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. 😉