It’s been said that smart people know a good thing when they see it and also that they learn from their mistakes — sometimes more than if all had gone smoothly. And such is the case of Peter Waelti (pronounced Well’tee).
Music, money and water
Current president of Thornton, Colorado-based RainSoft of Denver, Waelti came into the business with decidedly non-water treatment industry credentials. He managed 13 rock bands in Switzerland, including Rumpelstilz — the first Swiss rockers to earn a gold record — plus platinum award-winning Krokus in North America since 2005.
In between, he became a Swiss banker. Waelti holds a degree in International Banking, has dealt with 120 different currencies, speaks five languages and immigrated to America in 1980 when his Swiss employer opened a Denver office.
In 1983 seeking potentially more rewarding career challenges, he signed up for a training program and joined a nine-year-old franchise dealership in Denver, in a commission-based sales position.
From zero to 10 in one day
“I didn’t sell one system for five weeks, despite taking every appointment,” Waelti recalls. “I thought I was so smart, I could reinvent the wheel myself, rather than follow the training program guidelines [provided by the franchise].”
Eventually though, things turned around and two years later, Waelti logged the third highest number of RainSoft sales in the world. In August of 1987 he sold 10 water treatment systems on a single Saturday — a company record that still stands. He has earned numerous dealership and sales awards over the years, including “dealer category” recognition since taking over the enterprise in 1998.
“You lead by example,” he asserts, emphasizing to staff that “you work with me, not for me.”
While awards themselves add nothing, Waelti contends, “They can be a confidence-builder — a reminder that I’ve done this before and can do it again.”
Positive attitudes and hard work have helped the Denver group earn numerous awards as well. Its 20 employees serve more than 32,000 customers throughout the greater Denver area, northern Colorado, Laramie County and Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Soft sell to mile-high city
The territory’s water treatment challenges vary considerably. “In some communities the water is only 2 to 3 grains hard,” Waelti reports. “In others, it’s 5 grains. Denver city water is a moderate-to-low 7.”
Another factor comes into play: Altitude. With its official elevation at 5,280 feet above sea level, dry skin is a problem for many people in Denver.
Minerals and chemicals, including chlorine from municipal systems, can also contribute to dry skin while causing problems with pipes, fixtures and water-using appliances. Although consumer awareness of such cause-and-effect issues has grown, Waelti and his cohorts educate further.
“Your body absorbs more chlorine during one 10-minute shower than by drinking eight glasses of tap water,” he says.
Mother Nature can further heighten consumer concerns. Last year’s disastrous rains and flooding along Colorado’s Front Range contaminated supplies to the point at which, in some communities, stores quickly sold out of bottled water. Even without such problems, consumer consumption across the U.S. has made bottled water a $32 billion annual dollar-volume industry. Bottled water savings, Waelti notes, are an eye-opener for many families considering purchase of a water treatment system.
A sales lead development partnership and using technology, such as tablets and apps, have helped Waelti find and educate members of the community on these important issues.
Tips to run a successful dealership
Waelti’s experience has led his dealership in several different directions. For example, looking to expand his services, RainSoft of Denver also offers an Environmental Package that includes air purification.
“According to the EPA, the quality of air inside an average home can be up to 40 times dirtier than outside,” Waelti says. About 60 to 65 percent of their customers opt for both water and air treatment.
And, according to Waelti, the dealership is finding success in app-based selling. The app, he says, puts a wealth of water quality data, videos and more at the salesperson’s fingertips.
“The power of the app,” Waelti asserts, “is that the consumer says ‘yes’ or ‘no’; they push the button. It’s show-and-tell, and the app adds sizzle to the dollars-and-sense steak we present.”
But, has the app helped increase closing rates? “Absolutely,” he says. “Some reps do 50 percent or more.”
Although he entered the industry in an untraditional way, after three decades Waelti and now his Denver-based dealership have settled in nicely. Leading with sound sales principles, such as educating the customer, keeping up with technology and expanding services, Waelti knows a good thing when he sees it after learning from his and others' mistakes.