7 Jan

6 Things I Learned About Sales and Marketing from a Cub Scout

By Erika Turan, APR, Senior Account Executive

My son is a Cub Scout, and I’ve learned in his four years as a scout to simply not question his resolve when it comes to selling popcorn.

Popcorn sales are a fall tradition for scouts. An overwhelming percentage of profits goes back to the neighborhood pack and helps to subsidize everything from camping trips to dues for boys whose families may have difficulty paying.

As a first grader, he informed my husband and me that he wanted to sell $1,000 worth. “That’s nice, dear,” was, I think, our response. Well, that little kid appeared in the kitchen almost nightly wearing his uniform and clutching a clipboard. “Can someone take me out to sell popcorn?” he’d ask.

Sure enough, he sold $1,000 in popcorn. And he did it the next year. And the next. As an associate in a small Cincinnati marketing and public relations agency, I understand the importance of new business development. Here are a few things I’ve learned about it from someone much younger than me:

  1. Be tenacious. My husband gets the lion’s share of credit for supporting our son with his sales. There are order forms to help him keep track of, escorting that must be done as he goes door to door, collecting of payment and so forth. My husband, with his own busy work and home schedule, has a few times tried to put our son off. But the little guy would have none of it. If he’s not going to sell popcorn today, by George he’ll go tomorrow.
  2. Aim high. Last year, our son decided that perhaps the President of the United States might like to buy some popcorn. He painstakingly (and messily) wrote a letter to ask President Obama to consider, including every item for sale and its price. Alas, no sale was made but he got a pretty cool packet from the White House.
  3. Set your own goals. Our son’s lofty sales goals have been 100 percent set by him. Frankly, we’d be happier with $100 in sales. Have you ever seen what $1,000 worth of popcorn looks like? I have, because it fills my dining room annually.
  4. Believe in yourself. It makes me get a little misty-eyed thinking about how our son has just known he can do this. He absolutely believes he can do it, and so he does.
  5. Respect the others’ territory. When it’s felt like he’s scraping the bottom of the sales barrel, and every door he knocks on he’s told, “I’m sorry, I already bought some,” my husband and I will suggest other streets around our neighborhood. Kudos to this kid for being mindful of where other scouts live and telling us he should avoid their streets.
  6. Assume everyone wants to buy what you’re selling. It doesn’t seem to occur to our son that people might not need or want popcorn. He assumes everyone does. As a result, he calls family far and wide, knocks on dozens of doors and joins his other den members to ask close to 100 shoppers exiting Kroger if they’d like to buy popcorn. He’s offering tangible evidence of the power of increased reach.

So, what advice do you have for someone when it comes to generating new sales leads? Also, would you be interested in buying some popcorn?