How to make money out of thin air

moneyflowerPay-off: helps your team spot many more business opportunities and connect with customers better
Investment: 6 mins

This story shows how easily value can be created for customers, or destroyed, and the impact on the customer, non-sales person and the business. Unfortunately I feel that something along these lines is costing most businesses a lot of money in lost sales.

A few years back I was running a sales leadership workshop in Adelaide, Australia, and I was struggling. I’d only had 3 hours sleep and it was beginning to affect me. So in a break, I strolled out to get a coffee. The lady serving wasn’t particularly welcoming, and despire there being no one behind me, it was clear that the transaction was on with no friendly chit-chat. She just asked what I wanted, and being tired, I asked for a ‘LARGE latte please!’ Then I waited almost ten minutes for her to finally plonk it down infront of me and to my horror, it was…tiny! Tiny at least compared to what I thought I was ordering.

I pointed at another customer’s huge coffee cup and said, “Sorry, I asked for large” and she replied, “you’ve got a large. That one over there is a ‘jumbo'”.

Now let’s freeze the frame here and look at what’s happened with a few questions:

What was I trying to buy? If you thought, ‘a large coffee’, we’ve got some work to do to shift your thinking. If you said, ‘a caffeine hit’ you’re a bit closer. But if you said, ‘a successful afternoon workshop’ you’re spot on. I was really only interested in increasing my chances to achieve that. And did this result help me do that? Not as much as I’d have liked.

Was I left feeling happy? Definitely not. Now at this point I fully acknowledge the lady serving wasn’t a trained sales person, so I’m not picking on her! But one of the points I’m making is, imagine the impact on her, the cafe business and her customers if she knew how to approach this situation better. So, no, I wasn’t happy.

That’s zero points to all of us so far.

Was she left feeling happy and satisfied with the interaction? Doubt it. She didn’t smile or exude any positivity. It’s true, I don’t know what she’d been through that morning. I can only tell this from the customer’s perspective. But she seemed pretty disengaged in her job and certainly didn’t come across as helpful. And helping people feels good. And she missed her opportunity to have some friendly chat which might have done her good.

So that’s zero out of two points so far.

What was the impact on the business? An interesting question! I paid about $3 or so for the coffee. But I was ready and willing to pay the $5 for a ‘jumbo’ had I have known. They would have taken $2 more. But not only that, little did she know, I was on client expenses. It wasn’t my money. So I was a customer who had a fairly relaxed budget! Perhaps I might have liked some food too? She didn’t ask.

So let’s take this last question further by asking another question:

How could she have served me better? There will be plenty of answers here, but I’m most interested in the fact that she could have greased the wheels with a little chit chat, and picked up on an important trigger – that I was tired and struggling through an important day. What if she simply asked, “how’s your day going?” I might have given her that useful trigger information that I was tired. Or, when I said, ‘a LARGE latte please!’ she might have heard the tone in my voice and asked, ‘need a big caffeine hit?!’

Just opening the conversation up would have informed her of my ‘backstory’ – that I was struggling running a workshop. And that what I really wanted was a successful afternoon. And with that information, what could she have done next?

If you’re on the ball now, you’re chanting ‘she could have offered you other things that might help you create that successful afternoon!’ She could have said, ‘if you need a bit of a hit, we’ve got some energy drinks in the fridge there. Did you want to take one with you incase you need it?’ Or she might have offered me one of the delicious looking chocolate brownies. And I would have liked being looked after like that. What a missed opportunity!

So let’s ask the question again, what was the impact on the business? I think I would have bought an energy drink and maybe some food too. And I certainly would have spent $2 more on the larger coffee. Now, that was just me. But let’s multiply this by each and every customer who comes into that cafe not knowing their secret jargon for what they call a ‘jumbo’ coffee. How many people would pay $5 but are just buying the coffee for $3? And how many might like some extras but on feeling a bit deflated by the service and not even being asked, decide to leave it?

I wonder how many others ways the people serving in the cafe could help these customers?

So that’s a big fat zero points for impact on the business too.

Total score: 0 out of 3.

It’s a shame that in this situation, we all lost; the lady serving, myself and their business.

So my question to you is, how many opportunities to connect more value to your customers are you or your team missing?

Most people default to carrying out the basic transaction and think they’re doing their job giving customers what they want. But of course, there’s what they say they want and there’s that desired future state that they really want.

Are you conducting your conversations in such a way as to reveal the ‘truth’? If not, why not? If you’re not clear on why you’ll find it hard to fix. Remember, the customer isn’t always right. They’re limited by their own beliefs and in my case, the fact that I didn’t speak their secret language. I asked for large, I got large. Turns out I wanted ‘jumbo’.

Let me summarise some of the learning points from this:

  • most businesses are missing opportunities to add value to customers left right and centre
  • you can create value out of thin air, if you have the right mindset, ask the right questions, listen and think – all learnable skills
  • opening up communication with some sort of rapport is important
  • every customer has a backstory – something they’ve been through that impacts why they are in front of you today
  • every customer has a desired future state – how they want things to be. Sometimes they aren’t clear on it. Either way, once they trust you enough (‘enough’ is all you need, and it’s relative to the context), they’ll often take your advice
  • triggers (those snippets of information that suggest that there might be opportunity to add value) are everywhere. If you know what to look out for you can play detective and create more value for customers. If you know what questions to ask you can increase the chances of exposing any triggers
    going in with the mindset that you’re there to help create optimal value for your customers is useful (‘optimal value’ means that you sell them everything you or your business can do for them that is more beneficial to them than the money in their pocket! (They have to decide this themselves of course, with your help) PLUS any other value-adds that don’t cost anything; rapport, a nice experience, any useful ideas or information to help with other desires or wishes of theirs)
  • if you ever feel like you’re trying to grab a customer’s money, 1) that’s an unuseful mindset 2) it might not be their money (I was on client expenses)
  • customers talk to each other. Sometimes touring the world sharing their stories 😉

Over to You

If you have any comments or questions please leave them in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you and will respond to all. By the way, I’ve forgiven her.

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