What can a 12-year old teach you about sales? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
It’s Girl Scout Cookie time in our part of the world. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sights, tastes and overall experience of helping your daughters sell Thin Mints, Samoas and Do-Si-Dos, you’re missing a fundamental and wide-ranging education about the dynamics of sales, selling and salespeople.
Here are some points I’ve garnered while helping my daughter, Becca (a loyal member of Girl Scout Troop 3129), make her sales numbers for the past three years. These pointers are hard earned, field-tested and as applicable to you and your business as they were to Becca and hers.
- It’s who you know. It’s true: The cookie business is a relationship business. Our next-door neighbor bought nine boxes! Neighbors on the other side, two boxes, then three, then still more. Why? Because Becca had something to sell. What’s your personal brand doing these days? If you switched products, services or companies, would people buy from you just because it’s you?
- It’s not about the product. It’s time to get the lawyers upset. Ready? Girl Scout Cookies, for the most part, taste terrible (Thin Mints are the one exception, in my humble opinion). And they have enough fat, calories and cholesterol in them to power a small Japanese alternative fuel vehicle. You want good cookies? Buy Oreos, Mallomars, Ginger Snaps, Nutter Butters, Grasshoppers, Deluxe Grahams, Fudge Sticks, etc. Yet Girl Scout Cookies sell like crazy, year after year, donating millions to the bottom line of Girl Scouts of the USA.
- It’s not about price. At the time of this writing, Girl Scout Cookies cost $4 a box. The smallest box, by weight, is 7 ounces and the largest is 10 ounces. Most retail cookies come packaged in a “small” size of around 12 ounces and cost about $2.79. Girl Scout Cookies give even premium brands, such as Pepperidge Farm, a run for their money when it comes to high cost. Did I mention one of our neighbors bought nine boxes at a clip?
- It’s not about need. Face it, nobody needs Girl Scout Cookies. In fact, when the girls were out doing a “cookie shop” at a local hardware store (local merchants, malls and grocery stores allow Girl Scouts to set up a table for sales on their premises to support the cause), the number one objection we heard was “I already have some Girl Scout Cookies at home—more than I need!” So, why did they buy? Because they had a relationship with their salesperson that was more important than their needs, desires or uses for the actual product. Hey, did you know that Girl Scout Cookies make great gifts, freeze really well and are only sold for a short time each year? Can you learn from this and apply the lesson to your sales message?
- It’s not about competition; it’s all about contacts and referrals. So who is selling to all those customers who “have Girl Scout Cookies at home—more than they need? Naturally, it’s their Girl Scout. What are the chances of Becca selling a box of cookies to someone whose daughter is also selling the same cookies for the same price? You got it: less than zero. Is Becca going to bang her head against the wall bemoaning those lost sales? Of course not. She tapped into her network of networks— neighbors, cousins, kids and parents at the Y where she played basketball, along with my former colleagues who have become good family friends (and Becca’s customers in previous years). Do you know how to fill your pipeline when things seem dry? Do you know how to move your prospects along to becoming customers, satisfied customers and then customers for life—not of the product or service you’re selling today, but of you and whatever value proposition you might be offering now and in the future?
- When times are tough and things look quiet, that’s the time to push harder than ever. When the sale is two weeks away from the ending date, there are Girl Scout Cookies being sold everywhere you look. We probably had 10-12 boxes left over by the time the deadline came each year. Was Becca depressed that we didn’t meet our goal? Were we failures as salespeople? Only if we had quit when it was over. You see, as soon as everyone else stops selling, stops marketing and stops with the “cookie shop” setups, these cookies move up from a commodity to a valuable asset. It’s the same thing in your business: When the market is down and your competition has pulled their ads, you may think it’s time cut, cut, cut. However, that’s the worst time to cut— you have everyone’s attention! There’s actually much less noise out there to compete against your message. Push now and you’ll be heard!
What does this mean to you and your business? It’s simple: Now is the time to get back in the saddle and ride your sales and marketing activities harder than ever. You’ve got the floor. You’ve got more relationships and more people rooting for you than you realize, and if you cut through the old excuses about your product, price, competition, the economy and all the rest of it, you’ll see the sales breakthroughs that lie ahead. Why waste another minute?