This time of year, the campaigning begins all over metro Detroit and Ann Arbor. (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. Yep: It's Girl Scout cookie season in southeast Michigan.
But while this annual fundraiser can stoke up parents' competitive motors, it's really a golden opportunity for some teachable moments, says Maribeth Kuzmeski, author new book The Engaging Child: Raising Children to Speak, Write, and Have Relationship Skills Beyond Technology (her 17-year-old daughter, Lizzie, wrote the last two chapters, aimed at tweens and teens).
"The next time your Girl Scout brings home order forms, don't sell the cookies for her," Kuzmeski says. "Instead, look at the sales campaign as an opportunity to help her develop relationship-building skills that will serve her well throughout her life." And not just for cookie peddlers: These six lessons can apply to any fundraising campaign.
1. Master the art of the sale
First, make sure your daughter understands all the products she's selling – in this case, the names of each cookie, a bit about them and 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 guide 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, etc. 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!"
2. 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 that all of life's key interactions – personal and business – will continue to happen face-to-face," shares Kuzmeski. "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."
3. 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 that 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 that selling cookies helps to make it possible for her troop to do all of the activities she enjoys," Kuzmeski says. "Make sure she understands where the money from the cookies goes, and that she can explain this to potential customers. Perhaps she could share her favorite things to do with her troop?"
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 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," says Kuzmeski. "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."
5. 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 that it's very important that she makes sure everyone's order is correct and that each one is delivered to the right customer in a timely fashion," stresses Kuzmeski. "Making sure that all loose ends are effectively and efficiently tied up is another skill that will serve her well throughout her 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 loyalty list she can use next year. Help her create a list of special details about each customer so that 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 that when you take the time to nurture relationships, they become easier and more fun to manage."