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Get the Most Out of Your Hands-On Experience

Beyond its obvious value as a source for all-around information, the Internet is one of the greatest tools a consumer could ever hope for. The ability to compare makes, models, colors, options, materials, sizes, shapes and just about anything else your heart desires is at your fingertips. There's just one problem.

You can't kick the Internet's tires. You can't rev the Internet's engine. You can't experience that little adrenaline rush you get taking a corner in the Internet because, well, the Internet doesn't corner. Oh sure, the screen shows the exact model, tread and proper inflation pressure of those tires and the number of cylinders in the engine. You can read about the state-of-the-art suspension system that will reduce body roll to a mere tenth of last year's model. But you can't feel it.

It's that total lack of tactile experience that makes me laugh whenever the notion is floated that the showroom floor, be it for automobiles, truckmounts, shoes or what have you, will suddenly vanish. It's as though one day, consumers will simply wake up with no urge to see things for themselves. They will no longer desire to wrap their fingers around the textured leather of the steering wheel, to feel the heft and balance of the wand, to slide their foot into the boot.

Right. And it's going to be a Cardinals-Chargers Super Bowl this year.

The hands-on demonstration continues to grow in stature as a sales tool because of one simple thing: when it's all said and done, people want to see equipment in action. Today's consumers are better informed, better educated and better aware of the options, accessories, materials and manufacturing processes used than any in history. But even the best-dressed machine won't get invited to the party if the "on/off" switch is flipped and the only thing the customer sees is sweat breaking out on the salesperson's brow. Today's demonstrators are not only well versed in the operation of the machines they control, they are as adept and confident dealing with clients as they are with equipment.

You might say, "Well, duh! That's the job," but everyone remembers a time when they've asked a question during a demonstration only to walk away feeling like their query was somehow an annoyance.

Professional carpet cleaners have long known that demonstrations for the homeowner are a great step on the road to bigger and better things. The cleaning-equipment manufacturer who doesn't keep in mind that the same step pertains to the professional carpet cleaner will find itself heading down the wrong path.

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