Sampling Success Strategies

Double Your Sample Trial Rate Selling to Dentists

The idea Try It Before You Buy It has grown to become a common customer expectation. Most consumers expect to sample a product prior to purchasing to take the risk out of buying. Yet, sampling as a sales strategy in healthcare has all but vanished.Gone are the days where clinical providers strain to carry sacks full of trial products from trade shows or shuffle the samples that once stuffed their shelves. Where have all the freebies gone?

Considering fewer than half of all samples distributed are ever tried, they are an easy target to eliminate in an effort to reduce costs. But this approach may be costing you and your firm millions in potential sales. Sampling still remains the single best way to create brand experience and tee up sales like nothing else!

It’s about time healthcare reconsider their sampling policies and tap into what other industries already know.The advantages and benefits of letting prospects try before they buy considerably outweighs the effort and expense required. With a few changes in strategy and tactic, your sampling response rates will improve considerably while you advance your sales and marketing goals by following these ideas:

There is no brand more closely associated with sampling success than COSTCO. “When we compare it to other mediums … in-store product demonstration has the highest [sales] lift,” says Giovanni DeMeo of demo company Interactions, which handles Costco’s sampling program. “Giving out free samples has boosted sales in some cases by 2,000 percent.” To illustrate how sampling influences customer-purchasing behavior,Datalogix research revealed, sampled households were 4x more likely to purchase than the control group. That is,four times as many people purchased than those who did not receive a sample. Unit sales within the sample group also showed a 700% increase in purchases.Sampling programs work exceptionally well for healthcare if executed using the right approach.

Set Your Sample Strategy

Clarify Your Goals

The purpose of sampling is to create a positive brand experience resulting in a sale. Too often samples are distributed as part of a half-baked plan. Sales and customer service people are given a cursory supply of grip stock in hopes they will convert into sales.A trial offer can serve as both an effective marketing tactic and powerful sales tool. Consider a few ways sampling will advance your promotional objectives:

  • Reaches a new target segment
  • Expands lateral product use
  • Builds value and maintains price integrity
  • Demonstrates superior brand performance
  • Interrupts competitive brand loyalty
  • Exposescustomer insights
  • Drives traffic to new market platforms or promotional programs
  • Overcomes low consumer confidence or unfavorable brand image

 A productive sampling strategy requires clarity on expected outcomes, focus on a target audience and a straight forward execution plan. Our firm created sampling protocols for several dental companies aimed at selling to dentists and hygienists using this approach.Their results were impressive, considerably exceeding industry averages.

Monitor Metrics & Methods

A definitive sampling strategy can yield triple digit product trial rates increasing sales considerably. To realize the full potential of sampling, both sales and marketing objectives must be clearly defined. This includes Identifying specific metrics to track progress and verify if goals were met. Some ways to measure results include:

  • total sample requests
  • coupon redemption rate
  • surveys completed
  • clicks to view offer
  • user feedback received
  • sales conversion rate
  • total new customers acquired
  • total sales generated

Narrow Your Niche

Use your sampling strategy goals todefine yourtarget audience. If your goal is to expand customer reach, it isbetter to focus on specific market segmentsor demographics where your product has sold successfully. If you wish to appeal to new users, those who have never purchased your product before, identify subcategories by specialty, location or age. It is tempting to want to ‘expand your net’ but, sampling success is achieved by narrowing your scope.

Conditions that Qualify

There are specific conditions proven to set sampling up for greater success. For example, food samples have greater conversion rates around hungry prospects than those who are not. Consider when your target audience may be more receptive and more likely to buy.Then position your offer to capitalize on these opportunities.

Trial conversions are highest when sampled products are used immediately upon receipt. This is why educational events with hands on instruction are excellent sampling environments to promote sales.And, trade shows typically deliver lower conversion rates because of the long lapse between receipt and their use.

