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How to Sell Snowballs to Eskimos

It was 1985. My sales territory was the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in western Alaska, along the Kuskokwim River. The Yupik people — commonly referred to as Eskimos — were my prospects.

For centuries, they had built igloos with square blocks of ice, formed with crude wooden boxes. I was selling a new plastic mold that allowed the igloo builder to scoop up snow and plunk it down without splinters. One unique feature was that the mold shaped the snow into a ball instead of a square block.

That’s right, I was selling snowballs to Eskimos.


OK, my snowball sales career may only have been a reality in the nightmares I have after a frustrating day. But it stems from a line I hear from lots of business owners: “I feel like I’m selling snowballs to Eskimos,” they say. They feel like they’re stuck selling a product or service nobody wants.

What do you do in that situation? The obvious answer would be to get a different product or service — or at least improve the ones you have. But that’s not always possible, at least not immediately. So while you work toward that, consider the following strategy.


Go back to them. Why did they buy? They are the best prospects to buy again, so put a lot of effort into this relationship and make them ongoing offers for replacements, and also for referrals. Get input on how to improve the product or service.


What part or style or model does sell? Is it the high end? The low end? The colors? The delivered version? Search it out and define that market. Then target those parts of your product and service that sell, and focus your efforts and budget on those aspects for now.


Can’t sell tickets to your sports team’s games? Package them with things kids want — movie passes, baseball gloves, toys, etc. Buy the add-ons at a good price and include them at your cost. Get sponsors for these special events.


Are you selling snowballs, or are you selling a fresh look for the igloo? Is it the green alternative? Can you reposition your product or service to serve a commercial market or group of buyers? Can you create new ways to use your product? (That snowball maker makes a great planter!)


Financing is not easy to come by today. But how about good old fashioned layaway? Can a customer earn points to get money off gas, a free video game or other products? Rewards have been around since the 1800s. They change a little (remember Green Stamps?), but the concept is the same and still works.


Ultimately you may need to improve your product or service…but until then, you CAN sell your product and service if you try these suggestions.

Meanwhile, do you think I can sell these snowball makers on eBay?

Stay tuned and stay smart.

About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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