4 Sales Lessons from the Water Cooler Salesman


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During a recent trip to my local warehouse club retailer, I saw a sight that might not sound like a typical kind of sales work in the 21st century: a water cooler salesman. While I was walking out of the store, I passed a water cooler salesman who had a table set up with brochures about the various types of water cooler systems that his company offered, and he was giving away free samples of drinking water. The water cooler might sound like an outdated concept in these modern days of remote working, it might sound like something from a previous era – but this salesman was going strong. He had a steady sales pitch that he kept offering to everyone who walked by – offering a free cup of water to try to refresh themselves for the drive home, offering a free consultation, mentioning a special deal, saying “we deliver!” Even though I didn’t have time to stop and talk to the water cooler salesman, I noticed that he was exhibiting some key fundamentals of sales skills.

Here is what your business can learn from the water cooler salesman:

Make the Most of Foot Traffic

It was a busy day at the warehouse club retailer, and in a typical day, there are probably hundreds or even thousands of people who pass by that water cooler salesman’s table. His table was clearly set up, he had a nice array of product samples set up, and it was immediately easy to tell what he was selling and why it mattered. Even in the age of online retail, foot traffic still matters. This one-man sales operation was set up to maximize the opportunity of being in front of those hundreds of shoppers every day – quickly engaging and sorting out the potential business leads.

Approach Every Prospect

The water cooler salesman didn’t stay silent or standoffish; he made an offer to every single person walking by: “would you like a free drink of water to take home?” Lots of people ignored him, not everyone wanted what he was selling, but he made the effort every time. There is a good lesson here for sales people: you’ve got to at least attempt to contact every prospect. Every name on your calling list, every person at the networking event, every person walking past your exhibition booth at the trade show – you never know who’s going to be ready to buy from you. If you don’t at least make that initial attempt to start a sales conversation, you’ll never make a sale.

Stick to Your Sales Script

It’s also important as a sales person to stay disciplined by sticking to your sales script. The water cooler salesman did a great job at this, too. He had a few key messages that he wanted to get across, a few key selling points: “free drink of water,” “special limited time deal,” “we deliver!” Even just a casual listener who walked past his table was going to hear what he was offering and why it mattered.

Make it Convenient for Your Customers to Buy

One of the most important parts of the water cooler salesman’s pitch was “we deliver!” He was making it clear that his company would make it convenient for people to buy – if you buy from his company, they will bring the water to you. No extra work required. No one wants an extra chore or an extra item on their to-do list, so if you can make it easier for your customers to justify buying from you, try to make it clear that you can offer convenience as well as the other technical aspects of your solution.

No matter what you sell, whether it’s a complex B2B solution or a seemingly “old-fashioned” service, you can find some inspiration in these sales lessons from this hard-working water cooler salesman. Remember to stay disciplined, engage every customer, and make it convenient for people to buy from you!

Al Davidson
Al Davidson is the founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, a "leading light" among lead generation companies, delivering B2B lead generation and b2b appointment setting services for clients ranging from local small businesses to the Fortune 100. Since 1989, the company's sales agents have generated over 7 million sales leads, and created millions of dollars for clients.


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