Post #14: The Art of Sampling

I wrote a little bit about the importance of sampling here. This post is much more tactical.

I’ve now sampled for more hours and days than I can count. While it’s a straightforward activity, there are definitely ways to win and lose. Here are a few tips…

Exude Happiness

Sometimes this is easier said then done when it’s your fifth day in a row sampling and the last place you want to be on a sunny Saturday afternoon is inside a grocery store. However, it’s part of the job so suck it up. Figure out a way to make it enjoyable for you. Your goal should be to make as many people smile as possible. This will translate to sales.

Know Your Audience

Some people are genuinely interested in you, the brand, and product others just want free food. Knowing which one is which is important. Make sure you have a 5 second, 15 second, and 30 second pitch that can cover the full spectrum.

Also, you should have business cards on you for if/when the conversation develops into something something deeper (i.e. potential distribution, investment etc.) I’ve met a lot of great people sampling, including fellow food entrepreneurs, who have been helpful in a variety of ways.

Add Value

In addition to the free food, always look for ways to add value and stand out. Here a few things that have worked for joyloop…

  • This sounds stupid but we always bring tiny forks to go with our sample cups. This is a really minor thing but people notice and ALWAYS comment about it as it beats using a toothpick or your hands. Said differently, your sampling experience should be memorable.
  • I always offer suggestions for how our products can be paired with other ingredients (e.g. dressings, sauces, meat etc.)
  • Since our products need to be prepared, we whip them up in a simple dish for sampling and provide recipe cards. These cards tell people exactly what they’re eating along with all of our relevant social/web info. Bonus points if this can double a coupon. Bottom line: People love being able to walk away with something.

Ask Questions

When sampling, you’re job is not only to sling your products, it’s to learn. The best way to do this is to lean in and ask questions when you get negative feedback. For instance, when some says “it’s a little too expensive” you should ask “what would be more reasonable?” When someone says “I’m not crazy about this”, you should be quick to respond with “what don’t you like about it?” This is a skill that will take some practice as you want to make sure you come across as genuine/non-combative. Ultimately, you don’t want to become a sampling robot that gives the same 10 second pitch over and over again with little regard for who’s standing in front of them.