Sales reps will enjoy higher sales conversions by assisting buyers to identify a case where the sample can be used. This technique establishes a higher sense of urgency for use and allows sooner experience product advantages. Even more valuable, representatives now have an invaluable follow up opportunity to solicit user feedback and ask for an order.

Sampling is always the next best alternative to selling.Yet, medical and dental consumers are more receptive to trying new products at the following times:

  • When an order is placed, offer a complementary sample
  • When a prospect expresses or implies a performance need, want or expectation
  • When product praise or success story is shared
  • During an educational session
  • After an attempt at closing has been rejected

Timing is Everything

How effectively samples are positioned in selling scenarios significantly impacts how well they generate sales. One of the biggest mistakes representatives make is offering samples as an afterthought or ‘throw in’ after presenting another product. As if the sample will sell itself! Products or services sold or sampled in any sales scenario should always serve as a prescribed remedy to a buyers stated or implied need.Reps must be trained to position products as solutions in their sales process. This is done by skillful blending qualifying questions with solid product knowledge.

Words that Work

Representatives who ask for orders prior to offering samples make more sales. Therefore, the closing sequence used has a big impact on sales outcome. Ideally, a sample would only be offered after asking prospects to buy. Most companies have generous return policies providing the same no risk protection as sampling—but better. Asking for an order before sampling is a better option because buyers will gain experience using the product and enjoy its benefits sooner. And, customer’s who buy before they try gain greater product appreciation and enjoy its value sooner.

We have summarized the best sampling sequences when selling to dentists and healthcare consumers. Download the Sampling for Higher Sales Cheat Sheet to gain better sales sampling results HERE.

Fruitful Follow Up

  • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow up[1]
  • 80% of sales require five follow ups…or more[2]

These sobering stats expose huge sales opportunity for any rep on the planet.Big money is being left on the table every day. To help, we’ve created a sampling follow up protocol shown to boost sales to triple digits.Here’s how it works:

When a prospect agrees to try a sample, representatives would follow up to obtain an order at a later time. The problem is, most prospects are not typically available after the sample is tried. This causes sales from sampling to plummet. It is important to keep in mind, most clinical providers are accustomed to giving feedback in exchange for services received or access to product demos. Therefore, representatives who schedule follow up feedback meetings at the time a sample is provided enjoy an impressive 78% increase in sales made from samples. This compares to the current industry standard of only 4%. We’ve included some word tracks in a FREE Sampling for Higher Sales Cheat Sheet HERE.

Customers buy long before they pay.Sampling as a much bigger impact than simply selling a product. They provide a chance for buyers to experience your brand of service, tech support, product knowledge and customer care. So, don’t be so short-sighted and stingy when it comes to letting customers try before they buy.When positioned appropriately,sampling will boost sales to expand new users and deliver long-term loyal customers. To achieve true sales potential, sometimes a brand needs to lead by a sample. If your company’s sampling results could use a boost, call us, we can help. 800-471-2619


[1]SOURCE: Scripted

[2] SOURCE: The Marketing Donut

How to Make Sales Training Pay Higher Returns?

Perhaps, you too have assumed sales training was little more than a black hole that consumes a lot of budget and delivers very little in return. Realizing a better return on your training investment is indeed possible. The following ideas and insights will offer new ways to get sales training to boost both performance and profits!

Behavior is influenced by the skills that support it along with the results expected. Training outcome is a direct function of a quality intake.  That is, the better your skills and performance expectations are understood, the more training can be directed to improve those areas. The more accurately your needs are assessed, the better your training efforts address those needs, the greater the return on your training investment.

Grey Goals Beget Grey Results

Start first by clarifying your reasons for conducting training. This may sound obvious, but too often development initiatives are launched without identifying how performance is expected to change and how results will be specifically measured. Quality planning can make a considerable difference on the return training actually delivers.

