Monday, November 26, 2007

Black Friday Sales Attempt

I enjoyed this experience, so I figured I'd share it.

On Thanksgiving I came up with what I thought would be a brilliant idea. I had a bunch of energy drinks left over from my time spent in Quixtar, and I figured if there was ever going to be a time to sell them, it would be Black Friday. And the target, captive audience would be the holiday shoppers who are lined up waiting for stores to open. If anyone needs an energy drink, it's people getting up early to spend a day out shopping.

I got together some preparations on Thursday night, a bag of quarters to make change and all the boxes of drinks that I had. I convinced my brother to help me for a cut of the profits. Then I set my alarm for 4:15 and went to sleep.

When the alarm went off, I distinctly remember thinking that I had two choices. I could either just forget about this idea and go back to sleep, or force myself out of the warm bed and into the cold, dark night. After about five minutes of debate, I managed to convince myself that I'd have to wait a full year to get this opportunity again, and that it would be worth getting up. So I got myself up and dressed and then woke up my brother and we ducked out of the house.

On the way to the local Best Buy we saw lots of people forming lines at various other stores, so we figured we'd have a good shot. Cruising for a parking space, we saw that the line went all the way down the block and started around the end of the last building. A good sign for success. I had set the price at three dollars, since the cost was about two without including shipping.

The first few attempts started poorly. My brother led in with an unenthusiastic "Do you want this?" sales pitch. This of course led to solid rejections. We discussed the approach some and he started to adapt. I had thought of the phrase "shopping fuel" as a gimmick approach to getting people interested, but it didn't seem to create any stir. He started reading the label on the cans some, talking about the 0 sugar, 0 fat and only 8 calories. This peeked some curiosity, but still no one wanted to buy.

After facing rejection across the whole side of a building, we were pretty discouraged. So at this point we decided to just give it away instead of trying to charge for it. The sad thing was that, even without charging anything, people didn't want it.

After a few attempts, my brother kept pushing past the first few nos, and a girl in line was willing to give it a try. After a few sips, she admitted that it was pretty good, although sweet tasting. Then she asked if we had poisoned it. We didn't, and never had any intention to, but I thought it was funny that she asked after the point where she would probably have been dead if we had.

Once people started to see someone take it and drink it, they jumped on board. That first group took a box together, and with that our confidence in getting rid of the stuff started to grow. My brother had more success after that, he ignored the first few nos and kept pressing forward with the information he had read off the can. Eventually people were coming from different parts of the line to grab one, and we had almost gotten rid of all of the supply. When we were down to the last one, my brother picked out a guy in line and talked him into taking it, not taking no for an answer.

So while we didn't sell anything, we did learn a lot from the experience. First of all, people will pretty much say no to anything at first, so you have to keep going though their objections. Second, the people at the front of the line would have probably been the most receptive since they had been in out the longest and were probably the most dedicated. Third, you have to give the people something to identify with. If we had said something like, the kick of a red bull with the sweet taste of root beer - and it's good for you, people would have identified with it better and even been curious for more information. Fourth, if you don't have any confidence going in, people are going to react to your body language and reject whatever you're selling.

So in the future we'll now have this experience to draw from. It was worth the initial down payment as well as the struggle to convince myself to get out of bed.

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