7 Things I Learned About Selling and Persuasion From The Girl Scouts
I originally wrote this post for Derek Halpern (in his voice) in 2014 when I interviewed to be his junior copywriter. He called me and told me I nailed his voice.
This article also:
- was shared thousands of times when I posted it on Steemit 4 years ago
- earned me over $600 from Steemit
- more importantly earned me #streetcred from Derek Halpern (The OG Social Triggers Marketing Guru)
- was ripped off, plagiarised and reposted as someone else’s content countless times
Here we go:
I had an interesting talk with a Girl Scout the other day. She was quite the hustler!
You see, I’ve never really given Girl Scout cookie sales tactics much thought before.
I just assumed that because the cookies are only available once a year — like the McRib — that people wait for them. And when they see a Girl Scout who has their favorite cookie, they buy a box.
But then I got to thinking, is there more to it than that?
That same day, I heard about a Girl Scout who sold over 20,000 boxes of cookies in one month!
So I HAD to know. How did she do it? And can we use the same techniques to increase sales too?
So I did a little research, and what I found will astound you.
In this article, you’ll learn the 7 tactics the Girl Scouts use to sell more cookies. And how you can use the same techniques to sell more of YOUR products and services, in ANY industry.
I’ll show you EXACTLY how to use this to your advantage…so you can take this information, apply it, and increase YOUR sales and conversions too.
Twas mid February and, the snow in Pennsylvania was deeper than James Earl Jones’ voice.
My stomach growled as I hopped out of my car. I made the transition from sidewalk to slippery parking lot.
Then I noticed a little girl dressed in green from head to toe.
She looked about 10 years old. She was behind a card table, which was piled high with cookie boxes, stacked like little Jenga towers.
A colorful handmade sign told me that she was selling Girl Scout cookies.
She wore her red hair in two ponytails. Her uniform was covered in badges. She wore a named tag that said Desiree.
The first thought that ran through my mind was this: “Corporations using little girls to sell junk food using scarcity tactics.”
But then I decided I was going to do what smart people do: I pushed my assumptions aside and tried to learn a thing or two from this pint-sized salesperson.
I made eye contact to see what she would do.
“Excuse me sir, do you like cookies?” A smile spread across her little face. Desiree practically squealed. She was EXCITED about what she was selling.
Not only is she ENGAGING with me before attempting to sell (People SKILLS for the win :-D) but her excitement was contagious.
Studies show that strong emotions are actually contagious. The real name for this is actually “Emotional Contagion” 1
So you better be pretty damn excited with what YOU are selling. Because if not, how do expect your customers to get excited about it?
After Desiree asked me if I liked cookies, I thought, “Who doesn’t like cookies!” Then I realized what she was doing.
If I say, “Yes, I like cookies,” I will act like it…and buy a box of cookies.
Because I don’t want to look like a liar!
This is known as the principle of Commitment and Consistency. Robert Cialdini talks about this is his book, Influence: Science and Practice.3 This principle states that “once we make a choice or take a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”
We persuade ourselves we made the right choice. We do this by acting in ways that are consistent with it.
We do this because consistency is a valuable trait. Being inconsistent is seen as a negative trait. If we’re inconsistent, we’ll be banned from the tribe. We’ll die alone, surrounded by cats.
So it’s HUMAN NATURE to want to be consistent.
Now, I’m a generous guy, and cookies are cheap. But I wanted to see what Desiree would say when I gave her a soft no.
So I said, “Listen, I love cookies. But I’m watching my figure.”
In response, Desiree gave me two alternatives.
And she turned my “soft no” into a YES!
This is how she did it:
“Well sir, do you know of any friends who might need some cheering up? I bet they might like a box of cookies. I’m selling them so that I can go to camp. Because I’m paying for it all by myself.”
Oh man! Showing the benefits AND helping out friends. I really liked this Girl Scout!
Who could say no to that?
Plus, she said the magic word: BECAUSE.
One Harvard study 3 proved that you if use the word “because”, followed by a reason, you can say almost whatever you want after it. The word “because” makes people more likely to agree with you or do what you say.
First, Desiree showed me that I could buy the cookies without eating them myself.
Then, she pointed out how I could make a friend feel better if I did that.
Third, selling cookies wasn’t just about selling junk food to hungry people…she gave me a compelling reason to buy these sugary treats.
So I wasn’t just getting the cookies. I was helping Desiree do something valuable.
I was practically drooling while eyeing up the Thin Mints and Samoas, imagining what kind of vegan ice cream to eat them with later. Before I had the chance to answer, Desiree said,
If you’d rather not buy cookies today, you can leave a donation in this jar here. Even a penny will help.
Robert Cialdini did a study that shows charities get more donations when they say, “even a penny will help.” Or “even a dollar will help.”4
The reason is because people are afraid to seem cheap! So instead of donating a small amount, they donate NOTHING!
But when we make small donations okay, people feel good about it. So they comply.
