Sales Survivor

April 2, 2018
Is Reality TV Hurting Your Sales?

About the author: Carl Davidson is president of Sales & Management Solutions Inc. a company that specializes in training, recruiting and consulting for the water equipment industry. For more than 20 years, 4,000 companies in seven countries have used his services to increase sales and profits. To comment on this article, or for more information, you can reach Carl at [email protected] or 800-941-0068. For more information, visit

There has been a big change in how we view entertainment, and it may be costing you sales. It all started with video camcorders. With the advent of the camcorder, we all were stars. Many recorded every day events as if they were news. That trend was compounded with the advent of reality TV. It is a slice of life--totally unscripted. It is entertainment that just happens without rehearsal, planning or effort.

This trend and the belief that no rehearsal or script is necessary is untrue, and it is costing many of us sales--and lots of them. It has convinced many of us that to do a great demo, all we have to do is show up and start babbling. We do not need a script, plan or rehearsal. Nothing could be further from the truth in sales--or in show business.

First, let us take a look at show business and then relate it to selling. Realize that show business is illusion. Most things you see that look spontaneous are well-planned and well-rehearsed. When comedians go on talk shows with Letterman or Leno, they submit questions they are to be asked. The host asks the questions and amazingly, the guest has hilarious responses to give. It looks like the guest is a fantastically talented person who is funny spontaneously, but they hire writers to write the stuff they use. Even politicians hire writers to come up with that humorous quote you will see all over the news tonight. I must admit that the lines many find hilarious at my seminars are not spontaneous. It has taken 20 years of sifting to come up with what works and what doesn't. Ask my wife ... I am not hilarious at home.

So what does this have to do with sales? If you believe you can be effective doing demonstrations "off the top of your head," you could be making a lot more money. This was a well-known fact in the industry in the '70s but has fallen away with the advent of the reality TV society. Back then, salespeople spent a lot of time working on their demos. Every week, their manager made them do a part of their demo at a sales meeting. Even the manufacturer's district managers always started a call by making the sales team do their demo. We all learned the demo word for word and kept working on it. I suggest you do the same, because a great demo is what makes the difference between success and failure.

Have You Ever Seen Your Demo?

Many water salespeople have never even seen their own demo. Since your entire career depends on its quality, I recommend that you videotape or at least audiotape your entire demo.

You might do a demo for a relative or friend and ask if you can tape it. Then, look at it as if you were a customer. Could you understand your demo if you were not in the industry? Is it interesting and entertaining? Does every word and action lead to the goal of getting the sale? Learn where you want to improve, and then work on that section. Then, tape it again and reevaluate.

Injecting a Little Humor

Most performers are on stage only for a maximum of 20 minutes. That's how long they can keep an audience interested. How long are you in front of your "audience?" An hour? Most performers would tell you that it is almost impossible to keep anyone interested that long. If you can, inject a little humor as you go along. This helps keep the audience interested for a longer period of time.

Using Participation

Participation is another technique you should use to keep them interested and awake as well as help them absorb what you are saying. Get them to read the number on your TDS meter. Oh, you could just read it for them, but getting a family member to do it adds to interest. Get them to count the drops as you do the hardness test. Get them to do a taste test between tap water and RO water. Get them to calculate the savings. Make them say the response you want. It is really amazing how much you can get them to participate. The more they contribute to the presentation, the more effective your presentation becomes.

Evolving With Your Demo

Are you still using the same demo you learned a long time ago? If you said, "yes," I'll bet you really have cut back on the parts you didn't like--and that's bad. Eventually, many of us end up with a shell of our former demo. We don't replace reagents as they are used up or equipment that breaks. Eventually we end up telling them instead of showing them. Your demo should evolve with the times and your abilities. Try new things. If they work, keep them in. You should be using at least some of the following in your demo: butter on the microwave door, spot removal, tea comparisons, black light in the bathroom, the bubble bath test and many more. If you aren't, you need to find out what these powerful techniques are and start using them.

Selecting Words and Expressions

The words you use make a real difference to the power of your demonstration. Are your words carefully chosen, or do you just pick whatever comes into your head?

Have you ever practiced your facial expressions in front of a mirror?

I can hear some of you laughing at this concept, but studies show that customers get 70 percent of their information and attitude from non-verbal communication. If you haven't practiced and rehearsed the words and expressions you use, you are not as polished and effective as you could be.


Make sure you match your speed of speech, posture and level of vocabulary to your customer. If you do these things at the same level in every demo, you are making a positive impression only on people similar to you and not on the rest of humanity. Great salespeople know that customers buy from people similar to themselves, and then they tailor their pace, speech and posture to match the customer.

Keeping Current

As soon as you are done reading this article, check to see how old the articles you bring to the demo and the stories you tell are. For best results, stay current. Today, as I type this, my news page online has more than 48,000 news stories on water. Why stay with tired old stories and articles when five minutes of research every day would give you much more information than you could ever use?

I hope you agree that although the TV show Survivor was unscripted, if you want to be a survivor in sales, you need a script. You need to practice what you say and how you say it. You need to hone your demo and the very words you use if you want to make all the money you deserve. It just doesn't make sense to do the work of finding the appointment, driving out and doing a stale old demo when a powerful customized demonstration could make you tens of thousands more every year. I hope you will forget the lie of reality TV. If Jay Leno needs writers and rehearsals to make a good performance, surely we all could benefit from carefully choosing what we use in our demonstration as well.

About the Author

Carl Davidson

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