The campaign begins around this time every year. (And no, we’re not talking politics.) It takes over storefronts, goes door-to-door, and involves mouthwatering photos on Facebook. You guessed it: it’s Girl Scout cookie time, otherwise known as the annual fundraiser during which parents of Girl Scouts make it a personal goal to outsell their competition, other parents of Girl Scouts.
And no, that isn’t a typo. Truth is, sometimes parents miss teachable moments because it’s easier (and dare we say, a source of personal satisfaction?) for them to take the reins.
But this annual race for cookie orders could be a great opportunity for parents to teach their daughters the fundamentals of effective communication.
So the next time your Girl Scout brings home order forms, don’t sell the cookies for her. Instead, look at the sales campaign as an opportunity to help her develop lifelong connecting and relationship-building skills. And keep in mind that the benefits aren’t limited to Girl Scouts and cookies, either—they apply to any fundraising campaign any child might participate in.
Here are six important lessons you can teach your daughter thanks to Thin Mints and Samoas.
1. Master the art of the sale.
First, make sure your daughter understands all the products she’s selling. In this case, know the names of each cookie and a bit about them, as well as the price of each. Of course, if your daughter is very young, it’s okay to help her as she makes her pitch. You’ll notice she’ll get better at making the sale every year.
Help your child practice an elevator speech during which she describes her favorite cookie to a potential buyer, then quiz her on the other flavors she’s selling. Then teach her the basics of taking orders, like making change, collecting contact info, etc. Knowing how to pitch her product and close a sale will boost her self-confidence. And customers will be impressed by her initiative.
2. Face-to-face connections yield the best results.
One mom posted a photo of her adorable kid holding a box of Girl Scout cookies on Facebook and simply collected her daughter’s cookie orders that way. But when you take this path, your child misses learning how to connect with people in person.
Most people love talking with kids, so her interactions with potential customers will be positive. This will help her get to know her neighbors and work on her face-to-face communication skills.
3. Understanding the mission is key.
People tend to do their best work when driven by a purpose larger than themselves. That applies to kids, too. Teach your Girl Scout that she isn’t selling cookies for the sake of selling cookies; it’s to support the Girl Scout mission.
4. Phone skills still matter.
It’s not always possible to make every sales pitch face to face. But instead of going the social media route, put your daughter on the phone. This is a way to help her fine-tune her phone skills and manners.
Help her draft a phone script in which she asks important questions. She should lead with, “Is this a good time for you?” Then have her explain what she’s selling, for how much, and when it will be delivered.
5. Responsibility is in the details.
The selling doesn’t end when you tally the order on your sales sheet. It ends when the cookies are successfully delivered to the customer.
Teach your daughter that it’s important for everyone’s order to be correct and delivered in a timely fashion. Ensuring that all loose ends are effectively and efficiently tied up is another skill that will serve her well in life.
6. Creating customer loyalty can have a big payoff.
Once the cookies are delivered and all the money has been collected, work with your daughter to create a customer list she can use next year. Help her note details about each customer to refer to next time.
For instance, she might say, “Mrs. Smith, it’s Girl Scout cookie time again. Oh and by the way, how’s your dog? I’ve wanted to get a Pomeranian ever since I met Fluffy.” She’ll learn that when you take the time to nurture relationships, they become easier and more fun to manage.
Make sure your daughter understands that this isn’t primarily about how many cookies she sells. Rather, it’s about learning to build relationships. The bonus, of course, is that when she takes this approach, she’ll see results. And she’ll have the great feeling that comes with knowing the victory isn’t Mom’s or Dad’s; it’s all hers.
Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA, CSP, is the author of six books, including The Engaging Child: Raising Children to Speak, Write, and Have Relationship Skills Beyond Technology (Red Zone Publishing, 2012), and is a frequent national media contributor and international speaker.