Desiree’s sales skills were on point!
Finally, I said, I’ll tell you what? Give me 10 boxes. And here’s $20 for your jar. Have fun in camp.
“Oh My God, Thank You!!” Desiree quickly covered her mouth with her hand. She was jumping up and down like she had just won the lottery, rattling all the boxes on the table.
I was so impressed with Desiree, that on the cab ride home, I researched Girl Scouts sales training programs on my phone.
As I was googling, I got a personalized “Thank You” eCard from Desiree.
Here’s how The Girl Scouts turn little girls into cookie selling ninjas.
You can use these same techniques to sell more of your services and products too.
Before the Girl Scouts are allowed to sell cookies, they go through training. It’s pretty intense for the average 8 year old!
They learn all about the 8 types of cookies, down to the names, main flavors and ingredients.
So when potential customers ask questions, they are armed with answers.
You might think you know your own products and services inside and out…but you might suffer from the curse of knowledge.
If you suffer from the curse of knowledge, you use jargon that only an expert in your field would use…so your customers don’t relate to you or understand what you are offering.
If they don’t understand your offer or how they can benefit from it, they don’t buy it!
Next, the Girls Scouts are encouraged to set goals and measure their progress. What gets measured gets improved. And public commitments are lasting commitments…. again that ties in with us wanting to be consistent.
Are you measuring your progress or growth each month? I encourage you to keep track of your social media stats and your email list numbers in a spreadsheet. It’s pretty easy to do.
After setting goals, Girl Scouts are encouraged to create a plan for reaching their goal.
And you should too. Otherwise, how are you going to reach your goal?
Ask yourself, how many services and products would you need to sell to reach your goal? And how will you do it? Write it all down. That’s your plan.
Incentives and recognition are given to Girl Scouts based on the amount of cookies they sell. They can win badges and other rewards like stuffed animals, gift cards, trophies and trips to theme parks.
This is eerily similar to affiliate marketing…. and a REALLY smart way to get people to spread the word for you.
Do you reward your super fans for sending business to you? If not, you should! I can recommend an awesome book that shows you exactly how to do that.
Next the Girl Scouts learn how to sell online. They learn to leverage marketing with email, texting, and social media. They even have their own website and apps for selling cookies.
Could you imagine how much bigger your fan base would be if you had this Girl Scouts training 20 years ago?
The lesson: Make it super easy for people to buy from you!
Make sure people know about you and all the benefits they’ll get from working with you. And leverage the power of the internet! Especially email marketing. Because as we say on the internets, The money is in the list!
When Forbes Magazine asked Katie Francis (the 12 year old who sold a record breaking 20,000 boxes of cookies in a month) how she did it, she mentioned leveraging her time as the #1 method.
How will you leverage your time? Can you take one of your services and turn it into an online course?
Having an online course to sell is like having a clone!
When people buy 5 or more boxes of cookies, they are entered to win a year’s worth of their favorite cookies. So when someone wants to buy 3 boxes, a smart girl scout would mention the 5 box promo. This is called upselling.
How can YOU upsell to your customers? Customers are more likely to buy more at the checkout. That’s why when you buy a suit, you end up rationalizing adding on a tie and cuff links too. Might as well! This is the “Foot in the Door principle” at its finest.
Next the Girl Scouts learn how to set up booths. This is to sell in person, not just on the internet.
Selling in person requires people skills, something you absolutely NEED.
One time at a conference, some guy actually shoved his business card in my mouth! Do you think I was falling all over myself to buy from him?
Don’t be that guy!
The next thing the Girl Scouts are taught is this:
“Ask people who bought cookies from you last year.” This is the concept of going after “low-hanging fruit.”
In fact, your current customers are way more likely to buy from you. In fact, 80% of your revenue will come from just 20% of your customers. This is the 80/20 rule aka The Pareto Principle.
Finally, Girl Scouts learn the importance of Saying thank you.
Have you done anything to thank your customers lately? Provide VALUE. Don’t just give out chintzy freebies.
I’d hate to spend all of 2 minutes on a crappy video and have you say this:
Instead, you really want to give something worthwhile, because you want your prospects to watch your free stuff and think, “Wow! Imagine what their paid products are like if they give this awesome stuff out for free.”
So that’s what you can learn from the Girl Scouts.
Now I want to hear from you:
Which of these persuasion tactics are YOU going to use first? Tell me all about it in the comments below.
1Bourg Carter, S. (n.d.). Emotions Are Contagious. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201210/emotions-are-contagious-choose-your-company-wisely
2Cialdini, R. (n.d.). Influence: Science and Practice.
3Hypnotic Power Words. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/3-hypnotic-power-words/
4Cialdini, R. (n.d.). Increasing Compliance by Legitimizing Paltry Contributions: When Even a Penny Helps. Retrieved from http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/increasing_compliance_by_legitimizing_paltry_contributions-_when_even_a_penny_helps.pdf
Cookie Council Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from