May 20, 2003

Sales Survivor

Is Reality TV Hurting Your Sales?

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

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 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