“Free” Samples

My kids used to love to go to Sam’s Club. Not for the bargains, because they weren’t spending their money; they were spending mine. And not for the wide selection of toys, because Wal-Mart’s toy aisles were always bigger.

They liked Sam’s Club because of the free food samples.

It was a veritable free food buffet lining the beginning of each aisle. Free samples of freshly fried sausage, the newest cheese dip, a cheese plate, snack crackers, or during the holiday season you could sample hot chocolate or spiced apple cider.

My kids weren’t alone in the sampling of the food variety, because as I tried to maneuver my cart down the beginning of an aisle, I was invariably stalled by the throngs of other hearty sample eaters waiting their turn for a small paper cup of Orville Redenbacher microwave popcorn.

I don’t ever recall actually purchasing any of the full-size products that were offered as free samples. Usually my resolve NOT to purchase the items was reinforce by my kids nagging me to frustration and anger and telling them no, out of spite from their begging. (Gosh, I’m a bad parent, no one else would ever say no to their kids, just because of that, huh?)

But, I’m sure that Sam’s Club made plenty of sales with this technique of offering samples. They still do it, so it must work.

But free samples aren’t just for food. How many CD-ROM disks do you receive each month offering free 500, 1000, 1050 minutes of AOL service? (UPDATE: November 2015; How Much Did It Cost AOL To Send All Those CDs?)

In my multi-level marketing business, my sponsor’s main thrust for making sales is offering a sample. In many cosmetic-based MLMs, small samples of skin care products and cosmetic “colors” are offered to prospective buyers. With the company, Quixtar, many IBOs(reps) are taught, for example, to hand out a can of XS Energy Drink to entice a sale. Recently, I noticed that Oasis Lifesciences’ reps offer a free sample of their liquid vitamin product. This got me to thinking about why I have NEVER offered sample products.

Free samples work, right? Everybody uses them.

Insurance companies don’t use them.
Realtor’s® don’t use them.

You have to make a decision to purchase items like houses, health insurance, and even cars. (the test drive is not really a sample) Ask the local Lexus dealer if you can have a Free 30-Day Trial of the latest Lexus Hybrid, and see what he says.

But Dave, giving away a sample of hand lotion to get a client to buy a bottle of the stuff isn’t exactly like buying a car.

Okay, let’s pare it way down.

Let’s use this hypothetical hand lotion as our example.

You go call on Client A. You have in your hand your Dreamy&Creamy brand of lotion. You show the brochure, you let the client sniff the “oh-so-fresh” fragrance through the bottle opening, you squirt a dab of the miracle handcream on the back of his hand and you let him rub the “silky goodness” into his skin.

(Excuse me, I got a little “throw-up” in my throat typing that.)

And now you announce, “I’m so sure that this is the product for you, I’m going to let you try a free sample”. Call me if you want to order some. How many little trial bottles of lotion or sample packets are you going to have to give out in order to make a sale? How many follow-up calls will you make? When will the prospective client begin to ignore your phone calls?

So, why don’t you close the sale immediately after the prospective client has tried the lotion? Why prolong the sale process with days’ of sampling? You have the opportunity then and there. Take it.

Look, you’ve already purchased the one bottle of lotion to demonstrate the effectiveness. Why invest in other smaller bottles? Why increase your expenses?

My sponsor’s financial situation is better than mine. He can afford to hand out water treatment systems on a trial basis. He can afford the extra expense of stocking several of these systems in hopes of selling one. Maybe you can afford the expense of doing something similar.

Quite frankly, I can’t afford that kind of expense. And furthermore, If I truly am in the business of “duplicating my efforts”, how many of my downline can afford the initial expense of duplicating this sampling process.

How effective is a sample without a sales pitch? And if you are going to pitch anyway; then why do you need the sample?

Use a full size bottle, demo the product, but don’t hand out samples indiscriminately.

Because until you make the sale, a sample product only makes money for your representative company. If you can’t close the sale, why give away a sample?

Instead, offer to the client an incentive to purchase; an incentive to repeat a purchase…better yet, offer them consistent superior service.

