Girl Scout Cookies & Sales Lessons
This is my third or fourth year managing the cookie sales for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and even though cookie lessons are supposed to be for the girls, it seems like every year I learn something new about sales and business.
After years of having some girls turn in great sales, some girls turn in lackluster sales, and some parents complaining a lot about the whole process, this year our troop did something different. We made cookie sales voluntary. You might think this would cause financial problems, or arguments between those who sold and those who didn’t sell, but instead voluntary sales raised more money and helped morale! Here’s why:
In the past, we’ve always been somewhat loose on sales goals. The result was that some girls sold over 100 boxes, and some sold 20. It’s probably not a coincidence that the girls who sold the least cookies also frequently had parents who complained about having to sel.
This year though, we offered an out: If you don’t want to sell cookies, make a donation of a specific amount. We also set a reasonable, but firm, sales goal for those who wanted to sell cookies. The results amazed me.
The girls who chose to sell cookies, on average sold more cookies than ever before. Why? Because they knew they had to. Girls were no longer promising to go out and sell “tomorrow,” because they knew they had made a commitment, they knew that it was either sell or find the donation money in their piggy banks.
As a troop, we sold just as many cookies as when all the girls sold, but with a key difference, the process was much easier. There were fewer order forms to deal with, and no complaints. Every family had made the choice that was right for them.
Plus, we made more money because the girls who in previous years only sold a few boxes, made a donation equal to the sales goal that we set for girls who did sell.
So what are the lessons for business owners and sales people:
- Make sure your sales staff is motivated. There’s no reason to have sales people who don’t want to be selling, let them do something else that makes them happier and makes you more money.
- Don’t feel tied to tradition. In the past we had all the girls sell cookies because that’s what Girl Scouts do. Also because when the girls were younger it would have been harder to divide them in to sellers and non-sellers. But, as the girls got older and busier that just stopped working for us. It’s also true that it’s harder for older Girl Scouts to sell cookies. Everyone wants to buy Thin Mints from a cute six-year-old, but our troop is now in sixth grade. Businesses have to evolve. Hey, even Girl Scouts now offers a gluten-free cookie.
Do your favorite sales lessons come from your business or somewhere else in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Marta Segal Block is a social media and content marketing consultant specializing in small-service businesses. You can read more of her work and random thoughts on Advice from Marta and Facebook and follow her on Twitter.