Often, parents claim the title of head salesperson when their children start a fundraising campaign. But according to Maribeth Kuzmeski, a stack of order forms can be a great opportunity to help your child learn a variety of valuable skills — if you help her to take the lead herself.
The campaigning begins around this time every year. (And no, we’re not talking about politicians.) They take over storefronts, go door-to-door and post mouthwatering photos on Facebook, mounting a sales effort that no cookie-loving human can resist. 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. Just a bold declaration of reality, says Maribeth Kuzmeski. The truth is, sometimes parents miss out on teachable moments for their kids because it’s easier (and dare we say it, a source of personal satisfaction?) for them to take the reins.
“I had always taken for granted that parents would be the real driving force behind most youngsters’ sales until I heard what a friend did with her 6-year-old’s Girl Scout cookie campaign,” shares Kuzmeski, author of the new book The Engaging Child: Raising Children to Speak, Write and Have Relationship Skills Beyond Technology. “Then I realized this annual race for cookie orders could be a great opportunity for parents to teach their daughters the fundamentals of effective communication.”
Giving parents the tools they’ll need to help their children develop a strong ability to connect with others is the focus of Kuzmeski’s latest book. As a bonus, the author’s 17-year-old daughter, Lizzie, wrote the last two chapters. They are meant to be read by Lizzie’s fellow teens and tweens in order to provide a peer’s perspective on the elements of building and maintaining real relationships in a wired and fast-paced world.
“The next time your Girl Scout brings home order forms, don’t sell the cookies for her,” Kuzmeski recommends. “Instead, look at the sales campaign as an opportunity to help her develop connecting and relationship-building skills that will serve her well throughout her life, long after her cookie-peddling days are over. And keep in mind the benefits I’m talking about 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 Girl Scout cookies:
- Master the art of the sale. First, make sure your daughter understands all the products she’s selling. In this case, just know the names of each cookie and a little bit about them, as well as the price of each. Of course, there are different age ranges of Girl Scouts, so if your daughter is very young, it’s OK to supervise and help her as she makes her pitch. You’ll notice she’ll get better and 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 types of cookies she’s selling,” Kuzmeski suggests. “Then teach her the basics of taking orders, like making change, collecting contact info and more. Knowing how to pitch her product and wrap up a sale will be a huge boost to her self-confidence. And customers will be impressed by her initiative, too!”
- Face-to-face connections provide the best results. One Girl Scout parent posted a photo of her adorable kid holding a box of Girl Scout cookies on Facebook and simply collected all her daughter’s cookie orders that way. But when you take this path, Kuzmeski notes, your child misses out on learning how to really connect with people in person.
“No matter how all-encompassing technology becomes, I believe all of life’s key interactions — personal and business — will continue to happen face-to-face,” Kuzmeski shares. “Your daughter is in a great position to develop her communication skills, because most people love talking with kids, so her interactions with potential customers will be positive. This will give her a chance to get to know her neighbors and work on her face-to-face communication skills.”
- Understanding the mission is key. People tend to do their best work when they are driven by a purpose that is bigger than themselves. And that applies to kids, too! Teach your Girl Scout she isn’t just selling cookies for the sake of selling cookies. It’s to support the Girl Scout mission.
“Explain to your Girl Scout selling cookies helps to make it possible for her troop to do all of the activities she enjoys,” Kuzmeski recommends. “Make sure she understands where the money from the cookies goes, and she can explain this to potential customers. Perhaps she could share her favorite things to do with her troop!”
- 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 great opportunity to help her fine-tune her phone skills and manners.
“Help her figure out a phone script in which she asks important questions,” Kuzmeski says. “She should lead off 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.”
- Responsibility is in the details. Selling Girl Scout cookies 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 it’s very important she makes sure everyone’s order is correct and each one is delivered to the right customer in a timely fashion,” Kuzmeski stresses. “Making sure all loose ends are effectively and efficiently tied up is another skill that will serve her well throughout her life.”
- 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 loyalty list she can use next year. Help her make a list of special details about each customer so she can refer to it when making the rounds the next year.
“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,’” Kuzmeski suggests. “When she remembers unique things about each customer, your daughter will be excited to see them again. Plus, she’ll learn when you take the time to nurture relationships, they become easier and more fun to manage.”
“Make sure your daughter understands, every step of the way, it isn’t primarily about how many cookies she sells,” Kuzmeski concludes. “It’s about learning to build relationships. The added bonus, of course, is when she takes this approach, she really will 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.”
About the Authors:
Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA, CSP, is the author of six books including The Engaging Child, …And the Clients Went Wild! (Wiley), and The Connectors (Wiley), and is a frequent national media contributor and international speaker. Maribeth and her firm, Red Zone Marketing Inc., consult and train businesses from financial services firms to Fortune 500 corporations on strategic marketing planning and business growth. She has personally consulted with some of the world’s most successful CEOs, entrepreneurs and professionals. Maribeth lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two teenagers.
Lizzie Kuzmeski is a teenager and a natural connector. She enjoys theatre, horseback riding, and, yes, Facebook.