That would be a “sample” they most likely rarely receive. They might find that more valuable than a free fried sausage at Wal-Mart.

About Dave Robison

Now Appearing in an Extended Engagement! Join Dave Robison as he takes you into his world and his daily life of reviving a stand-up comedy career. Prepare for side trips exploring Public Relations, marketing and business ethics. Enjoy some frequent detours describing his observations on life. Read the exploits of this self-proclaimed Renaissance-man and blooming blogger as you go On The Road With Dave. From Mobile, Alabama comes Dave Robison, a confessed Internet-aholic, middle-aged-married-man, who's generally a nice guy--he just has one or two issues. Stand-Up Comedy by Dave Robison is available for corporate events, college campuses, and nightclubs.
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7 Responses to “Free” Samples

  1. Ty Tribble says:

    Why would you need to “pitch” a product if you give out a sample to someone and they like it?

    People will do one of three things when they get a sample of a unique product.

    1. They like it and become a customer.

    2. They like it and ask you questions about it. You tell them and they become a business partner.

    3. None of the above.

    Pitching a business opportunity vs. allowing another person to try a product to see if they like it…hmmmm…I wonder which one the average person is more capable of doing?

  2. Ty,

    Thanks for responding.

    I never mentioned anything about pitching a business opportunity.

    I mentioned “pitch’ as it pertains to “pitching” or selling the product.

    If you have the product in hand, and expressing the benefits and features of said product in an actual sales situation, then I feel why bother with samples, go ahead and try and make the sale.

    Did you take the poll? Feel free and leave your vote.


  3. YC9769 says:

    Yeah, I never saw anything that pertains to pitching a business opportunity…the post appears to be discussing about using or not using samples in the sales process. So part of me would like to say “Ty Tribble” is an idiot looking to put words in the mouths of others in an effort to make trouble…but the rest of me realizes I am not witty or expressive enough to say as much.

    However, I do disagree with David. Why give a sample of the product if you have product in hand and are explaining the benefits and features? Because seeing is believing! In many cases, letting them try it right there during your “pitch” is the perfect ending…a “hey, I’ll prove to you that the product works and that it is the best!” opportunity. There are also other ways in which samples can be used. But more about that later.


  4. KentF says:

    Typically speaking I think “handing out a sample” is just code words for mlmr’s who want their downlines to sell for them. Kind of like the 3 ft. rule or placing flyers on cars – it probably does work 1-2% of the time if you have the energy and money to do it – but I agree with Dave – handing out samples is expensive and is not in any way, shape or form proven to work.

  5. YC9769 says:

    Starting back in the early 1990’s, America Online began handing out free CD’s with loads of free minutes (yes, AOL used to charge ALL of it’s customers a per minute usage; unlimited usage didn’t come in until late ’96). Do you really think they would have grown as quickly and as large as they did without handing out the free disks? I can’t imagine it. Same with Yahoo!, Hotmail, and other online sites which grew overwhelmingly big almost overnight, by giving away free email accounts. Of course none of these are MLM businesses, but the proof is clearly seen that “Free” is hugely effective in drawing in prospects…it’s up to you to whack them over the head with the orr and pull them in the boat, like any good salesman would.

  6. Ty Tribble says:

    From the Seattle Times:

    “Sampling can offer feedback, which is important to the manufacturer, and the bump in sales is important to the retailer. Typically, we expect a lift in sales of 300-400 percent from a focused, six-hour in-store demo on a weekend.”

    By the way. I don’t see where I put words in anyones mouth, however I would say that if you don’t let someone try a product to see if they like it, you are probably doing some sort of opportunity pitch. True?

  7. By the way. I don’t see where I put words in anyones mouth, however I would say that if you don’t let someone try a product to see if they like it, you are probably doing some sort of opportunity pitch. True?

    No, Not True.

    Just a plain ole sales demo, or features and benefits presentation. If the client is “sold”, they purchase with the assurance that the salesman and the product will provide satisfaction or their money back.

    Not all sales presentations carry with it an “opportunity” angle.


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