As a sales professional with many years under my belt, I’m always looking to learn more about my chosen career. Sometimes, those lessons come at the most unexpected times from the most unexpected sources. Enter my encounter with a lovely young lady who made me seem like a novice salesperson: a preteen Girl Scout I met on a train.
I was minding my own business, and thinking about a new prospect I was trying to work when my thoughts were interrupted. “Would you like a box of Girl Scout cookies?” I turned my head and saw a Girl Scout standing there, smiling broadly. “What?” I asked. “What kind of cookies do you like?” she said.
I laughed. I had a $50 bill in my wallet, and it was earmarked for a few drinks after work with the guys. “That’s okay. No thanks.” I turned away, and noticed she was still there. I looked back after a minute and she met my eye contact shamelessly. She continued, “Do you like Thin Mints? Or would you want to try one of our newer flavors?” I was taken aback. She wasn’t moving, except for the subtle swaying of the train.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I’m not interested.” She cocked her head to the side. “But what about your friends?” she asked. “Don’t they want cookies?” I immediately pictured my nephew who was going to visit with my sister next week. They would grin from ear to ear and probably chuckle if I brought them a box. Suddenly, the idea didn’t seem so crazy.
“Well…” I started. It was a long trip so I thought I would let the girl give her spiel, “What kinds do you have?” At this point, she ran to her seat – her mother gave me a knowing look – and brought back several boxes. She explained each one, talked about her favorites and pretty much sold me. Box after box went into a plastic bag she had conveniently brought over, and she added up the total in her head like a calculating champ.
Let’s just say it was a good thing I had $50, because she didn’t have to make much change. No drinks for me that night at the bar, but I got a lot of kudos from my nephew when I brought them the sweet bounty.
As I lay in bed that night thinking about the experience with the Girl Scout on the train, I realized that I could learn quite a bit from her:
Don’t be afraid to approach people in unconventional settings. She didn’t know me, and I was just minding my own business during a commute. My guard was down, and she took advantage of the art of surprise.
- Be prepared to overcome objections in creative, yet simple, ways. When she brought up my friends, I was completely thrown for a loop. She took me out of my objections and sent me down a different path.
- Stand your ground in a pleasant, but firm, way. I honestly think she would have kept asking me questions to wear me out in an agreeable manner.
- Know your product inside and out. It doesn’t matter if it’s cookies or industrial equipment. You can’t afford to look dumb about what you’re selling. She literally had memorized the contents and nutritional values of the cookies. But she didn’t bring up the price, because by the end, it didn’t matter.
- Do the unexpected. I know it was just a plastic bag, but she had it ready so it was more convenient for me to buy tons of cookies for my “friends.” That honestly created a fabulous impression.
The one thing I wish the Girl Scout had included? A business card. My sister and her son have already told me they expect more cookies next year.