There were several different paths I could have chosen to pursue in trying to sell my guitar picks in national 7-Elevents. I could have called 7-Eleven corporate headquarters in Dallas, asked for the buyer, sent over some guitar pick samples, a sell sheet, and pricing information. Normally, this path is one I recommend. But it wasn’t appropriate in this specific example for a number of reasons.
7-Eleven is large company. And the benefit of my product wasn’t immediately obvious, as I’ve stated. It doesn’t really make sense, in a logical way. Guitar picks in convenience stores? I thought they might sell, but I’m also well versed in my product’s consumers. 7-Eleven wasn’t. The likelihood that my product would have been lost or killed between all the different channels it would have needed to pass through is high.
So I decided to first perform a market test in a local store. There’s a 7-Eleven right down the street from my office in Turlock, California. Bingo.
I went down there one morning and brought some product with me. I introduced myself as a local businessman (and made sure to look the part) to the store’s manager and asked to speak to the owner. I had a product I wanted to show in the store – could I test it? I offered the product free of charge; any profit that was made on the picks they could spend themselves. I wasn’t looking to make a buck, so much as needing to gain some very valuable information.
The owner was willing to try it, but I could tell the manager wasn’t wild about it. I gave him the product to display, intending to return three or four days later to see how it fared. But when I returned later that day to answer a question, the display was gone.
“Steve, “ the owner said, “The manager really doesn’t think it’s a great idea.”
So I asked again, putting on my best salesman cap. Please, I nearly pleaded, give it a try. I couldn’t believe I was having to give the hard sell to the local 7-Eleven owner! This did not bode well for the future. If I couldn’t sell him on the idea, there was no way I was going to sell the entire corporation. I kept pushing, and he finally relented.
Several days later, a friend came in to the office and I explained my new project. Intrigued, he went to check out the 7-Eleven display for himself. He returned, and informed me that the display was gone.
“It’s not there?” I questioned dejectedly. It was obvious. The manager had overrun the owner, and removed the guitar picks again. I left for the 7-Eleven, tail between my legs, to retrieve the picks. It wasn’t easy to do, but sometimes, what’s necessary isn’t fun.
Click here to read part III of this story. . .
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