Consider these common objectives as you clarify your sales training goals:

  • Increase Product Knowledge
  • Strengthen Company Knowledge
  • Clarify Performance Expectations
  • Improve Sales Skills
  • Develop Teamwork and Morale

In training, and in medicine, the prescription is only as good as the diagnosis. To maximize your investment, avoid generic programs and opt for those that build on the unique strengths and skills of your team. Generic programs offer generic short term results. Training tailored to meet your specific sales objectives by leveraging the unique strengths of your sales team provide the best sustained improvements for long-term productivity and ROI.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

With today’s modern technology, sales knowledge and selling skills can be calibrated and assessed with a high degree of accuracy. After almost three decades of measuring sales talent for dental companies, we continue to observe a close correlation between the sales acumen of representatives and their overall performance. Assessment data provides valuable direction for designing and developing an effective sales training program that drive predictable outcomes.

Ask the following clarifying questions as part of your training planning efforts:

  • What are our strongest skills and where are we underdeveloped?
  • Is our sales performance consistent with our skills assessment?
  • What skill improvement strategy will meet or exceed our sales objectives?
  • What do we expect the short and long term returns on this effort?
  • What investments are we willing to make to achieve these objectives?

Getting Training to Stick

People forget about 75% of what they hear in approximately 24 hours. That’s the bad news.  The good news is that learning and retention can be dramatically improved if training is positioned to serve the individual needs and interests of its recipients. Changes in performance are the result of greater clarity on results expected, stronger skills and consistent reinforcement of applied learning methods.

There are several important considerations to increase retention:

Relevance: Does training content and techniques apply your customers, and your product in your selling situations? Training customization has a direct impact on how often reinforcement tools and concepts are used and applied by reps. To ensure your team will welcome the tools and techniques you offer—make sure they are not only real-world and have been proven successful in their world.

Frequency:  How often concepts and ideas are reinforced has a direct impact on their tendency to become habits. The old cliché is true, ‘what gets reinforced—gets repeated’.  Providing frequent opportunities to remember and apply key ideas from any training program is the best way to improve retention.

The frequency and relevancy of training methods will determine how well reps use and apply new concepts and skills. Reinforced skills and techniques will lead to lasting habits and ultimately improved performance over time.

Convenience:  Using learning reinforcement tools and techniques is like a gym—it must be convenient to be used. For example, audio programs make good use of ‘windshield time’ for field sales reps, while mini learning modules are perfect for busy telesales and customer service representatives.Convenient follow up methods reinforce learning and positively impact improvements in behavior and productivity.

Apply these proven principles with your sales team or find a training partner experienced to help you implement them.  Bigger and better performance is possible with a strong strategy and a tailored approach proven to work.

Take the first step in realizing your true sales potential with a complimentary Training Planning & Comparison Profile click HERE or call ANSIR International at 800-471-2619.


Performance Improvement

Skills Training is Not Always the Answer

It is easy to assume weak employee skills are to blame when sales or productivity are down. In an attempt to boost productivity, managers will roll out a training initiative to improve the knowledge and talent used to drive performance. It’s been our experience that short falls in productivity are often the result of environmental factors managers can control and not necessarily a deficiency in employee skills.

Managers assume their direct reports understand the results that are expected and know the best approach to get there. Apparently, this isn’t the case for many. According to Gallup, only about half of employees ‘strongly agree’ that they understand what is expected of them at work. Obviously, to hold team members accountable for results—they must clearly understand the results expected…and how to get there.

One way managers can positively impact the productivity of their direct reports is to strengthen communication. This is the fastest most effective way to boost performance and results. Only 32 percent of employees, in the same Gallup survey, said their manager assists them in setting or reviewing performance goals. As a leader, the more clearly you set expectations and goals up front, the less time you’ll need to determine what went wrong later.

There are two practical management methods that significantly improve the quality of relationship between manager and his/her team and productivity. They are

One-On-One Sessions. These are short (30 min) weekly meetings managers’ conduct with each team member. They are designed to:

Catch Up on the status of projects pending

Confer about challenges to results expected

Connect on issues (both professional and personal) that build intimacy and loyalty in the relationship.

