From humble beginnings as a newspaper boy and door-to-door salesman to regional sales manager for Clear Water Systems Kinetico, Kelly Thompson has dedicated his life to sales.
Recently, Thompson left his position at Clear Water Systems to devote his life full-time to Moti-Vitality LLC, a company he founded that provides sales training presentations and consultations to water treatment dealers.
Water Technology® caught up with Thompson in February to discuss the water treatment industry and his new book, Flowing to Success (An Excellent Book with a Cheesy Title for the Water Treatment Sales Professional).
Water Technology: How did you get started in the water treatment industry?
Kelly Thompson: It was kind of an accident. I was trying to support my young family as a motivational speaker working primarily with troubled kids, but I was also doing some sales training.
In my quest to find a job with insurance, I stumbled across a Kinetico dealer that needed a sales trainer and recruiter. Having gone to school to become a high school theater and speech teacher, the water treatment industry was the last place I ever expected to end up. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.
WT: Why was it important for you to get WQA-certified?
KT: I was tasked with trying to manage and train professional water treatment salespeople. We had the number one Kinetico salesperson in the country and two more that were in the top 20. It did not take long for me to realize that I was out of my league.
I was a guy that had never opened a test kit and frankly barely knew what hardness was.
I looked around for the fastest most organized way to become an expert in my field. This was the only way I was going to be able to serve the team that could have sold circles around me.
WQA certification helped provide me with the knowledge, confidence and credibility I needed. I came to realize that even a CWS I often had a better understanding of how water treatment worked than many people that had been in the business for 20 years.
If an individual can combine this text book knowledge with real life experience and integrity, then you have a sales professional that is virtually unbeatable.
WT: Tell us about your book, Flowing to Success (An Excellent Book with a Cheesy Title for the Water Treatment Sales Professional), and what inspired you. What feedback have you received so far?
KT: I spent about a year in management before I decided for various reasons to go into sales. The only training I had in this industry was the necessarily canned, but good videotaped sales presentation provided by the manufacturer and my WQA certification.
I had no knowledge on how to develop and manage a territory or what kind of very real situations I would run into in this industry. There was a ton of generalized sales training material, but nothing specific to the water treatment industry. I made a ton of mistakes that could have been easily avoided.
My book is designed to be a step by step tool for any water treatment sales professional whether they be a novice or experienced. My experience as a stand-up comic comes out a bit too, which hopefully will make the book entertaining as well as valuable.
So far the response from some of the industry leaders that have read it has been excellent. Many have said that our industry has needed this tool for a long time.
This being said, I welcome criticism from any of my readers, positive or constructive. In fact, I think that everyone reading this interview should not only buy a copy for themselves but also for their friends, family and co-workers so that they can criticize me too.
WT: What are some core values every sales training and consulting program should have?
KT: While there are always the obvious values like honesty and integrity, I try to focus on staying connected with real situations that dealers and sales professionals deal with every day.
I will never ask a company or salesperson that I am training to do something that I am not willing to do or have not done myself. I will never suggest a method of creating business that I cannot personally demonstrate the effectiveness of using the very resources the company I am working with has.
I believe in serving my customers. My passion and belief in this industry allows me to do this despite the manufacturer a dealer represents.
Every dealership has its own challenges. It is imperative that I listen to each organization I work with to make sure that the consultation program I offer is customized to their needs. My reputation and the reputation of Moti-Vitality LLC are dependent on the success of the companies and sales professionals I work with.
WT: What are the biggest challenges now facing water treatment dealers in your opinion? Please share solutions as well.
KT: For years we came to rely on the effectiveness of advertising.
We hired excellent house lead closers. Our industry as well as other industries reliant on salespeople encouraged and contributed to the creation of salespeople dependent on the company to provide leads. Sales professionals became very rare.
Now we face an economy where leads are more difficult to come by and advertising is more expensive and less effective.
Finding a sales professional that knows the art of creating their own business is time consuming and expensive as well as extremely difficult. But sales professionals are out there and many of them are looking for a home.
I believe that dealers should take advantage of the opportunity to weed the toxicity out of their organizations and replace them with professionals.
Many of the unscrupulous competitors that harmed our industry have closed their doors; when the economy begins to really come back, so will they.
This is why dealers need to focus now on rebuilding and perfecting their reputations of serving their customers.
Now is the time to refocus and recommit.
Let’s take our industry back from the complacent, lazy and sometimes dishonest individuals and companies that have harmed our industry.
Let’s take advantage of the opportunity to make this industry one that we can be even more proud to be part of.
WT: What opportunities lie ahead for this industry and water treatment dealers in particular?
KT: This is an exciting time to be involved in this industry. The water treatment industry is only in its infancy.
The fashion statement of carrying around a plastic bottle is finally becoming a thing of the past.
Customers are becoming more educated and aware of the need to treat their water and [they are] more concerned about filling our land with plastic.
The race for the invention of a regenerate-free water conditioner that gives all the soft water benefits we expect is in full-swing and we are getting closer to this reality.
Reverse osmosis and other water purification technologies continue to become more and more efficient and affordable.
The opportunities are limitless.
WT: What advice would you give to a novice water treatment owner and/or salesperson?
KT: Become an expert. Learn everything you can about our industry. Read and study industry literature. Become WQA-certified and maintain that certification.
Become professional. Look at professionals in other industries and emulate their habits. Look at how much education they have. Look at their dress and the hours they commit. Look at the incomes they earn.
Give more than you take. If your focus is always on how you can serve your customers, your company, your co-workers, your community and your family, success will flow your direction.
Create balance in your life. Don’t neglect and sacrifice any single aspect of your life, such as your health, your relationships, your spirituality, your career, your leisure activities or your family.
Allow yourself to be passionate about what you do. See beyond the single sale and look at how this industry affects our world.
Become vitally motivated.