Like a lot of people, I shudder at the word “sales.”
But as a child, I do remember one moment where the thrill of the sale was worthy of a good squeal.
Even at the tender age of 7, I knew people didn’t come to the grocery store to buy Girl Scout cookies.
Their agenda was to get in, buy groceries, and get home before rush hour.
Yet somehow, our young, angelic faces, genuine enthusiasm for our task, and excellent product lured people in.
Now, I’m at the booth again, watching the next generation light up at a simple answer of “Yes, I’d love to buy some Girl Scout cookies.”
Last Friday night, as I watched my daughter and her young friends put on their own sales performance, I could hardly keep my jaw from the dirty concrete at my feet.
What I learned about running a green business from the Girl Scouts
As a writer and marketer for environmental organizations and green businesses, I feel comfortable with the methods I use.
But these 1st Grade girls have far outstripped my sales skills and the art of persuasion.
They are born saleswomen of the mighty cookie.
It’s impossible to watch them and not learn a thing or two.
As I so often like to do, I took the lessons I learned as I stood shivering in front of my local grocery store, and applied it to environmental marketing.
Lesson # 1: They’re cute.
Honestly, who can resist these adorable girls? They’re young enough to be all innocence, but old enough to string together a complete and intelligent pitch.
This makes me think about presentation.
Any environmental organization or product from a green company has to be appealing. Your product or service must have an element of professionalism and a teasing of the senses.
In short, we have to be lured in.
The Girl Scouts instantly get the attention of their prospects by their cuteness.
How do you get the attention of innocent passersby?
Lesson #2: They have a known, mouth-watering, delicious product.
This one is a no brainer.
No matter your business, it’s important to keep your product at the forefront. In the case of the Girl Scouts, if their cookies weren’t tasty, they would not have a century-long selling streak.
Establishing a green business is great and all, but if your product or service is poor, or you can’t match up to the competition, people probably aren’t going to buy it.
Lesson #3: They have a genuine enthusiasm for their product.
For Girl Scouts, this really isn’t that hard. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t love a Thin Mint? Kids love cookies. Heck, adults love cookies.
But these girls really love their cookies and genuinely want you to buy them, not just so they can get the next patch on their little green vests, but so that you too can demolish a box of cookies in utter joy.
For the love of all that is green, you need to have this enthusiasm for your business too.
Most people who work for environmental organizations are passionate about their work, true. But as adults, we can get wrapped up in the stresses of day to day life, of paperwork and deadlines, grants and bills. Somewhere, deep down, you remember the little zing you felt when you decided to devote your brain to the environment. Bring that passion back to the surface.
Seeing the wide, enthusiastic smiles of these Girl Scouts made me remember what it felt like to have passions rule actions.
It’s intoxicating. And people are drawn to that, especially customers.
Lesson #4: They’re building relationships.
They flash their charm, enthusiasm and great product at the hurried, harried, adults as they dash into the store, planting a little seed. The whole time their potential customer is cruising the aisles they’re thinking… “Hmm, maybe I will pick up a box or two of Samoa’s for dessert tonight.” It works on even the grumpiest of people.
Why? Because our little Girl Scouts didn’t push. They introduced, were polite, then let them go.
Then, on the way out, they tried again. And 9 times out of 10, they got a sale.
Relationship building. Try it sometime.
Don’t ask for an immediate sale or donation. Today’s successful businesses build relationships and focus on information sharing, quality content, a good product, and gentle reminders.
Persistence pays off, but pushiness gets a door slammed in your face.
Lesson #5: They face their fears.
It’s easy to tell the Girl Scouts who are shy. They let their more outgoing Troop members shine at the beginning. But slowly, they come around.
They see that even if they get a rude response or someone politely declines their sales, nothing bad really happened. And the next person they asked said yes.
Over time, I watched these six and seven year old cuties overcome shyness, fear of speaking to strangers, conquer an unfamiliar speech, count money in front of an audience, and never get discouraged by a “No,” no matter how politely or rudely it was delivered.
I don’t think I have to translate this lesson much.
Face your fears, don’t be afraid of rejection. One “no” or failure isn’t going to kill your business if you believe in your product, are enthusiastic about your organization, and keep building those relationships.
And in the end, you’ll be able to indulge with a whole box of cookies to yourself when no one else is looking.