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Evil Genius: 6 Business Tips You Can Learn from a Girl Scout

Evil Genius: 6 Business Tips You Can Learn from a Girl Scout
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    They are mad, evil geniuses I tell you!

    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!

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    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.

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    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.

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    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!

    Conclusion

    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.

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    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)

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    Published on July 27, 2021

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow

    15 Smart Video Conferencing Etiquette Tips to Follow
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    During the pandemic, video conferencing replaced in-person meetings and has now become the standard option for business meetings. Over the past 17 months, most workers have gotten past the video conferencing learning curve with Zoom or Microsoft Teams (or their platform of choice).

    But just as with in-person meetings, attention can wax and wane. Some say we’re just not used to staring at ourselves so much on the screen. Instead of fixating on that, try employing smart video conferencing etiquette, or you may risk indiscretions that will flag you as a slacker.

    Put the Pro in Professional

    After more than a year of fine-tuning, here are the new rules of video conferencing etiquette.

    1. Mute Your Mobile and Other Devices

    The first video conference etiquette you need to know is muting your other devices. Just as in the pre-COVID days, someone’s obnoxious ring tone blaring Taylor Swift’s newest single in the middle of a meeting is also an annoyance if it happens during a Zoom meeting and so is the inevitable fumbling to turn off the sound. Even the apologies to the group get tiresome.

    Also, when notifications are activated on the computer that you’re using for the meeting, the incoming message takes over the audio and you’ll miss out on snippets of the conversation. Be sure to eliminate this possible faux pas.

    2. Dress the Part

    While working from home, you may have fallen into the habit of slipping on your comfiest T-shirt each day. Hey, no judgments! But before you log on to your video conference, try to make an effort with your appearance.

    Depending on your company culture and the importance of your meeting, consider dressing the part of the professional whom you wish to project. It will help you feel more self-assured, and others will likely take you more seriously.

    For women, wear light make-up, put on earrings, and make sure your blouse is crisply pressed. For men, show up freshly shaved. Wearing a crisp collared shirt in a solid color will usually suffice.

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    Pro Tip: Stay away from wearing white or black, unless those colors look great on you. Consider wearing light blue or brown instead.

    3. Stage Your Workspace

    Have you noticed the backdrops of experts interviewed on news shows? Bookshelves and photographs are carefully curated, and no busy-patterned furniture or artwork is in sight.

    Take note of what appears behind you when you choose the location of your video conferences. Piles of junk mail on the table or stacks of folded laundry on the couch will convey more about your personal life than you care to share. Make sure you remove clutter from the camera’s eye, and present a tidy, orderly workspace to your colleagues, coworkers, and bosses.

    4. Put Some Thought Into Lighting and Perspective

    Be aware that in a video conference, your computer camera can actually make you look up to ten pounds heavier depending on where you sit. But you can easily drop those added pounds by moving back from the screen to diminish the wide-angle distortion.

    Frame your head on the screen by tilting the screen up or down. Also, it’s best to not place yourself in front of a window or bright light, which makes you appear in shadow. Instead, face the light source, moving it (or yourself) until you have a flattering amount of illumination. You can also purchase some small spotlights that allow you to add light as needed.

    Pro Tip: If your lights add too much redness to your skin, consider counter-balancing with a green filter.

    Remember That Half of Life Is Showing Up

    5. Arrive on Time

    In the old days of in-person meetings, it was nearly impossible to slip in late into a meeting unnoticed. In today’s video conferences, logging in late still shows poor form. Instead, strive to arrive five minutes early and get yourself settled.

    Once the meeting is underway, the host may be less attentive about late arrivals waiting to be let in. Diverting the host’s attention away from the meeting with a tardy entry request is the ultimate giveaway that you didn’t honor the schedule. If you don’t want a black mark against you, log in on time.

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    6. Turn on Your Video

    Few people like to see their face on the screen, but buck up and turn on your camera in video conferences. In most cases, it’s better to be a face on a screen than a name in a blank square. Your statements will be more memorable when other meeting attendees can see you.

    If you need to turn off the video, either because of a poor connection, some commotion in the room, or a need for a quick break, give a short explanation via the chat feature. Then, go back on video as soon as you’re able.

    Pro Tip: Keep your explanation for your departure pithy. “Sorry! Doorbell rang. Back in five” says it all. Be sure to honor what you say in chat and really do return in five minutes.