For a FREE copy of a helpful cheat sheet used to conduct One-On-One Sessions, download it here.

Another successful strategy to boost performance is the monthly Mentorship Meeting. This is a status meeting with each team member to review performance, tactical efforts and goals at a higher level. Too often, employees mistake feedback from managers as corrective or being in ‘trouble’. As a result, they dread, fear or withdrawal from what would otherwise be valuable learning opportunities. Inconsistent review of issues that matter to employees creates distance in manager-direct relationship and promotes job dissatisfaction and disengagement. Monthly Mentorship Meetings keep momentum moving forward in a positive direction.

If you think your people are happy, motivated and good to go…. think again. Gallup learned in a recent study that only 20% of sales people describe themselves as being ‘very’ or ‘extremely satisfied’ at work. And, just 42% say they are ‘satisfied’ Monday-Friday’s. This suggests, a considerable 62% of your sales team is probably not as passionate about work as you might think they are.

As an effective leader, you must lean in when employees may be leaning out. One reliable way to remedy low job satisfaction is to connect with consistent coaching sessions. This includes hosting weekly and monthly meetings to check in and observe where their head, heart and habits are. One-On-One and Mentorship Meetings offer a great opportunity for both of you to step above day-to-day activities and see how employee efforts are translating into results (both good and bad).

Employee productivity, therefore, is not necessarily a reflection of skills. More often than not, performance is a by-product of the culture and conditions managers create. Leaders can shape the behavior of their team by elevating the environment through clear consistent communication, practical processes and finally serving as positive role model for the actions and attitudes they desire. In the end of the day, you are usually the best training program some employees will ever attend!


Use this FREE One-on-One Cheat Sheet to start your sessions now.

5 Ways Sales Meetings Can Payoff

….. After the Meeting is Over

The investment required to attend sales meetings is enormous….and not just for the company footing the bill. Every member of the sales organization makes a considerable investment of time, energy and productivity. Time away from territories, customers and daily work responsibilities mean loss in sales and productivity. Yet, seldom do participants take the few finish and follow up steps necessary to enjoy the additional benefits these events can deliver.

Since many dental companies are wrapping up their annual or regional meetings around this time, you will find value in using these ideas to make your meetings pay off and pay up greater returns to your advantage:

  1. Collect Top ‘Take Aways’ from meeting content, speaker recommendations, or the good ideas sparked by after hours conversations with colleagues. Once you’ve captured these items, prioritize and incorporate them into your Personal Productivity Plan* (See downloadable MSWord document HERE).
  2. Identify Results Expected associated with each item you’ve listed. This simple post-meeting step is like adding rocket fuel to super charge your ideas into action! Clarifying the impact or benefits expected will keep you connected with the advantages you anticipate to receive by taking action on meeting ideas. Let’s face it; your enthusiasm for adding items to your task list will fade quickly unless a positive outcome is pulling you toward the benefits you expect to receive.
  3. Schedule a Deadline for Completion. Placing a deadline next to each action item will assist in further prioritizing the importance of the ideas gleaned from the meeting. It will also provide the valuable accountability most of us need to complete a task.
  4. Create Permanent Reminders. If a meeting take away is more of a daily habit or sales tactic then create a permanent reminder to assist in making a long term change. ‘Permanent reminders’ are notices with more sticking power over Post-It notes, which are easily lost, moved or forgotten. Printed labels, recurring pop up reminders and mobile home screen messages are a few great examples.
  5. Summarize the Macro Message. Getting the most from any educational event requires a clarification on how the meeting message directly contributes to advance your interests. Encapsulating the main message aligns the intention of the event with results received. Miss the point– lose the advantage. To gain greatest benefit from meetings, ask yourself, “What concept or idea received advances the value I contribute at work?”

Taking the minimal effort to clarify and take action on the big ideas inspired at meetings or educational events has the power to inspire results that ripple rewards long after the conference is over. Make your investment attending off site events deliver greater rewards with these finish and follow up habits.

