The curious case of the stuttering salesman

“It seems to me that the way to remove people’s cynicism is, when asked a straight question, to give a straight answer.”

Jeremy Paxman


Dropbox video download

Deprox salesman Tom Lister stalls when faced with a direct question about the UCLH tests. The machines had been filled with a 30% hydrogen peroxide solution, where UCLH were told it was a 5% solution. Tom knows this, and his guilty conscience shows very clearly in his body language and facial expressions. To his credit, he will not tell a lie to escape his predicament, a scruple not shared by his employers…

Consider the situation:

  1. Hygiene Solutions. having struggled for years to justify their log6 claim, finally funds a thorough study at the top Infection Control laboratory in the UK, led by Prof. Peter Wilson who is arguably the leading epidemiologist in the country.
  2. The study is a resounding success, with the Deprox equaling the efficacy of its main competitor – the Bioquell Q-10, which is much more expensive.
  3. The authors of the report state explicitly that hospitals should buy 5% H2O2 systems based on price and convenience, rather than assuming that a 30% system would be better.

Hygiene Solutions are not behind in marketing skills – it would be a “no-brainer” for them to widely circulate this report – to quote it on their website and for their salesman to hand out copies and make PowerPoint presentations etc. based on its content.

Tom Lister is Hygiene Solutions’ dedicated Deprox salesman. He presents the Deprox process by speeches and presentations at conferences and by visiting and working closely with hospital professionals. From Tom’s LinkedIn profile:

Hygiene Solutions Ltd.

August 2012 – Present (4 years 2 months)

I work strategically with over 85 hospitals around the world to improve infection control, with a particular focus on environmental decontamination. This involves working with Hospital Directors, Consultant Microbiologists and Infection Control Teams, as well as Estates and Facilities, Domestic Services and specialist departments.

Clearly Tom would be expected to know this report inside out, and be ready to answer any questions about it. The most obvious question that any customer would ask is;

 “What makes the difference; how do you achieve such great results with a 5% system?”

There could be a number of very easy answers to this, for example:

  • “It’s proprietary technology, so I can’t give you the detail.”
  • “It’s because the fine droplet size is optimised for mobility and efficacy.”
  • “It’s the composition of the Deproxin fluid activated by high frequency ultrasonics.”

Salesmen are very good at producing instant answers – it is their job – so WHY the extraordinary performance from Tom Lister when I asked him a simple question at the Infection Prevention show in Harrogate?

Analysing the video is revealing:

6 seconds in to the video, I place a copy of the paper on the table in front of Tom. He looks down at it and licks his lips nervously.

I ask “Do you know about these tests that have been done?” and he purses his lips in an expression of doubt, as if he was not familiar with them, and says something incoherent, perhaps “You know what…” and looks up with a very worried expression.

When I say I have technical questions, Tom sees an escape route – the smile of relief on his face is very clear as he says “I’m probably not the best bet on the technical side…” He is hoping that this will end the conversation.

When I continue talking, he starts biting his lips nervously as he listens.

When I ask  “…how this is achieved?” he purses his lips in doubt, breaks eye contact and looks down saying “That’s a very good question” (Salesmen are trained to say this to buy time.) He then starts shuffling around nervously, compresses his lips as if thinking, exhales heavily, shakes his head, purses his lips, shrugs his shoulders and without making eye contact says “I mean ultimately it’s an independent study so… “ (indistinct noise – may be a fault in the audio here)” I know of control is involved in” he swallows heavily, says “um”, pulls a grimace, shrugs his shoulders, makes an indistinct noise, then stutters “W – where did you say you were from?”  –  which was obviously a tactic to change the subject as he knew this already.

It is very interesting that his answer is “it’s an independent study so…” when my question was “How was this achieved”. He responds as if I had asked “Did you cheat in this test?”

It is blindingly obvious that Hygiene Solutions are aware that there is something seriously  wrong with the UCLH paper – there is no other explanation for their extraordinary reluctance to discuss it.