in a gas tank have to do with buying a water treatment system? Let’s have a look.

Gary: Well Bob and Mary, let me ask you a question. Let’s say you walked up to your car, and as you were about to get in, you noticed a puddle just inside your left rear tire. Curious, you walk to the back of the car to have a look. From a standing position, nothing catches your attention, so you get down on your hands and knees to scrutinize the undercarriage. Suddenly you detect the smell of gasoline. Now you’re convinced that there is a leak in your gas tank, but you can’t pinpoint the location of the leak. And given the size of the puddle, you are certain that you’re losing at least a gallon of gasoline a week. Bob and Mary, given the price of gasoline, how long would it be before you drove your car to an auto repair shop and had the leak located and the hole patched?

Bob and Mary: Why, we’d do it right away.

Gary: Aside from the potential fire hazard, why would you feel it’s a good idea to fix it right away; or at all for that matter?

Bob and Mary: Because we don’t want to continue losing gasoline and wasting money of course.

Gary: You make an excellent point. But the point you make is also the point to be made for conditioned water. Every day you live with a hole in your washing machine that’s cleaning out your wallet, but not properly cleaning your clothes. You have a hole in your hot water heater that’s wasting your energy dollars and a hole in your plumbing and water using appliances that is prematurely wearing them out. Before tonight, however, these were hidden holes in an ever burgeoning and leaking budget. But folks, these holes are not costing you a few dollars of wasted gasoline a week; they are costing you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year. Bob, Mary, doesn’t it just make good business sense to go ahead and patch these holes, and not only use your hard-earned dollars to acquire things of merit, but more importantly, treat you and your family to a shower that rinses them clean as well as the decent drink of water that they deserve? (I’ll let you decide if I made the sale).

Effective scenarios for overcoming objections exist for everyone from astronauts to coal miners. And if you pay close attention to your prospects from the moment you meet them to the time you ask them the closing question, deciding on the appropriate similar situation shouldn’t be difficult. Even so, the real skills at play here are the theatrical quality of your delivery, and how you fashion your final remarks into an irresistible offer.

Now that we have touched on Similar Situation Selling as a method, let’s consider the circumstances compelling its use. Those who grasp the benefits of your product, are impressed by you and your company, and generally have an overall good feeling about your presentation, end up as buyers. Those of the opposite ilk, become a blemish on your closing average. But then there are those who teeter on the brink of buying, but hesitate. The reason for the hesitation is that not everybody internalizes information at the same velocity. And by internalize, I am referring to a synergy of feelings and intellect. It has to feel right and it has to make sense intellectually for people to buy from you. If their feelings and intellect are not in sync when you ask for the order, no is their only default position, and common courtesy fashions No into what may sound like a plausible objection.

The objection(s) you receive is usually (but not always) a plea for more time to consider your proposal. Conjuring up entertaining, informative, and enlightening closing scenarios, however, can buy you the additional soak-time you need to make the deal. (Soak-time is a term that refers to the time your prospects need for things to soak in). Moreover, when properly exercised, this method of selling creates an environment in which your prospects convince themselves to buy, rather than you convincing them to buy, which nearly always results in a cancelation.

One cautionary note: More time is not a panacea and knowing when to move on is just as important as knowing when to stay. There will always be those who suffer paralysis from over analysis and others who will need all morning just to decide on where to have lunch (I leave these folks to the study of professors in the College of Lost Causes). So make it a point to collect your things and graciously leave before you’ve overstayed your welcome. To do otherwise will tarnish your company’s brand and make it difficult for others of our profession to gain access. What’s more, wearing out your welcome serves no one and is the mark of a rank amateur.

Similar Situation Selling is a core competency in the art of overcoming objections. But mastering this skill-set alone is not enough; much more consideration needs to be given to the nature and treatment of objections. Also, don’t be fooled into believing that any degree of cunning in this regard can compensate for a poorly crafted or poorly delivered sales presentation. Only with a solid presentation comes the possibility of a sale without objections. And in the Yogi Berra-esque parlance of sales trainers and managers alike, remember that the objections you don’t get are always the easiest ones to overcome. Good luck, good selling and, above all, have a great day.

About the author

Gary Coon, a 16-year veteran of the water conditioning industry, has successfully trained hundreds of water treatment sales professionals. His seminars, ‘What They Mean by What They Say’ and ‘The Theater of Selling Water’ offer instruction in closing methodologies and presentation techniques. Learn more by visiting


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