Over the weekend my living room was converted into a Girl Scout Cookie warehouse and is now stacked floor to ceiling with boxes of Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs and other cookie varieties. The reason for this transformation is that my wife is a Girl Scout troop leader and next week is the official kickoff of the 2015 Girl Scout cookie selling season. This is when approximately 1.5 million Girl Scouts across the country will officially start selling cookies. If all goes to plan, this army of Girl Scouts is expected to sell upwards of 200 million boxes of cookies, raising nearly $800 million.
So the primary topic of conversation at my house over the weekend was Girl Scout cookies. In fact, my wife even asked me if she could “pick my brain” and help her with sales management issues; she also wanted to see if I could help the girls in the troop develop a few basic selling skills.
After spending my Sunday afternoon discussing Girl Scout cookie sales with my wife, I wanted to share some of the insights I gained. As it turns out, you can learn a lot from a Girl Scout troop leader who has to manage 10 pre-teen cookie salespeople.
One of the hallmarks of being an effective sales leader is having clear sales goals. And one root cause of underperforming sales teams is having poorly defined sales goals. The more specific your goals, the easier it will be to communicate to your team and the easier it will be for the team to understand it, commit to it, and work toward it.
So what is my wife’s sales goal for the troop? “Sell enough cookies so that we all can go horseback riding next month.” My wife further refined this goal by calculating exactly how many boxes of cookies the troop would need to sell in order to take 10 girls horseback riding at a nearby horse farm.
Think about it, the troop’s sales goal meets the SMART criteria commonly used for setting effective goals: it is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
Sales strategies describe how you will meet your sales goals. Successful sales leaders develop sales strategies that directly tie back to the sales goals.
In my wife’s case, the troop’s sales goal is to raise a modest amount of money from the cookie sale. Based on past experience, my wife calculated that the most efficient sales strategy for achieving this goal would be a combination of cookie sales to family members and friends and “site sales.” Site sales are when a Girl Scout troop gets permission from a local grocery store to sell cookies in front of the store. My wife told me that site sales are significantly more productive than old fashioned door-to-door selling since literally hundreds of qualified shoppers walk right by the Girl Scouts in a short period of time.
My wife opted for the most efficient strategies possible to meet her team’s sales goals. Think of selling to friends and family as referral based selling or selling to current customers; site selling as prospecting to highly qualified leads (i.e., people walking in and out of grocery stores); and door-to-door selling as pure cold calling to unqualified leads, something to be avoided at all costs.
Not everyone is cut out to sell. According to data from ESR Research, approximately 1/3 of all sales people are not suited for the jobs they are in. All too often we see sales managers keep people in sales position who would be better served transitioned to other roles such as account management or customer service.
Of course a Girl Scout troop can’t fire its troop members. But my wife did make an effort to match personality and skills of each girl with the job function when it came to site sales. My wife’s troop had a relatively normal distribution of sales personality types: 2-3 kids who are extremely social (natural salespeople), 1-2 who are shy, and the remainder who are somewhere in between. My wife decided to put the shy girls in charge of making change and managing cookie inventory at site sales, while everyone else will interact with prospects. Girls will also be encouraged to rotate job functions, but no one will be forced to sell if she feels uncomfortable doing so.
Finally, a successful sales leader realizes that his or her team must have the requisite selling skills to successfully execute the sales strategy. My wife wanted to have a sales training program, but what does a Girl Scout Cookie sales training look like?
One of the most important factors in a sales training program's overall success is relevancy. That means the sales training curriculum must address the specific knowledge and performance skill gaps for the training participants. It also means that the training curriculum has been customized for the specific company and industry. After discussing the Girls Scout cookie sales process with my wife, and interviewing my daughter (a troop member and a veteran cookie salesperson), we quickly determined that an effective Girl Scout Cookie sales conversation can be as straightforward as “Hi, would you like to buy Girl Scout cookies?” No need to make things complicated.
My wife advised that in order to keep the training relevant, we keep the sales training brief (just 10 minutes) and only cover three basic cookie selling skills: (1) greeting/engaging a customer, (2) discussing the product, (3) asking for the order. That’s it, nothing else. It is my job next week to lead the sales training program before the first site sale.
Over the next several weeks it is likely that you will be approached at your home, at your office, or while you’re shopping by a Girl Scout trying to sell you cookies. I encourage you to buy cookies, it supports a good cause. But also think about how you can apply some of the sales management techniques of my wife, a Girl Scout troop leader, to your sales team.
David Jacoby is a managing partner at the Sales Readiness Group, an industry leading sales training company that helps Fortune 500 companies develop and deliver customized sales and sales management training programs. David is a thought leader in instructional design and the use of innovative technologies to deliver online sales training programs. Previously, he was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm focused on providing sales effectiveness and development solutions to emerging growth companies. David writes frequently on the topics of selling skills, sales management, sales coaching and sales training. Follow him on Twitter: @DIjacoby
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