Sales Lessons from the Girl Scouts

Focusing Your Message into a More Attractive (and Relevant) Offering

As I exited the grocery store, the girls were shouting, “Girl Scout Cookies! PLEASE buy our Girl Scout Cookies! Girl Scout Cookies!” Aside from sounding desperate (which is acceptable at age 10 and ill-advised for the rest of us) I saw a fundamental challenge with their approach. These adorable and hard-working kids weren’t speaking … into our listening.

Whether you’re age 10 or age 50, this might be one of the most valuable discoveries, if you want to communicate your message in an effective way so as to connect more often and — in turn — close more deals.


Broadcasting and Receiving: Dominant Buying Motives

Let’s use the analogy of radio broadcasting. There are almost as many listening styles as there are FM channels on your radio … and as consumers we’re all on different “channels.” Your chosen channel is based on your wants, needs, interests and past experiences.

For example, if you were ever unfortunate enough to have owned a car that ended up being a “lemon,” there’s a good chance that your next car choice was affected (motivated) by that experience. Your dominant buying motive might now be … you guessed it … reliability. Now imagine if everywhere you went shopping for your new car, salespeople were proudly telling you about their vehicles’  performance … or safety … or styling … or utility. While those things might or might not be all that important to you, the most important thing on your agenda; your #1 priority; your dominant buying motive is: reliability. Trouble is, most salespeople will never take the time – nor are they equipped with just the right series of meaningful questions – to ever learn this about you. The result is that most salespeople are not speaking into your listening. You’re set to “receive” on channel 5 and they might be “broadcasting” on channel 12. I refer to this as a disconnect and in my observation it’s the rule, not the exception. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Taking the time to ask just the right meaningful and deliberate questions will, in turn, give you all the information you need to make a proper presentation — a presentation that ends up being the perfect fit for your client and thus helps you earn your title of Sales Consultant.


As for the Girl Scouts … 

They had one additional challenge that I was determined to help them overcome. The nature of their selling is not consultative — more of a bull-horn-appeal-to-the-masses approach, really. I went up to one of the moms that was supervising this cookie “sales counter” just outside of my neighborhood supermarket and asked if it would be okay to share a selling strategy. She quickly and excitedly asked the girls to gather ‘round and listen. I said, “Hey kids, you know how sometimes you go out to eat dinner at a restaurant, have a great big dinner (that might have even left your tummy feeling really full) and then the waiter asks if you’d like dessert? Well, in that situation you’re probably not so quick to say yes to dessert, especially if you’re feeling full, right? …but partly because the waiter wasn’t specific enough. Have you ever noticed that when the waiter starts offering his desserts by name – like Chocolate Lava Cake or Granny’s Apple Crumb Bake, all of a sudden you’re able to find room in your tummy?” The girls responded with a unanimous “Yeeeeees.” I continued, “Well people have been buying Girl Scout Cookies for many years and lots of them already know (very well) their favorite kind, so you girls want to try something? —Okay. Instead of shouting ‘Girl Scout Cookies!’ try calling them out by their special names. That way you’ll be reminding your customers just how much they love your cookies.” And as I walked to my car, I could hear in the growing distance, “Thin Mints! Samoas! Tagalongs!” So cute. I’m assuming they saw an increase in sales. 😉


  1. Lowell Nerenberg says

    Outstanding, Steve! Cute photo of the kids, a great lesson followed by a memorable real life story of coaching Girl Scouts, followed by a wise, soft spoken video. Reached me on several levels. Note to self: First find out what channel(s) that prospect is tuned to.

  2. Really enjoyed and gained GREAT value from your teaching lesson, Steve; both the Girl Scout story and your video. Excellent work, my great brother!


  3. Great article, Steve. It’s always more important to learn what’s important to the listener than to tell them what we think is important. Sounds simple but it is rarely done.

  4. Lowell: I’m so glad this story “reached” you the way it did. As a writer, what more could I ask for? That means a lot.

    Bob: I’m so glad you enjoyed the combination. I had recorded that video about a year ago and was so glad that the two came together this way.

    Jim: Amen!

  5. I want some samoa cookies!

    This is the hard truth for sales people….sometimes we just have to ask a simple question then (here comes the hard part)….SHUT UP AND LIIIISTEN!

    If this blog came with duct tape for my mouth, I’d say it’s a ten.

    Thanks for the value added, again.

  6. Masoud, that’s so great … and funny. Here ya go:


  7. Nicely done, Steve! As the mom of a Brownie, I was amused to notice the impact on the sales process of the cuteness factor. Not many folks can resist when approached by adorable little girls offering cookies. Girl Scouts clearly factors that into their sales strategy! People find it very hard to say no to little girls, especially when, even if they don’t want cookies themselves, the girls remind them that they can buy a box to be donated to a local soup kitchen, or to the troops. There’s an irresistableness that if the rest of us could figure out how to capture and leverage it, would make a huge difference in sales for us all!

  8. Thanks, Suzi. Note to self: create new sales training module, “Irresistibleness: The Cuteness Factor” 😉

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