* To make the most of your valuable time and talent, download a FREE  Personal Productivity Plan  HERE.

8 Ways to Boost Trade Show Sales

Trade shows in the dental industry have changed considerably over the past decade. Back in the day we enjoyed long lines at our trade show booths. Today, attendance has declined and expectations have changed considerably.

Yet… few venues offer a more powerful way to influence than the face-to-face interactions at tradeshows.

Exhibiting at dental conferences can still deliver valuable returns on sales and marketing efforts with a bit of pre-meeting planning. Consider the following eight tactics to improve your results at tradeshows:

1. Super Select Staffing: When team members feel chosen, not obligated, to attend at a trade show because of past performance or their overall sales prowess, they feel honored to be picked and perform better. When an “A Team” of high achievers exhibit on your behalf, everybody wins:

  • Visitors receive top-notch service and support
  • Sales staff will hyper-compete for recognition and incentives
  • Performance metrics reflect better results

2. Save Set-Up for Specialists: Sometimes managers mistake sales staff as ‘hired hands’ for booth set up and break down. This is a clear misuse of talent, time and energy. Let contractors do the heavy lifting of moving boxes and assembling exhibits. Preserve the talent and energy of your tradeshow team for interacting and influencing potential buyers – where they’ll shine brightest!

3. Perfect Practice Raises Results: Training and role-play exercises are the best tools for preparing your sales team. No matter how experienced your sales team is performance improves when skills are sharpened, messaging reinforced and expectations established.

4. Huddles Help: Pre-show huddles offer the same advantage as football pre-game and half time huddles—they drive better performance!When you assemble your team before an important event, you set expectations, unify messaging, share sales strategies, offer motivational incentives and inspiration for a strong start and more successful shows.

5. Pre-Show Promotions Elevate Performance: A study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research found that the conversion of booth visitors to qualified leads rose 50% when a pre-show promotion strategy was used. Don’t wait until opening day to get the buzz going!

  • Consider hosting a webinar to set up a product intro or sponsored scientific session.
  • Leverage social media to add value and build excitement with preview articles and info graphics.
  • Boost booth traffic during slow times by scheduling appointments prior and during exhibition hours.

6. Attract With an Alluring Hook: Train the sales team to offer an opening line that requires a response by attendees passing in the aisles.

    • Ask open-ended questions that expose the problem your product solves.
    • Double interest and attention with a simple model or demonstration.
    • Take a nod from Dr. Oz, who illustrates complex medical processes with felt, cardboard and ping pong balls!
    • An effective model will highlight a cool feature or show product impact in a concise and intriguing way ultimately prompting conversations with sales staff.

7. Ambitious Goals Make For Outstanding Achievements: Get clear on exactly the results you expect.

      • What priorities matter most: sales, leads, awareness, customer relationships or positive presence?
      • Establish stretch goals to support show objectives.
      • Morning meetings and post-show debriefs are a good way that keep everyone focused on daily milestones.
      • Be sure to recognized and reward peak performance—ideally, daily.

8. Fortune is in the Follow Up: Numerous studies show that it takes an average of five follow-ups to close sales. Only 2% of people buy something after they first talk or inquire about a product or service. Persistent and strategic sales follow-up are the key making the most of the powerful potential of exhibiting at trade shows. Therefore, be sure to develop and execute a follow up strategy to maximize your results at trade shows.

Leadership is not a Popularity Contest

Working toward goals gives our lives meaning and purpose

As a manager, it is more important to be respected than popular. Yet, bosses often relinquish their leadership responsibility to ensure their employees are answerable for their actions because they want to be liked.

There are significant consequences when employee accountability is low. The most important, individual and corporate productivity fails to reach its true potential. These organizations are easy to spot because plans never get off the ground, agreed upon actions are not completed or commitments are not fulfilled.  If people are not carrying their weight, others feel the burden of picking up the slack and begin to resent it. As a result, employee motivation and initiative is severely lacking, morale drops creating a culture that rewards mediocrity.

