Share By Megan Anderle
Olivia Cranshaw, a savvy 12-year-old Girl Scout from Manhattan who sold 2,131 boxes of cookies this year, has made some impressive sales pitches — once before a group of 40 board members — but she still gets pangs of anxiety.
“I get nervous every time,” she said.
But making her case for all the reasons you should purchase Tagalongs at $4 a box has made her more confident and articulate, and each cookie-selling season, she hones her skills as a burgeoning business woman. She has sold 1,000-plus boxes every year for the last few years.
The Girl Scouts of America — which celebrated its 102nd birthday on March 12 — is the largest girl-led business in the world. Last year, the organization sold upwards of 200 million boxes, which equated to roughly $800 million in sales, according to Stewart Pim Goodbody, director of communications for Girl Scouts.
Even more impressive is the fact that 80 percent of female business owners are Girl Scouts alumnae, according to the organization.
So perhaps salespeople can learn a thing or two from top sellers like Cranshaw, who have business shrewdness well beyond their years.
Have a compelling story
Cranshaw’s sales pitch rivals that of salespeople three and four times her age, which explains why she’s been so successful in her cookie-selling endeavors.
“My dad helped me come up with the pitch, and I improve it every year,” Cranshaw said.
Cranshaw introduces herself and tells potential customers that the profits will go to Girl Scouts activities. She says that five boxes only cost $20, and if they’d rather not be tempted by sweets in the pantry, they can make a donation, and the boxes will be shipped to troops overseas.
“I get my biggest sales by telling clients you can donate to our troops. The average person usually buys three boxes,” she said.
Mike Weinberg, author of the No. 1 Amazon seller “New Sales. Simplified,” said telling a good story like Cranshaw’s is vital to making sales.
“A Girl Scout who knocks on my door and hands me the list and says, ‘What would you like?’ is very different from a girl who paints a picture of why they would benefit,” he said.
“People buy from people they trust, and the Girl Scout who looks me in the eye, smiles at me, and gives me a reason is going to get my money.”
Set goals, believe in yourself
Cranshaw set her sights on the 2,000 boxes mark, which she has never reached before, and came up with a plan to make it happen. When she started selling four years ago, her motivation was a Nintendo Wii, the prize for Girl Scouts who sell 1,000 boxes.
“My parents said if you really want to get it, you’re going to have to work at it,” she recalled. And she certainly did work for it.
For Najah Lorde, a 12-year-old Queens Girl Scout, the prizes weren’t her motivation. It was the prestige that came with being a top seller. She sold a whopping 2,833 boxes this year.
“I was just more determined this year because I set a goal for myself, between 2,300 and 2,500, that I knew I wanted to reach,” Lorde said.
Determination is a fundamental quality of top salespeople, Weinberg said.
“Top producers in Girl Scout cookie sales absolutely believe they can sell that many cookies; they don’t have self-limiting beliefs,” he said.
“They think huge, have huge goals, and that affects their attitude and behavior when they go to sell them.”
Lorde and Cranshaw were strategic in their efforts, sitting down well before cookie-selling season to craft plans.
To start off, Cranshaw fired off e-mails to previous buyers reminding them that she’d happily replenish their supply of cookies. She also asked former customers for referrals. Lorde set aside time to call family members. It helps that she comes from a big family.
Rather than spend hours upon hours going door-to-door in their neighborhoods, they went to high-trafficked areas to make their pitches.
Both girls went to their parents’ offices during working hours; Cranshaw’s 9-year-old sister Isabella tagged along for moral support. Going to the office, rather than having mom and dad hang the cookie sheet in the break room, was a remarkably effective strategy.
Rather than wait for the sales to come to them, which Weinberg calls “a sin” in the sales world, the middle-schoolers’ face-to-face appeals led to thousands of dollars in sales.
Both girls also went to their local churches to court potential customers. Lorde made sales at her school. Cranshaw pitched at her martial arts class.
“Selling door-to-door is a bit antiquated. It’s all about positioning and putting yourself in places where you know people will be interested,” said Mike Eyo, founder of Max Your Sales.
Each step was carefully predetermined, and while the two considered ideas from friends and family for where to sell and how to pitch, the majority of the ideas came from these budding sellers, which makes their successes even more impressive.
Girl Scouts of America encourages this kind of behavior, with troop leaders taking a back seat so the girls can come up with business plans on their own and collaborate with peers.
“Younger girls will often be paired with older girls, because we want the girls to be leading and learning through trial and error, rather than seeing an adult make the sale,” Pim Goodbody said.
Though they’ve got plenty of time to decide on their futures, Cranshaw and Lorde said their selling accomplishments have sparked their interest in the business world.
“Most people don’t get the opportunity to make their own business plans or speak to groups of adults at that age. They’re making eye contact, shaking hands firmly, and learning how to manage money.
“You’re leading them to explore entrepreneurship down the road,” Pim Goodbody said.
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