Cookies Are for Closers

Now is the time for all good dads to come to the aid of their Girl Scout daughters and sell, sell, sell cookies. What is reminiscent of the sentence used by many typing teachers to teach that skill has become the battle cry throughout the suburbs of America. What has quickly replaced the length of one’s SUV as a status symbol in suburbia is something so competitively pure and clear you can’t help but admire it: boxes sold.

This is my rookie year as a member of the Girl Scout selling team. I was recruited by my daughter, deputized if you will, to go forth into the office towers I work in and sell. My daughter, being a smart marketer, gave me her picture as a five-year old where she is cutely smiling, and said, “Show them this picture first, and then ask for the order, Daddy. Ask them to buy lots!”

That was the extent of the sales training. She said if I ran into any people who would not buy, she would stop by in her uniform to help me sell them. Already thinking like a closer, she also had coupons for a local amusement park for anyone who agreed to buy extra boxes.

Lessons Learned

Here is what I learned from a week of trying to sell and yet not be too intrusive on my fellow workers:

  • Former Girl Scouts exemplify loyalty and dutifully buy three boxes, sometimes four. Not a single person who identified herself as a former Girl Scout ever raised a sales objection.
  • Former Boy Scouts, especially Eagle Scouts, are good for up to a dozen boxes.
  • Men buy more Thin Mints by a wide margin, with my experiences being upwards of 40 percent, while women favor Samoas and the new Cafe cookie, which is incredibly good.
  • The five-year old picture of my daughter was most successful in closing grandparents of kids her same age, with a few buying up to five boxes.

Being a neophyte at this, I share these insights. When it comes to the serious side of selling Girl Scout cookies, I turn to my wife for guidance.

My Wife the Closer

Watching my wife work a room of volunteers at a recent function that happened to fall in the middle of the cookie selling season reminded me of the greatest salesmen I have ever worked with. Her confidence, the direct look in the eye and the quick close — “So, how many boxes can I put you down for?” — was a demonstration of best practices for sales in action.

When someone stammered, my wife grabbed my daughter and — almost on cue — my daughter would smile shyly and ask for a small order of just a box — which of course netted out at least three boxes. They worked the room at this event and came away with an additional thirty boxes sold, all in less than ninety minutes.

On the way home, I asked my wife about it, and she gave me detailed histories of how many boxes we had bought from other people’s children during the last nine years of being parents. It was pay-back time. While no one is usually blunt enough to say it, there is a Girl Scout cookie trading exchange of sorts — a cooperative buying and selling of cookies, not with the quickness of transaction in mind, but with the solidifying of relationships over the years.

One parent’s child last year sold over 500 boxes, and we had contributed to that impressive milestone in a modest way. The parent hadn’t forgotten that and reciprocated this year.

All of which leads up to why my wife is a great sales coach and why my daughter is turning into a great closer when it comes to selling cookies. I couldn’t help but think of the CRM system in her mind that quickly defines and closes the prospect using the following strategies:

  • Bring in sales support at just the right time to close. This is my daughter’s job today. She is starting to see the prospect list emerge and is starting to get a sense of when to ask for the order.
  • Sell the way the prospect wants to buy. There is the reciprocal sell, the “gift” sell — where the prospect will buy many cookie boxes as gifts for later in the year — and there is the “what’s new” sell, which includes the latest cookie types the Girl Scouts have launched this year.
  • Humor sells. Joking about how many boxes a freezer can hold is a great way to break the ice. My daughter is getting pretty good at this strategy and includes some quick riddles to get prospects focused.
  • Never, ever mention calories. More than one sales cycle has stalled on this point. One of the better strategies for overcoming the calories objection is to stress, “What better reason to have salads for the next month?” It works.

The bottom line is that we’ve done okay against my wife’s quota mainly because she is a master at working relationships. It’s great to see the pure competition — not around a ton of metrics, but just one: boxes sold.

Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He is the author of several books on making the most of analyst relationships, including Best Practices in Analyst Relations, which can be downloaded for free.

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