The Lucrative Replacement Market?

June 28, 2010

About the author: Carl Davidson is president of Sales And Management Solutions, Inc., a New York-based company that specializes in live and video training, coaching, recruiting and lead generation for the water equipment industry. To see a list of products and free sales training videos, visit or call 716.580.3384.

There is a big market in our industry that many of us miss. Other industries thrive on it. It is the replacement market. Some of us feel that if a person has an 8- or 10-year-old softener or reverse osmosis (RO) system, they are fine and cannot be sold. Let us compare this to other industries. Can you imagine going to a car dealership and having a salesman say, “Your 10-year-old car seems to be working fine. I guess there is nothing we can do to sell you a new one.” That is never going to happen.

The same is true for cell phones, computers, furniture, clothing and almost all other industries. Even appliances like washing machines are all new and exciting. You just have to have the newer models. Furnaces are now so efficient that it is crazy to keep your old one. Prove it to yourself. Get a sales presentation for a furnace, air conditioner or clothes washer and tell the salesperson you have a 10-year-old model that works fine. I do not think you will find them ending the sale.

What is it about our industry that makes us think, if it is still working, we cannot sell a new one? We have taken so much pride in the fact that our equipment lasts that we are missing opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you get your share of this huge market.

Getting Appointments
It is easy to get appointments in this market. The customers already bought from you. You have a relationship with them. Call your old customers and offer to do a free courtesy call. You will check all of their equipment to make sure it is working and bring out a free bag of salt. You should be very successful setting these appointments.

Courtesy calls also work well with your competitors’ customers. It pays to advertise free courtesy calls to all homeowners. It is a great way to get in and get selling.

Drinking Water System
After you check their softener to see that it is working, tell them you will now check their drinking water system. A very large percentage of previous customers did not buy an RO system when they bought their softener. This is a great time to do your drinking water demo. Remember that if they have a softener and not a conditioner, it does not take out chlorine. Be sure to do a taste test. They probably still buy bottled water. Let them know they can pay for the RO with what they will save on bottled water.

Conditioner Vs. Softener
If your customer has a softener, now is the time to move up to a conditioner. Because the old softener will not remove chlorine, their drinking water tastes bad. Their hair is being bleached every day they shampoo. Find out from local hairdressers how much it costs to have the treatment that repairs chlorine damage. Not needing this treatment alone can help pay for new equipment.

Salt Savings
If your customer is in a high hardness area and has an older time-clock model, he or she can probably pay for new equipment in salt savings.

Think of all the things we buy for efficiency, including air conditioners, cars, furnaces, windows and more. Learn to calculate how much salt customers will save with your new metered or electronic models and help them make the right decision.

Flow Rates
Older softeners were designed for flow rates when most homes had no dishwasher and one bathroom. If your customer has added a bathroom or dishwasher or made other changes in the home that will use more water, they might benefit from upgrading to a newer model.

That 50,000-Mile Point
In the automotive business, your salesperson will tell you there is a point where cars start to need expensive repairs. Normally when you hear this, you are at that point. What is that point with softeners and ROs? Membranes do not last forever. Resin is not young forever. There is a point where new equipment is called for, and it is sooner than many of us believe.

There are many ways you can take advantage of the replacement market to generate sales. How much of your business is repeat business? Remember that many other industries would never survive wit

Many dealers say they have no leads when they have file cabinets full of previous customers that they often do not ask to buy again. This is a great way to keep your sales staff busy.

Be sure to have a program for courtesy calls. It is a gold mine waiting to be tapped. Start educating your entire staff on the fact that softeners and ROs do not last forever. Teach them how to find opportunities during courtesy calls.

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About the Author

Carl Davidson

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