For some it’s all about the sweets, but the practical experience of selling can turn a girl into one smart cookie
Along with the taste of Thin Mints, Samoas and Tag-a-longs, local Girl Scouts are also savoring the sweet smell of success while learning how to set goals, be persistent, organize their schedules and other valuable skills.
“I don’t really have a secret; my mom and I, we just go everywhere, door to door (selling cookies),” said Tiondra Flynn, an 8th grader at Carpinteria Middle School who is one of the top sellers in the area. “Last year I made a goal for myself of 2,000 boxes and I’m at 2,002 right now.”
Goal setting is one of the most important skills learned selling cookies. “(They ask themselves) what do I need to do to accomplish an end result benefit? It might be the reward (that motivates the girls) but to get there requires specific behavior,” said Jeff Blackman, author of five books for sales professionals, including the recent Amazon bestseller Stop Whining, Start Selling.
The girls set pretty high goals and figure out very creative ways of reaching them, said Mary Hernandez of the local Girl Scouts of Tres Condados Council. “If they don’t reach that goal that’s another life lesson.”
The girls and adult volunteers select all of the incentives; they’re not preplanned, said Hernandez.
Last year Valerie Vampola sold more than 1,000 boxes and earned a free week at summer camp. “I want to see if I can do it again,” said the St. Raphael School 7th grader.
“They give us prizes for every hundred (boxes) or so, but if we reach 1,000 we get to go to Camp Tecuya for free. I’ve been going for like five years, it’s a really cool place,” said Flynn.
Along with summer camp, t-shirts, backpacks and beach towels can be earned. Some of the girls are motivated by college scholarships. “The reason why I’m still selling cookies, they have a scholarship program. If I’m a Girl Scout all the way through high school, I get a scholarship of 35 cents per box,” said Flynn, who said she’s really fond of animals and someday wants to train killer whales “like they do at Sea World.”
“By setting goals you give yourself a road map of what to follow rather than aimlessly pursuing the task,” said Maura Schreier-Fleming, president of Best@selling.
It’s important to set realistic goals, said Steve Waterhouse, president of the Waterhouse Group. And also to have a process tied to that goal. The girls should figure out how many houses to visit if they want to sell a certain number of cookies. “If you want to sell 50 boxes you can’t go out for just half an hour.”
While some pros said persistence is critical, Jacques Werth, author of High Probability Selling, disagrees. “We’ve studied what the top sales people do in 23 different industries on three continents. You shouldn’t spend more than one minute with people who don’t want to buy,” said Werth. “It’s all about dealing with people on the basis of mutual trust and respect. When you refuse to take no for an answer that’s not showing respect.”
“I’ve definitely learned how to take a no for answer,” said Flynn, who’s been in scouting for almost eight years. “If they just say ‘no,’ then I just say ‘thanks,’ then I just leave. When I was first starting out as a Brownie, I didn’t understand why they didn’t want any. I would be like ‘Oh, how come?’ ”
“In reality, getting a NO from a prospect is just as valuable as a YES. … Because while you are wasting your time hounding someone to get them to buy, Lord knows how many prospects, who would be much easier to sell, are getting away from you?” said Jim Labadie, owner of Howtogetmoreclients.com.
“(You have to) not be afraid to ask people. You never know who will buy and who won’t,” said Vampola. “And then sometimes if they say no, sometimes I try to encourage them to buy.”
Parental support is an important ingredient in the girl’s success. “My parents help me out. They bring (sign-up) sheets to their jobs and I go door to door, and then when cookies are finally out I try to go to booth sales as often as I can and stay there as much time as I can,” said Vampola, whose mother Irma is her troop leader and father Mark is the cookie chairman as well as the booth chairman for the region.
Flynn’s mother Pete is also her troop leader and an expert in the up-sell technique, according to her daughter. “If they give us $20, she’ll say ‘you can buy five with that’ rather than immediately giving them change,” said Flynn.
Another technique that works well for Girls Scouts is called “assumptive selling.” When author Blackman’s daughter Brittney was about 7 or 8, their town endured a really cold winter, and it was tough to sell cookies door to door. Rather than give up, Brittney simply picked up the phone and called every single person who bought from her the previous year. Her pitch: “Would you like to order the same number of boxes as last year or should I put you down for even more?”
Sounds like one smart cookie indeed.