On March 7th, I joined a new group to hone my sales skills. Sales Lab, a class at The Wright Foundation, is a place to get coaching and accountability around my sales activities. On my first day, I was asked to share about my business for a few minutes, and then the leader said these terrifying words: “Your first assignment … is … to sell gum. You must sell it for no less than 25 cents per piece, and you are to sell it in as many different ways as possible, for as much as possible.”
My heart rate skyrocketed. Sell gum? Are you kidding me? I learned from my dad at a young age that gum chewing was a bad thing, and that I should never do it. I can count on my two hands the number of times I have chewed gum in my life. And now I was going to sell it? Wow, maybe I wasn’t cut out for this.
Then I remembered that I am someone who does not get stopped by fear – and that I could start with baby steps. So I called a friend, who connected me with another friend who works at Wrigley. She gave me some ideas of what could work best for selling gum. She warned me that gum does not sell well online. People like to have it in front of them for impulse purchases.
Further research entailed a Facebook message asking my friends what their favorite gum was, and I immediately went out and bought the most popular ones. I wanted to have desirable gum in my possession when I asked people to make those impulse purchases! (A Facebook post asking people to buy gum predictably got exactly 0 responses, confirming the “in-person” hypothesis. But I’m going to try to disprove it – see below.)
Hitting the Streets to Sell
My first idea of how to sell gum for high prices was to sell it for charity. I thought it would be a lot easier to sell for a cause than just to walk up to people and ask them to buy gum for 25¢/piece.
I started carrying gum everywhere. My first sale was in my yoga studio, where one of my fellow yoginis told me she would buy the gum so I would shut up (all in fun). I accepted her $5 check to give to the Clean Lakes Alliance. I continued asking people I know, and a few I didn’t, if they would like to buy gum to support the Clean Lakes Alliance. Pretty much everyone is a fan of this charity, so I didn’t have to work too hard. I raised over $100 in just a few days.
I also brought gum to my business planning workday with ActionCOACH. With their permission, I raised money for a charity they support, B1G1. One participant, Mason Tikkanen of Motus Financial, bought a pack of Extra Spearmint gum for $20. One of my favorite moments was when Mason’s girlfriend heard about the transaction and said, “Mason, I want you to buy me a pack of gum!” Out came another $20 for a single pack.
Selling purely for myself was harder. What would make someone spend 25¢ per piece of gum (or $1 for 4 pieces) when they could buy a whole pack for $1? I noticed how much more fear came up for me when I was not leaning on charity as a justification for my high prices. I tried “I’m selling gum. How much would you like to buy?” That worked with people who knew what I was up to. In some situations, I promoted the feature of a “variety pack” – You could get 4 different flavors of gum for $1. That’s something you don’t get in the stores. And you can’t buy just one piece of gum in the stores either. I got some mileage from that as well as from “I’m doing this for a class.”
10 Sales Lessons from Selling Gum
I count my gum selling project as a success. Here’s a list of some of the things I learned, in addition to the above:
- Relationship is key. People I knew, or who had a common connection with me, were more likely to buy than people I did not know.
- Sales can build relationship. I had more in-depth conversations with some of the people I sold to than I ever had before. Follow-up is also good for relationship. One woman let me know she didn’t like the gum I sold her. I gave her a couple of free pieces and I had a happy customer!
- When I’m selling, I often feel very alive as I think of new, creative ideas, especially when they work – and I often feel hurt when I experience rejection. This is all part of the game.
- People spend money when they think they will make someone else happy, or when the money is going to charity. One woman started with a no, but then got excited about wrapping the gum in a bow and give it to her daughter, along with a sweet note.
- Giving free tastes leads to more sales.
- Many people do not carry cash, but they will pay by Venmo, PayPal, Chase QuickPay, etc. If they want to buy, they’ll find a way.
- People don’t buy under pressure. The best time to sell things is when people are hanging around and not trying to get somewhere.
- If you are a pet owner, be careful if you buy anything with Xylitol. As healthy as Xylitol might be for humans, it’s very harmful to pets!
- A huge majority of gum chewers want minty gum. That’s why the minty gum is so prominent in drug store aisles. Juicy Fruit just doesn’t take care of coffee breath.
- It’s often cheaper to buy gum in single packs than in multi-packs. No bulk discounts for consumers in this market.
My gum sales are going to end at the end of the day today, March 20th. You have a chance to buy some gum from me! No obligation of course, but if you think this would be fun, then please play with me!
I have flavors like Orbit Wintermint, Extra Spearmint, Trident Strawberry, and Spry Peppermint, Spearmint, and Cinnamon. I’ll get different flavors if they are your favorites.
If you’d like to have some fun with gum, pick 4 or more pieces you want and I’ll mail you a special package of your chosen gum. It will be in a cute bag and everything.
Minimum purchase is $1 and you can buy as much as you want at minimum 25¢/piece.
You can pay by Venmo (@Brenda-Bernstein), PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Chase QuickPay (email@example.com).
I might be crazy, but life is all about risk, so I’m doing this! Curious to see how you respond.