Sampling: to send or not to send, is a question

Constance Holmes FEBRUARY 27, 20205 MIN READ
Sampling: to send or not to send, is a question

Should you send out samples on request? 

It can be a difficult decision to decide whether you should send out samples on request. What if the buyer is just looking to receive a free/cheap product, and has no intention of entering into a business relationship?  

However, there are ways in which you can mitigate your risk, which will be discussed in the following section, and several important reasons why you should offer samples on request.  

  • Product quality: It can be hard for buyers to tell the true quality of a product just from pictures. 
  • Legitimacy: Providing samples shows that you are a reputable business. If you refuse to provide samples, it can make buyers question the quality or authenticity of your products or service. 
  • Build a relationship: Providing samples gives you the opportunity to start building a business relationship with the buyer. By responding to their queries and concerns in a professional and timely manner, you can help them to build confidence in your service. 

Should you charge for samples? 

You can mitigate the risks of providing samples by charging for them. Depending on the cost of your product, it's dimensions, and other factors, you may decide to charge for your samples in one of the following ways: 

  • Free samples: If your product is very small and low in value, for example stickers, then you may be willing to provide samples for free. In this case, both the value of the product and the cost of shipping are low, so the potential benefits of winning a new customer far outweigh these minor costs. 
  • Charge only for shipping: If the cost of your product is still relatively low, but the cost of shipping is higher, as the product is bulky or heavy, you may consider only charging for shipping. Asking the buyer to pay for shipping, and so invest partly in receiving a sample, will help to show you that they are serious about testing your product.  
  • Charge full price (+ shipping): If the value of your product is high then it may not be feasible for you to send out samples for free to anyone who asks for them. In this case, you can ask the buyer to pay for the sample. Depending on the cost of shipping, you may ask the buyer to pay for that as well, or offer to cover it yourself. 
  • Charge higher price (+ shipping): You may charge a higher price for a sample of one or a few items, than the cost would be per item for a larger order. There are several reasons why you may choose to do this. Firstly, to avoid retail customers who are looking to purchase an item for cheaper than they would find in a store. Secondly, the cost of producing one item compared to hundreds may be higher for you and you need to cover these costs. 

Note: There are different ways to charge for a sample and you should decide which one works best for you and be aware that buyers may try to negotiate a different payment system.  

1) A buyer may pay upfront for a sample, but ask that if they make the order, the cost of the sample is deducted from their order total. 

2) A buyer may ask that the cost of the sample is added to the future order that may be made. This may be risky, because if the buyer decides not to make an order from you, then you will lose the cost of the sample.  

The steps to producing a successful sample 

It's important to ensure that you and your customer are on the same page with the sample being produced. Otherwise, you can end up producing a sample that is not what the customer wanted, and this can cost both of you time and money. To avoid this, it is advisable to follow these steps: 

  • Exact specifications: Make sure you are provided with the exact specifications of the product. If you have any doubt, ask for clarification, a diagram, or anything that will enable you to fully understand what is needed.  
  • In writing: If any changes to the product, to the shipping timeline, or anything else occur over the phone, make sure you follow up in writing. This ensures there were no misunderstandings and means that you have a record of everything. This can be referred back to in the case of any issues later on.  
  • Video call: Before shipping the product arrange a video call with the buyer. You can show them the product over the call, and possibly catch any errors before shipment, which will save both of you time and money. 
  • Shipping: Be sure to include your company's name and the model number of the product in the package. This is important so that the buyer can easily identify your product, and so it doesn't get mixed up with any other samples they may be receiving. Also, make sure your product is packaged well, so there will be no damage during transport. 

What if the buyer stops responding after they've received the sample? 

If a buyer stops responding to your messages after they've received your sample then they've decided not to make an order from you. This is disappointing, but if you've taken the precautions mentioned before in charging a suitable price for your sample, then your losses should be minimal, if there are any at all.  

You can send a message to the buyer asking for their feedback. This will help you to determine what it was that made them go with a different supplier, whether it was price, product quality, your service, or another factor. This can help you to improve in the future, and generate more orders.