The soldier salesman: field instrumentation

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Courtesy of HM Digital, Inc.

“The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined for defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War

These words may apply to warfare, and though they were written over two thousand years ago by a Chinese general, they could not be more accurate than when applied to today’s sales techniques.

So how does today’s water industry sales rep assure victory? With two very valuable weapons: Information and instruments.

Information
We all know that water filtration and bottling is a growing industry. Sales these days are considerably easier than when “bottled water” meant a Boy Scout’s canteen. But let’s face it—unless she’s in the water industry, even the sweet elderly lady shouting answers at Alex Trebek has never heard of TDS. And for the majority of consumers, conductivity is just a blip in the memory of 10th grade chemistry. By arming himself with information, the soldier salesman can win a sale simply through explanation and transference of knowledge.

People hear things. They’re susceptible to advertising. They buy bottled water. They believe their tap water isn’t good, but they don’t know why. How bad is a home’s tap water? Does it warrant getting a filtration system, or is bottled water more conducive to their lifestyle? Can an office save money by installing a filtration system instead of continuously purchasing cooler bottles? How pure is the water? These are just a handful of the questions consumers are faced with when considering an improvement in their water supply.

The primary question is obvious: Is the current water supply bad enough to warrant a change?

The choices available all hinge upon the answer to the above question being a resolute “yes.” The soldier salesman may be armed to the teeth with instruments that test everything from chlorine to pH, but the current weapon of choice for most sales reps is a handheld TDS meter. Due to it’s ease of use and ability to present a clear difference between unfiltered and filtered water (excluding ultraviolet), with a pen-sized meter, the rep can simply dip, measure and display—certainly enough to pique any water drinker’s interest and almost enough to close a sale right then and there.

Of course, simply displaying a number on a screen may not be enough for the educated consumer. An explanation of TDS should always be offered. However, it’s probably not necessary to explain that “Total Dissolved Solids” is actually a misnomer. As we know, TDS is a sales term based on conductivity. Readings can vary greatly depending upon the type of calibration solution used for the meter. And in addition to low-conductivity dissolved solids, there may also be undissolved solids in the water that a TDS meter does not record. More accurate terminology would be “Total Charged Ions,” for that’s what TDS and conductivity meters really test. But as previously mentioned, it’s typically not necessary to explain that. Why? Because a difference of 1 or 10 ppm means nothing to the vast majority of consumers. What’s important is an explanation of ranges.

Informing a water drinker that the EPA’s maximum contamination level is 500 ppm and ideal drinking water should be under 50 ppm works wonders when the tap water reads 402. A TDS meter is the quickest, easiest and most effective way to achieve that level of understanding.

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