I approached the owner of the local 7-Eleven and plastered a smile on my face.
“How’d they do?” I asked.
They’d sold out! I couldn’t believe it. The news was music to my ears. The owner asked for additional displays to sell, and I happily obliged. I returned to the office, thrilled.
Later that very afternoon, I received a phone call from the 7-Eleven field representative for my local area. He wanted to stop by our office, after having heard about the guitar pick’s success. I couldn’t believe my good luck. Sometimes you can really catch a break. This was definitely one.
The 7-Eleven representative discussed what I could do for the company at our meeting. I have a collection of unusual things in my office, and he was curious about the others avenues I had pursued in my career. I often talk about the necessity of winning people over to your cause – that it is vital to have people who will champion you and your product through the necessary channels. This man was one such supporter, one such gatekeeper. He was eager to help me, and I appreciated it. These individuals are priceless!
“Steve,” he offered. “We could go to Dallas with this prospect, but I think it’s wiser to try selling the picks in more stores, first. Let’s get some real test data.”
There are few things that will speak more strongly than your product’s test data. We selected ten additional stores to sell the product in, to really determine if Hot Picks and 7-Eleven were a good fit.
The great thing about performing market tests is that it allows you to work out kinks and issues before you’re actually on the line. For example, I was able to play with what picks to sell, what display to use. I could easily change up what we were selling, and in doing so, was able to discover what worked and what didn’t. The tests gave us some time to see what was happening in the field of retail. My wife’s boss at Gallo Winery, Ernest Gallo, offered her this advice many, many years ago: Get out of the office and get down to retail. That is where the war is won or lost.
I wanted to win the war. Over the course of three to four months, we expanded our tests to ninety convenience stores. Things looked good. NOW was the time to take the product national!
But the same process repeated itself on this new, grander scale. Stores still needed to be convinced that selling the guitar picks was of benefit to them. We presented the picks at 7-Eleven’s own version of a trade show, 7-Eleven University, and stores picked it up. We sent out notices in a pre-book, and we reached a total of 800 stores that were interested. I was disappointed at first, until I realized that they too needed to see for themselves how it would work. They didn’t see the fit. Our test data had gotten the ball rolling, but it wasn’t everything. We even sent samples and a sell sheet.