Overcoming Obstacles

The challenge of selling product amidst standards changes

During the course of a year, this industry sees many changes
in standards and regulations. Some of them create quite a challenge for water
treatment dealers, but still there are others that offer great opportunity to
the dealer who knows how to use them correctly.

One hurdle that dealers are facing is with the national
"Do Not Call" list that was approved in July and had more than 10 million
phone numbers registered in the first four days, reported the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC). The FTC also said that it expects up to 60 million phone
numbers to be registered in the first year and there are only 166 million
residential phone numbers in the United States.1 Dealers that rely on cold
calls now must seek alternative methods for producing leads. (See article on
page 8.) Direct mail and local advertising in newspapers, the Yellow Pages and
shopping directories may serve as viable alternatives.

Softeners also took a hit this year mainly in California,
although brine issues arose nationwide. Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg
reintroduced AB334 in California, which will repeal portions of SB1006, making
it possible for a community to ban equipment whether the community is in
violation of federal regulations or not. If these bans become common, dealers
will have to find a way to work with them. "Softener bans in California
are meant to reduce salt in effluent streams," reports Joseph Harrison,
technical director for the Water Quality Association (WQA). "Obviously, we
wouldn't advise dealers to sell around the ban. However, there are ways a
dealer can work with it by economically pumping brine out of the home to ensure
that it does not go into the wastewater. Then, it can be disposed of in an
ecologically sound manner."

Brine, septic tank and plumbing code issues were at the
forefront of activity for the POU/POE industry this past year, says Harrison.
"These will continue to be challenging for the industry, so technological
advances as well as creative solutions such as brine dewatering and brine
removal via pump trucks will need to occur to ensure a strong business
future."

Amidst the troubles caused by the many softener
restrictions, other legislation changes have emerged as opportunity for
dealers. Case in point: The arsenic standard serves as an excellent opportunity
for water treatment dealers to sell product, not only to residential customers
whose city water may not meet the new standard, but to those municipalities
that are willing to utilize POU/POE technologies as a viable solution.

In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA)
maximum contaminant level (MCL) for arsenic was lowered from 50 parts per
billion (ppb) to 10 ppb. This placed a heavy burden on the approximately 4,100
public water systems that would face financial obstacles. The EPA estimated
that national costs could reach $177 million per year--most of which is
attributed to the installation and operation of the treatment technologies
needed to reduce arsenic levels in public water systems.2

As the public becomes more aware of high arsenic levels in
their drinking water and the compliance deadline of January 23, 2006, nears,
there will be a greater demand placed on POU/POE treatment devices as a
solution to lower the levels, which small to medium public water systems cannot
afford to do.

Many consumers, particularly those in areas with high
arsenic, will not want to wait for that compliance deadline--especially those
utilizing small public water systems that may file extensions due to costs.
This will leave the consumer open to higher arsenic levels for a longer period
of time. "Household treatment technologies commonly available today can
not only reach the 10 ppb MCL but take it even lower," Harrison states.
"When customers understand that the EPA maximum contaminant level goals
often are 0, they may opt to ensure their family has the safest water possible
today."

Here are some ideas on how dealers can leverage new
standards such as the arsenic MCL and create an opportunity to make the sale.

* Educate
the customer. Explain and show with visual aides (i.e., EPA website, photos at
www.wqpmag.com, graphs, etc.) what arsenic (or another contaminant) is and its
affects, what an MCL is and why it was lowered, why the customer should be
concerned in his area (newspaper clippings) and how you can offer him a viable
solution.

Educate
your customers about NSF-, UL- or WQA Gold Seal-certified products to help them
understand the importance of products that have met the industry standards for
reducing or eliminating the contaminant(s) in their specific household water.
"All savvy consumers look for some mark of certification when making a
purchasing decision," Harrison explains. "Smart salespeople can
leverage sales of products by explaining that, for instance, WQA awards its
ANSI-accredited Gold Seal only to systems, components or additives that have
met or exceed industry standards for contaminant reduction, structural integrity
and material safety."

* Test
his water while you are in the home. Show him that he has reason to be
concerned about the arsenic levels.

* Understand
the current technologies available and make sure you select the one that is
right for that customer. Sell him the most efficient system for his individual
needs, not the one that will get you the highest price.

Obviously, brine issues, the arsenic standard and the
"do not call" list are three of the many changes that can cause you
grief or bring opportunity. "More of these same kinds of regulatory issues
will continue to arise," Harrison concludes. "As water tables drop,
concentrations of contaminants increase. Water supplies are dwindling
nationwide and will continue to do so. Therefore, we will see more regulations
to ensure that fewer contaminants are introduced into the water supply. This
will mean business opportunities for better water treatment products."

Learning to work with these government changes and use them
to your advantage in your sales presentations will only bring more sales and
success to your business.

Wendi Hope King is editor of WQP.

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