    7. Plan Ahead Before Sharing Your Screen

    Don’t be one of those people who makes everyone else wait as you click through folders in search of a document. That’s just poor video conferencing etiquette. If you know you’ll need to share a document or video on your screen, prepare by pulling it out of its folder and onto your desktop. Also, clean up the files and folders on your desktop to reduce clutter and facilitate easy access. Close other programs like chat, calendar notifications, and email. Disable pop-up notifications to ensure there’ll be no unforeseen distractions.

    Be sure to remind the host before the meeting that you’ll need them to activate the screen-sharing function. Show courtesy once you’re finished by hitting “stop share” to return to the screen with participants.

    Attend to the Pesky Details

    8. Make Sure That Meetings Remain Right-Sized

    With the easy accessibility of video conferencing, it can be tempting to extend the meeting invitation beyond the core group and include everyone peripherally involved in a project. But just as with in-person meetings, the more people involved, the more unwieldy the meeting becomes.

    Use good judgment when asking others to sit through a video conference so that you don’t needlessly take up others’ time and so that participants can be fully engaged.

    9. Remember to “Unmute” Before You Speak

    Most of us are likely able to count on one hand the number of video conferences when someone didn’t have to be reminded, “You’re on mute!” Forgetting to unmute before speaking has become one of the most common missteps in video conferencing.[1]

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    Show everyone your impeccable video-conferencing poise by managing your mute feature with flawless control.

    10. Stay on Point to Keep the Meeting Length in Check

    As with in-person meetings, an agenda with assigned time limits for discussions remains necessary to keep a meeting focused. Data shows, however, that video conferencing can actually reduce meeting time.[2] Reasons include the elimination of commuting time and the ability to screen share and annotate to keep everyone on task.

    Additionally, side conversations are virtually impossible with video conferencing now that you can no longer have back-and-forth exchanges with the person beside you.

    Pro Tip: If you’re running the meeting, let attendees know in advance the protocol for the chat feature. Is it okay for them to “chat among themselves” or not? (See point 11, as well.)

    Talking Has a Time and a Place

    11. Chat Appropriately

    Just like side conversations or texting in an in-person meeting, the use of the chat feature during a video conference can be disrespectful unless it’s directed to all participants. Hence, it’s good video conferencing etiquette to mind your use of the chat.

    At the start of the meeting, you may want to ask the host if it’s alright for participants to use the chat feature. This allows them to disable it if they choose. Used appropriately, it can be a helpful tool to clarify or amplify an earlier point once the conversation has moved on or to let the group know that you need to sign off early (and why).

    12. Use the “Raise Hand” Feature to Avoid Interruptions

    The slight lag in many video conferences can result in speaking over another person if you attempt to jump into a conversation. To avoid this awkward interruption, indicate when you have something to add to the discussion with the raise-your-hand feature that signals the host you would like to speak. This effective meeting management device makes video conferencing run more smoothly, especially with a large group, but it must be activated and monitored by the host.

    Pro Tip: For meetings of six to ten people, sometimes the old-fashioned raising of your physical hand may be the best option. But it’s up to the meeting host. Ask them what they would prefer, and follow that.

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    13. Don’t Record the Session or Take Photos Without Prior Permission

    In this case, not sharing is caring. The “sharing culture” made popular through social media has little place in video conferencing. Before recording a meeting or capturing a screenshot of the participants, always ask for consent in advance from the full roster of attendees. Knowing that a video conference will be photographed or recorded could have a bearing on what others are willing to discuss.

    Manage Yourself

    14. Minimize Distractions

    While de-activating audio and video features can keep distractions from affecting the other participants, you will need to manage noise and disruptions on your end to give your full attention to the meeting.

    Move out of high-traffic zones in your home, keep your door closed, and ask family members to be considerate.

    15. Save Snacking for Later

    Save snacking for later—or earlier. Eating while on video conference is a no-no. Munching in front of the group while close to the camera—as you are when video conferencing—subjects the participants to an up-close and (too) personal view of your food consumption process.

    However, it’s perfectly fine to sip quietly from a glass of water or cup of coffee or tea. If the meeting threatens to last for more than two hours, you may want to ask the host in advance to schedule a five-minute break at the halfway point.

    Final Thoughts

    Even though bosses are now beginning to ask workers to spend some of their workdays on-site, up to 80 percent will permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time, which means more video conferencing in your future.[3] Mastering these video conferencing etiquette tips will help you dial in—as well as dial back—your participation and demonstrate your unwavering level of engagement to the team.

    Featured photo credit: Chris Montgomery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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