Every year I watch the sale of Girl Scout cookies with amazement. These sweet, innocent and friendly girls all become masters of marketing, sales and business through the months of January and February. And you know what? I happily buy Girl Scout cookies every year. I open my wallet for them, and admittedly it is because I buy through my personal “connection” (aka: dealer) of these addictive cookies. One would think they are pushing drugs with how people talk about the cookies, but that is all part of their genius plan!
Here is the truth: the cookies aren’t special. We all enjoy home baked cookies more than we do mass-produced cookies, but at the same time, I definitely will crave and even horde the cookies. No one better touch my thin mints! Why do I do this every year? Because, I buy more than the cookie. I buy the “sizzle with the steak”, and watching the geniuses work, I have learned a lot about business. Here are six business techniques I’ve learned from the delightfully, ingenious Girl Scouts.
1. Sell The Idea – The Sizzle
My father always says when it comes to sales, “sell the sizzle not the steak”. The idea is rather common. Sales is about selling the story, the image and everything around the product, not the product itself. I personally like the saying, “ride the brand”. Brand your sales with an image and then ride it. Apple computers have done very well, as people crave to be part of the Apple computer family. They want the image and the community that comes with Apple, and all someone has to do to join this select group of people is purchase an Apple product. The same idea is used in personal branding.
When it comes to Girl Scouts, the sweet girls are part of the Girl Scout cookie idea. It is their fundraiser. It is an organization that teaches girls so much, from knitting to car mechanics. By buying Girl Scout cookies we are helping an organization that helps people in our own town and community succeed. So to play off one of my favorite movie lines – Girl Scout cookies are made with real Girl Scouts, as we are buying into the image with the cookie.
2. Back Up The Product – The Steak
Call me old fashioned, but I feel a product needs to be quality, as quality backs up the sizzle. If Apple computers were junk, people wouldn’t want the image of being an Apple fan. True, one may be able to find comparable products for cheaper, but their products are still good products. The idea is that their brand demands a high price, while their product backs up the brand. Girl Scout cookies are good. They may not be my grandmother’s cookies, but they are still good. They are also slightly unique in the style / taste, which makes them stand out from other cookies. Thus, they are able to make a good steak to back up that sizzle. As manufacturers, product managers and business people, we need to make sure our products can back up the brand that goes with them. For me, it is a matter of taking pride in what I do, and I firmly believe the manufacturing company for the Girl Scout cookie takes pride in what they do.
3. Motivate Your Sales Force
Did you know there are bonuses for troops that meet sales levels? The girls know they are paying for trips and activities with every sale. Troop leaders are really good at motivating Girl Scouts each year to sell the cookies. Additionally, many troop leaders will teach the girls how to sell. They are great at doing it, and above all they are passionate about doing it.
4. Order In Advance
Starting in January in my area, Girl Scouts are asking for orders for their cookies. When it comes to business, this same idea directs part of our sales. By getting advanced orders, we know how much to manufacture. That commitment is great for any business, and why I encourage businesses to find a revenue stream that encourages pre-ordering.
5. Keep Product On Hand
Even with the orders, most troops purchase additional cookies. These will then go on sale outside businesses or are taken with them when they drop off the pre-orders. Why? There are always, always those last minute purchases. There are always people who decide they actually want more than what they first ordered, and you need to fulfill that order. Every industry is slightly different, but learn how much product to have on hand.
6. Timing is Everything
I believe Girl Scout cookies are the bane of most New Year’s resolutions. Why? About 20-30 days is when people who are on a diet start craving sweets. Even if you are not on a diet, 20-30 days after the holiday is another time to crave sweets, and guess who comes along? Those, sweet innocent, mad geniuses with the perfect fix to your craving. They are there when the timing is right, and they don’t worry about it for the rest of the year. This not only creates an exclusiveness of needing the product then and there, but it fulfills a desire that is going to be there. Not only do they have their timing down, they have mastered that buy it now or loose it mentality. Two timing essentials at one moment!
The girls in my community are geniuses in business, and I think many Girl Scouts carry these sales techniques as they grow up. As someone who was never a Girl Scout, but had a lot of friends who were/are, I know these techniques can help anyone out.
So the next time you go out and buy your Girl Scout cookie “fix”, take note of the seller’s genius. I know I will be when little Rachel (my “dealer”) calls to get my order.
(Photo credit: Mint Filled Chocoalte Patties via Shutterstock)