It was reported this month that the Girl Scouts would finally allow their members to sell their famous cookies on the Web. Could the tradition of scouts going door-to-door really be at an end? Well, not exactly.
The Girl Scouts announced that they would allow the use of online activities to market their cookies, but the actually taking of money and delivering of the product would still happen in person. With this announcement, the Girl Scouts inched toward the inevitable (and reinforced what probably has been happening already). However, they put very strict guidelines in place. Each scout needs to review the
Internet Safety Pledge and sign it with their parent.
This includes limitations like:
- Scouts or their parents should not send emails to parental membership or place of employment lists.
- Scouts or their parents should not set up online ordering or payment on private Web pages.
- No taking of orders from customers outside of the council’s zip code.
So what “new” sales methods are the Girl Scouts actually supporting?
Approved online activities include:
- Sending emails or texts to friends, families and former customers to solicit sales or notify the arrival of the product under parent supervision.
- Using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to market to friends under parent supervision.
Does this mean that Girl Scouts who once ran door-to-door will now use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube videos and e-mail instead to get your business?
There will probably be less door-to-door “cold calling.” But in reality, the scouts should get better results by combining the best online and offline tools like other direct marketers. In fact, nationally, Girl Scout cookies already have pages on all of the major social media sites.
Unfortunately, this comes at a high cost to all Girl Scouts. Important “face-to-face” and “door-to-door” selling skills with live interactions may be lost.
Learning how to sell is one of the most important skills in business. Without the direct contact of in-person or on the phone interactions, the skill of learning about a prospect’s needs and presenting the benefits of your product are lost. There is no better way to build “business courage” than to knock on the door of someone you do not know and ask for the sale. Interpersonal skills are still best developed IRL (In Real Life) and not just over the Web. This is an important skill that all young people need to increasingly learn.
While electronic and social media methods are a very effective means of marketing, we should still teach all young people (Girl Scouts included) the art of the sale. Nothing can replace a prospective buyer standing at their front door being asked by a uniformed Girl Scout if they would like to buy some cookies to help their council. Learning how to hear “no” in business is more important than just hearing “yes” from those people that actually buy.
This year, the Girl Scout Cookies advertising campaign states that every cookie “has a mission.” One of the important missions should still be to have the scouts go out into the neighborhood to sell directly to their customers. This should still be encouraged by scout leaders and parents. Important lessons from face-to-face selling are critical to the development of every future business leader.