BEFORE answering the question raised by the title of this article, it may be well to look at some of the reasons for the use of sample cases. The purpose of a sales department that provides its men with sample cases will sometimes have a great deal to do with their form and contents. As a general rule, sample cases are used for such reasons as the following: 1) To arouse interest – Obviously an uninteresting sample case is worse than no sample case at all; the best Sample cases are always interesting. But even where the manufacturer is not fortunate enough to have something spectacular to put in his case, the fact remains that even ordinary exhibits may be better than no exhibits at all. Merely having something to put in the hands of the dealer makes a sample worthwhile. A successful sampling crew was instructed to knock at housewives’ doors — and, as soon as a door was opened, hand a cake of soap to the lady of the house with the polite request, “Would you mind holding this for a moment?” With the soap in her hand she could not close the door, nor could she shoo away the sampling man until he had, to at least some extent, satisfied her curiosity. A sample in the hand beats two in a sample case in arousing curiosity. When the dealer’s palm contains an interesting sample, his curiosity is far more thoroughly aroused than when some general conversation tries to describe that same article. 2) To create a common bond between buyer and seller – Why? Because buyer and seller are contemplating the same thing instead of taking opposite sides of an argument. They are looking at something together instead of feeling the wall of separation that so often exists between dealer and salesman. 3) To obtain better attention for sales talk – Few of us are gifted with the power of absolute concentration. A buyer looking at an interesting sample is far less subject to mental wandering than one who is listening to a salesman’s monologue unaccompanied by interesting exhibits. 4) To tell a manufacturing story – From a sample case a tire salesman can show the materials that make his tire. His cross-section of it may tell a great deal that an examination of a tire would never show. This is particularly important where the good qualities of a product are hidden under an outer finish which to the eye may seem to be as good as that appearing on some cheaper product. The sample case may even be a portable moving picture outfit which can take the prospective customer through a whole factory. In one case A manufacturer had his salesmen take out old- fashioned stereoscope outfits with prints of his big machinery. It was impossible for the sales- man to carry about samples of his turbines, but through stereoscopic photography with the frames and enlarging lenses the prospective customer could see the goods in large size and perfect modelling. 5) To save money in sampling- A sample case saved a great deal of money for one candy manufacturer. He wanted to impress the dealer with the variety of centers used in his chocolates. The salesman’s practise had been to pull out a fresh box of chocolates and cut each one open. This was impressive but expensive. Then a set of chocolates was cut open. A half of each chocolate was glued to a heavy card- board base, the whole being covered with cellophane and then slipped into a sample case. The dealer saw the variety just as well and more quickly. VERY often the expense involved in opening or giving away packages of a product can be cut down materially by carrying the goods in phials, bottles, or other containers and dispensing sample quantities. A manufacturer of spices and condiments puts up samples of his goods in little medicine bottles which are carried by the salesmen in medicine cases similar to those used by homeopathic doctors. 6) To demonstrate a food – The salesmen handling a new sandwich spread buy a loaf of bread when they enter a grocery store. They then open their sample case and take out a bread knife and a can of their product. They slice the bread and make sandwiches which they pass to the proprietor and clerks. Any customers present are also invited to try the sandwich. There is no way like that to sell! A NEW Ginger Ale Company sends out salesmen with bottles of its product. The salesman buys a bottle of the ginger ale which the dealer considers the best that he carries. Out come Lily Cups and a bottle of the salesman’s product. Both bottles are opened. The dealer is invited to drink a cup of his own ginger ale first, then a cup of the new product. Three times out of four the dealer admits that the new product is better. How superior that is to talk! Demonstration schemes may, as was indicated in tile case of the sandwich spread, be made to include the dealer’s customers. Buyers of the product may thus be created before the dealer’s eyes. Or the dealer him- self may buy. When his stock arrives the salesman, at the first opportunity, comes in and samples the clerks and some patrons of the store. How shall we assemble the sample case? Some important points to bear in mind are these:

  1. Size – The size of a sample case is like the length of the copy to advertise a product. The sample case, like the advertisement, must do a definite selling job. If a number of samples must be used — and if those samples are interesting — the sample case must be large. But if the salesman has to carry a big case he may be tempted to forget it. Don’t blame him for that. Big sample cases must be so good that the salesman is enthusiastic about them. Then he will use them in spite of their size.

