Wanna Buy Some Cookies?

It was a beautiful sunny day in Seattle, the third week in March 2003. I was headed to Starbucks attached to the local grocery store. March Madness and Girl Scout Cookies were everywhere. I was thinking about the days activities ahead. Two young Girl Scout merchants, 11 year olds and their moms where just setting up a TV tray to display their wares. I immediately looked away. If I don’t make eye contact, they won’t see me!

As I stood in line for coffee, I began to question my attitude about buying cookies from Girl Scouts. Why am I such a Scrooge about helping out these young entrepreneurs? Answer? My wife always buys a box or two. As if that were not enough, hey, I sure don’t need the empty calories. I had a hundred excuses but not one good reason. Right then and there, I changed my attitude. I went back outside with my Venti drip coffee in hand.

“So, why should I buy some cookies from you?” I asked with a mock sarcasm. I was having a little bit of fun and testing their sales acumen. The most assertive of the two girls said, “Cause they taste good,” in the meek quiet voice. “Why else?” I asked with a grin. The other girl chimed in, “Because we are raising money for a trip!” Like Raptors, they were double teaming me and building momentum. Now in both responses, they were telling me about what I like to call “Company Centered Features.” Features never inspired me to buy anything. Benefits that matter to me on the other hand capture my attention and inspire me to think about parting with my hard earned cash.

I looked up at the moms and asked, “If I share some ideas with you that will help you sell a lot more boxes of cookies, would you apply them today?” Their mothers leaned forward and nudged them as if to say, it’s okay. “Yes,” the girl scouts replied with a furrowed and skeptical brow.

Now I was in full throttle mentor mode. “I want to tell you about the ‘Six Magic Words,’ that is, how to turn a feature into a benefit.” They were leaning forward to listen. “What That Means To You Is…” Without taking a breath, I continued, “Let’s take what you said to me already. ‘They taste good.’ What that means to me is, ‘They’ll taste good WITH MY COFFEE!’ Now that’s a benefit that matters to me.”

Picking up on the principle, they applied it to the other feature they shared; ‘Raising money for a trip’ was transformed into ‘What that means to me is ‘You’ll feel good about helping a worthy cause’. It was clear the mom’s were grateful.

“One more thing,” I said in a more serious tone. “From now on instead of asking ‘Would you like to buy some cookies (or not)?’ you are going to ask, ‘Would you like two boxes or four, which would you prefer?’ ”

The more assertive of two Girl Scouts processed all I had to offer, paused about five seconds and piped up with, “Okay, you are going to feel great about this investment because it’s for a good cause and they’ll go great with your coffee. Would you like to buy two boxes or four, which would you prefer?”

Guess who walked away with two boxes of mint flavored, chocolate Girl Scout Cookies?

I came back for a refill an hour later to find the two girls and their moms laughing and talking in the Starbucks. “How come you’re not selling cookies?” I asked a little surprised. “Oh, we sold them all, 46 boxes. Now we are going to go help the other girls in our troop!”

The sunny day seemed just a little brighter. Now the only problem I had was what to do with 100 cookies I didn’t need. This experience just re-confirmed what I have known for some time, women (and girls) are smarter than men. I’m gonna need a lot more coffee while I watch some basketball and eat these cookies.

Always offer a choice of yeses in any sales offering. The alternative advance close is still one the best ways to ask for the sale.

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