Human beings are teleologic—they are target seeking individuals. Working toward goals gives our lives meaning and purpose. Therefore, people (especially salespeople) inherently want to learn, grow and contribute to something meaningful. They even desire a healthy environment of discipline where they are held accountable reach their goals and those of their employer. When business professionals are not held to certain performance standards—effort relaxes, productivity declines and expectations are not met.

Managers are often unclear on how to hold people accountable—they tend to be too harsh or too soft. As a result, they tend to shy away from demanding their employees keep their commitments because they are afraid or want to avoid confrontation. They believe, if they press — people will quit or undermine their efforts. The most common reason managers fail to hold their people accountable is they value popularity over being effective.

Somewhere along the line, bosses adopted the misconception that good management means being “friends” with subordinates. They believe that if they can get their teams to like them enough—they will work harder for them. Yet, this could not be farther from the truth. The most effective leaders are trusted first then respected. How much would you trust and respect a supervisor for allowing you to get away with mediocrity when you were actually wired for greatness?!

Frankly, it is much easier to let employees off the hook. It takes a lot of time to monitor, follow up, guide, correct, advise and help people stay on track.

A Better Way to Reach Sales Goals

An Action Plan for Sales Managers…

The New Year is a season ‘fresh starts’ and renewed resolutions. It is also a good time for reps to review and renew their annual sales goals. Some may be quite adept at goal setting, but it’s rare to find salespeople who remain focused on their professional goals throughout the year without some managerial guidance. And, it’s even more rare to find reps that are good at implementing plans over an extended period of time. Salespeople get busy and are easily distracted while trying to work a plan throughout an entire year. Reps will be far more successful achieving their goals with the support, direction and guidance of their manager.

Promote the Power of Planning

Salespeople already know that goal setting is important, yet many tend to reject planning as busy work that gets in the way of their selling efforts. It is the necessary groundwork required to improve the attitudes, accuracy and accountability so many sales teams lack. Educate your team to view planning as critical step in obtaining the results they desire and the goals aspire to. Many sales managers make the mistake of including sales plans as just another report due at the end of the year. The better you are at getting your team to view this tool as a critical component in getting where they want to go, the less you will have to work at getting them to create and use it and more important—reaching your company’s objectives.

Success Follows Structure

One of the fundamental reasons people don’t achieve higher levels of performance in sales is the lack of a structured, organized way of achieving them. It is here that sales managers can offer invaluable support to their reps and results by teaching and coaching effective goal setting tactics.

Most sales people will embrace ideas that will help them achieve better results with less effort. Therefore, your challenge is to assist reps to recognize that goals are met faster and better when preceded preparation and planning. A Strategic Sales Plan is a written tool that outlines the specific tactics and strategies necessary to meet annual sales and key performance objectives. It paves the path with milestones and markers required to reach intended outcomes.

Every Strategic Sales Plan should be as unique as the territory and representative who creates it. A good plan will guide reps through important considerations needed by this territory, during this year, given the specific market conditions that exist at this time in this territory. The sales plan itself, as a deliverable document, isn’t the most important element. More beneficial to results, is the process required to research and analyze the elements and trends a Strategic Sales Plan exposes. Provide your reps with template or topic outline to guide their considerations that will lead them to spot bigger and better opportunities for growth. If you would like a copy of the SSP we routinely use with clients, click here for our Strategic Sales Plan Template.

Encourage reps to customize their Plans to meet sales goals and the needs of their territory. Ask them to take into account a distributor or customer requiring special attention or different strategies. Build the template to view each market or territory at a higher level than the ground zero view they have on a daily basis when their feet are on the street. This exercise will help to strengthen rep research, data analysis skills and strategic thinking while preparing these plans. The more reps put their unique thumbprints to the Sales Plans, the more they will commit to and own the results.