From The Editor | April 27, 2021

Lessons Learned: Stop Selling Your Products

Joe Cogliano Head Shot

By Joe Cogliano


Content publishing is a key marketing tool for water and wastewater solutions providers. The best content engages readers by addressing the challenges they face, but too many companies still focus this investment — and other visibility tools — on themselves and their product.

Corey Williams, for example, once held a very traditional outlook on business development: Get in front of as many potential clients as possible, tell them everything about your company and its value proposition, then convince them to sit through a demo. In other words, get into “sales” mode as quickly as possible.

It was just a few years ago when Williams, as CEO of Optimatics — a provider of water and wastewater infrastructure planning software — realized something needed to change.

“We so often try to go zero to 100 [MPH] in one meeting. I was guilty of it at Optimatics,” said Williams in a recent Water We Talking About? podcast. “They’re still on, ‘Is this an interruption to my business processes?’ and ‘Where do my consulting engineers fit into this?’ and I was saying ‘Let’s get to a demonstration.’ Which never worked.”

That’s when Optimatics dropped $200,000 for a new PowerPoint presentation. (Yes, you read that correctly.) And the consultants that came to do the job never once asked about the typical stuff you would find in a product presentation. Instead, they focused on helping Williams and his team discover the real reason their company was in business. When all was said and done, Optimatics stopped selling potential clients on the ‘we can save you money’ value proposition.

“Optimatics discovered it was in business because there’s not enough money to address all the infrastructure needed across the globe. This revolutionized our go-to-market approach,” said Williams, who has since taken the CEO role at SmartCover. “We had been telling people we can save them money without even asking if that was important to them. Do they agree it’s a problem? If so, then we’re all going to win here. If not, they’re probably not the right target for the solution. That group we hired helped us make the leap. It was worth every penny.”

The move was a success, with Optimatics acquired by industry giant SUEZ in 2018.

Williams’ advice to other companies in the industry is to slow the process down, especially since the water industry doesn’t buy ‘fast.’ Understand who you are and what you are about. Don’t just be a ‘features and benefits’ company.

Whether it’s a presentation or the content you are generating for Water Online, the lesson here is the same — that water and wastewater solutions providers can improve their long-term sales by focusing the company narrative less on themselves and more on being a valuable partner in addressing your clients’ primary challenges. In many cases, it doesn’t require a big investment, just a shift in thinking.