Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Selling Girl Scout Cookies: Why the 5 W’s and the H are the keys to any successful sales pitch.

My daughter, a Girl Scout, was gearing up for their yearly cookie sale. Her goal was to sell 200 boxes. It was an ambitious – but attainable – goal. The door-to-door sales period started in mid-January and, before taking her around the neighborhood, I asked that she practice her sales pitch. After all, she wasn’t the only Girl Scout in the area; therefore, she needed a great pitch in order to beat the competition.

I told her to go work on what she was going to say when a potential customer opened the door. After about 20 minutes, I checked on her progress. Assuming that the pitch was good to go, I thought we’d head out the door that day and start the selling marathon. Boy, was I wrong.

To ensure that the pitch covered all the basics, I asked for a demonstration. Happily, my daughter began telling me all about herself, how cookies are delicious, how the potential customer should really buy a few boxes, and on and on and on. Stopping her after a few minutes of sweet, but totally useless information, I reminded her that she had left out the essential information: the five W’s and the H.

The what???

The 5 W’s and the H, I explained, are the basis for all sales pitches (and news articles, for that matter). The letters stand for who, what, when, where, why and how. In the case of the cookie sales pitch, my daughter needed to tell her potential customers the following – and only the following – information:

  • Who: who she is (first name only), the fact that she’s a Girl Scout, and her troop number. The “who” must be limited information, per Scouting rules.
  • What: what she is selling. Cookies, yes. But, what kind of cookies? How much does each box cost? What is her favorite flavor? Know your product! Also, what is she trying to accomplish by selling the cookies? What’s her goal (for example)? “What” can have several meanings. Think of several “whats” that may be asked and be prepared to answer each.
  • When: how long is the pre-sale period? When should customers who are kind enough to pre-order expect their cookies to arrive? Will cookies be available again after the pre-sale period?
  • Where: where will customers be able to get their cookies? Will they be delivered to their homes or offices, or do they have to pick them up somewhere? Where else will the cookies be available (booths, at-home sales, etc.)?
  • Why: why should they buy them from her instead of another Scout in the neighborhood? Why should they buy cookies, period? Why should they support the Scouts? Why are cookie sales important? I could go on and on…
  • How: how does the pre-sale process work? How does she plan on reaching her goal? How do the Girl Scouts work?

After a little coaching (and a lot of groans, moans and resistance), my daughter finally had answers to the 5 W’s and the H. Ironically, the pitch was only used a couple of times due to inclement weather during the pre-sale period, but at least she learned a couple of valuable sales lessons: don’t ever assume that you are going to make the sale and never assume that the customer knows what you know. Brief, thorough information is the key to a winning sales pitch.

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