Yup, it's Girl Scout Cookie time in our part of the world. [And, yes, my English teacher DID tell me never to start a sentence with the word "Yup."] 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-Do's, 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, Rebecca, age 11, and Troop 3129, make their sales numbers. These pointers are hard-earned, field-tested, and as applicable to you and your business as they are to Rebecca and hers.
1. It's who you know.
It's true: the cookie business is a relationship business. Our next-door neighbor bought 9 boxes – Bam! Neighbors on the other side, 2 boxes, then 3, then more. Why? Because Rebecca 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?
2. 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. etc. Yet Girl Scout Cookies sell like crazy, year after year, donating millions to the bottom line of Girl Scouts of the USA.
3. It's not about price.
Girl Scout Cookies cost $3 a box. The smallest box, by weight, is 7 oz. and the largest is 10 oz. Most retail cookies come packaged in a "small" size of around 12 oz. and cost about $2.49. Girl Scout Cookies even give 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 9 boxes at a clip?
4. 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 need, desire, or use 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?
5. 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 Rebecca 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 Rebecca going to bang her head against the wall bemoaning those lost sales? Of course not. She's going to tap into her network of networks – neighbors, cousins, kids and parents at the Y where she plays basketball, my former colleagues at my old job who have become good family friends (and Rebecca'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?
6. When times are tough and things look quiet, that's the time to push harder than ever.
Cookie sales end at a certain time each year. Right now, we're about two weeks away from the ending date, and there are Girl Scout Cookies being sold everywhere you look. We'll probably have 10-12 boxes left over by the time the deadline comes. Are we depressed that we didn't meet our goal? Are we failures as salespeople? Only if we quit when it's over. Don't you see that 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, your competition has pulled their ads, it's "hunker-down" time, get back to basics, and cut, cut, cut! However, that's the worst time to cut – you have everyone's attention! There's actually much less noise out there for your message to compete against. Push now, and you'll be heard!!! The analogy I like to draw in my seminars is that customers are like paper clips and marketing activities are like magnets – thousands of magnets from thousands of businesses trying to attract customers. If you turn off 75% of the magnets, what's going to happen to the other 25% of the magnets that are still working, no more and no harder than before? You got it – they're going to attract a whole lot more paper clips!
What does this all 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?
David Newman is the Founder of 3sixT (www.360phila.com), a marketing and sales strategy firm helping people generate more business in less time and with less effort. He does this for small and solo organizations and also for Fortune 500 firms through consulting, speaking, and training. His favorite Girl Scout Cookie is Thin Mints. David can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 610.527.5325.