“What’s your bottle of water?” A simple lesson in growing sales from Alex Goldfayn

A recently got a chance to chat with Alex Goldfayn, CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute. He’s one of the top-rated and most requested sales speakers in the world, and the author of several books, including his most recent one, Selling Boldly: Applying The New Science of Positive Psychology To Dramatically Increase Your Confidence, Happiness & Sales.

I asked him to share a couple of stories from his book that I found particularly insightful — one about a simple but proven technique to increase your sales, and the other about a simple but effective way to lose a customer for life.

As always, it’s more fun to listen to my guest tell their stories themselves, which you can do by clicking the play button above. For the rest of you, below are excerpts from those sections of his book.

A Simple Way to Grow Sales. . . 

I was at the airport in Minneapolis, ordering an iced coffee, and the young woman behind the counter asked me if I would like a bottle of water with that.

This stopped me in my tracks because I teach all of my clients this technique—I call it the “Did you know” question—and although it’s an incredibly simple question that requires only a few seconds, almost nobody ever asks a question like this. Anywhere, ever.

I asked her, “Do they teach you to ask this question?”

“Yes, they do,” she said. “It’s a part of our training.”

“How many people buy a bottle of water?”

You know what she said?
“Almost everybody.”

Guess how much the water cost? Five dollars!

The coffee?

It cost $3.

It’s amazing.

With this simple question, this coffee shop nearly triples its sales, from $3 to $8.

With water!

Was I mad at her for trying to sell me a $5 bottle of water? Of course not. She was trying to help me. And like everybody else she asks, I know that a $5 bottle of water is absurd.

So how was she being helpful? I was getting on an airplane. I needed water, anyway.

If I didn’t buy it from her, in a single transaction, I would have to take my coffee, and my rolling luggage down the terminal to a gift shop and procure my bottle of water. I’d have to set down my luggage, and my coffee, take a water out of the cooler, risk dropping my coffee on the floor because I’m now holding both the water and the coffee in one hand, as I try to get to the other, new, checkout line.

Once I would get to the front of the line, I would have to set everything down again—luggage, coffee, and water—and pay. Again. And how much money have I saved? A dollar or two? Maybe? I could use that time to relax, or make a proactive phone call to a customer to check in (much more on this to come throughout the book).

The young checkout person at the coffee shop offered me water, which (1) saved me time, and (2) allowed me to complete my beverage acquisitions in one transaction. I valued that. I appreciated it. So, apparently, did nearly everybody else she asked. Remember, she asks everybody, and almost everybody buys the water.

And so, I ask you: What is your bottle of water?

What can you sell to your customers, who have been buying the same products and services from you for years, decades maybe, without considering what else they can buy from you? Right now, today, your customers are buying from the competition products or services they could be buying from you. These are products and services they should be buying from you. In fact, your customers would like to buy these things from you. After all, they’ve been with you for all these years for a reason. They’re very happy doing business with you. And everybody knows one purchase order is better than two or three or four. They want to buy more from you and, of course, you would like to sell them additional products.

But none of that is possible, because they don’t know.

We don’t tell them what else they can buy.

And they’re too busy to know. Or ask. They simply assume they can only buy from us that which they have bought for years. And we assume that that is all they need! They niche us, and we niche them.

They would buy, if we would ask. But we do not, so they do not.

A Simple Way to Lose a Customer for Life. . . 

I was with a lumber distributor in South Dakota. (Obviously, I work in very sexy industries!)

They have an executive who is in charge of purchasing and sales.

Because lumber is a true commodity, it is essentially traded by people in the business. It is purchased, sometimes altered, and then resold. So at this company the same person did both sides of that work. Let’s call him Mark.

He told this story.

Mark had a supplier he had worked with for some time, who made a really terrible mistake on an order.

Mark hammered him. And rightfully so. He made Mark look bad to his customers. It was probably an honest mistake, but it deserved a verbal lashing. That’s life.

Well, Mark told me he never heard from this supplier again.

Never. Never ever.

He never called again.

I asked him: “Were you buying a lot of product from him?”

Mark: “About $4 million per year.”

Me: “And how big was his company?”

Mark: “About $20 million.”

It was a massive percentage of this company’s business!

Me: “And how long ago was this?”

Mark: “About four years.”

So, $16 million in revenue lost, because this guy didn’t have the confidence to pick up the phone after the customer told him he screwed up.

I asked him, “Do you need that product? That was a lot of product.”

Mark: “I would love to have that product even now.”

Me: “So why don’t you call him?”

Mark, without skipping a beat: “It doesn’t work that way. He needs to call me.”

At that point he could have dropped the mike and walked out of the room.

But there was no mike, just him and me sitting around his desk.

It doesn’t work that way.

Don’t wait for the customer to call you.

That’s not their job (when it’s not urgent).

You need to call them.

They expect you to.

They want you to.

Don’t let it cost you millions of dollars.

You can find out more about Alex, and download some free sales planning tools, at goldfayn.com/story

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Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling. He’s a keynote speaker, storytelling coach, and bestselling author of the books Lead with a StoryParenting with a Story, and Sell with a Story.

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