There is also the dealer to consider. A big sample case may make him feel that he will get hung up for a lot of time if the salesman once opens it. That is why a big sample case must enlist the salesman’s enthusiastic co- operation. What about the very small sample case? In extreme cases it may weigh only a few ounces and be carried in the side coat pocket. No bother at all. The salesman starts talking. Out comes the coat pocket sample case, opened in no time at all. Samples shown before the dealer has a chance to object. Theoretically this is the ideal sample case, but its creation is not always easy. It is a good goal to Aim at, although I know of one instance where the salesman reported that the sample case was so small and incomplete that dealers were not interested in it. Like an over brief, fragmentary piece of advertising copy, it failed either to interest or to convince. There are two more points about size: The sample case should fit easily under a Pullman berth. This points to a flattish case rather than to a square one. A flat case is also easier To carry. The arm hangs straight and naturally. A big, square case makes the arm go out at an unnatural angle. 2 . Order- In most sample stories the exhibits must be shown in a certain sequence, so it often pays to number them. This helps both buyer and seller; and when putting the samples back in the case in the right order. Samples of dissimilar size may appear to be less orderly, but they add interest through variety. One sales manager says that dissimilar sizes help orderliness. How? The compartments for the different samples are naturally different in size; only the right compartment will accommodate each sample; and the case cannot be packed in the wrong way. 3.Cleanliness – Plush catches dust; as do other rough surfaces also. Avoid too many corners or other dust catching features. The whole case should be easy to clean — perhaps with a damp cloth. Machine shop operatives or others who examine the samples may have dirty hands which smudge the paper labels on bottles. Shellac such surfaces. Then they can be cleaned easily. It should be possible to lift out with ease parts and exhibits for cleaning. Finally, don’t trust the salesman too much. Examine the sample case after every trip or two. (That shows the salesman that you think the case is important — but that’s a secondary point.) At examination time, clean the case, check for order, replace any broken or otherwise defective samples. 4. Quick Action – The ideal sample case is opened quickly. Opening one latch is quicker than opening two latches and unlocking a lock. The first, quick view the dealer gets should be interesting. Salesman should be able to take out the desired samples quickly. The first lot exhibited should summarize the story quickly and whet the dealer’s appetite for more. 5. The showman’s touch – It is good to have an arouser of curiosity. A watch salesman carried three antique watches; the dealer was interested in spite of himself. Color may play an important part. Brightly colour samples will catch the eye quicker than drab ones. Shiny metal surfaces are better than dull ones. That may be why so many automobile manufacturers show nickel- plated chassis at show time. 6. Sequence of displays – Arrange to show important displays first in order to get interest. Then show the less interesting ones: and then more of the interesting ones for a strong climax. 7. Following up the sample talk – Some sample cases also carry booklets which go over the same ground that was covered by the salesman. When the salesman finishes his talk he hands out a booklet which the dealer may read later to refresh his memory and “resell” himself on the goods. How shall we get our salesman to use the sample case? (1) Invite the salesmen to collaborate in making it. Have it meet their actual needs. Invite them to criticise and perfect the case as it approaches what seems to be its ultimate form. (2) Advertise the sample case. Let dealers know, through business paper advertisements or direct, personal letter, that the salesman now has a real sample story along lines that will interest him. Or send post cards to dealers telling them to ask the sales- man some question which can be answered best by opening the case. (3) Make salesman report on what use he has made of the sample case. Perhaps he may be asked to tell in each report call whether he showed the sample case and what effect it had. (4) Change samples from time to time. After a few rounds with the sample case, it may become a bore both salesman and dealer. Periodical changes should be provided to keep interest alive. One company has three different kinds of sample cases. These are rotated among different groups of salesmen. During the year each salesman has three different sample cases to exhibit. (5) Be sure to circulate among the salesmen any instances of particularly effective use made of the sample case by their fellows. (6) First and last make the sample case obviously useful. It ought to be a self-seller as far as the salesman is concerned. The man who gets it up should himself go out on the road and test it against several types of dealers. He ought to know from field experience that it will work before he orders one of the cases for every salesman.