Don’t ask ‘Yes or No Questions’

The girls are at it again. Door to door. Block to block. City to city. Moms across our great nation stand by, watching in pride, doing their duty. And they sell cookies by the wagonload.

So there you are, sitting in your recliner, watching the news, and you hear it… The rapping at the door… “Knock knock knock…”

You open the door and find a cute, sweet, smiling little girl. Let’s call her “Ms. Cutie Pie.” Her uniform is pressed, her golden locks are brushed, and her script is polished. And here it comes…

“Would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?”

“Ugh,” I silently gasp as the joyous musical tune of the beautiful moment comes to a scratching halt in my mind. “Cutie Pie asked a YES / NO question,” I say only to myself, “When are they ever going to learn?”

Everything was perfect until that moment — until she gave me a 50% chance to turn down her sale. (Cutie Pie also never bothered to tell me the benefits of buying her cookies.)

In business, or better yet in sales, a ‘yes / no question’ gives the buyer a 50% chance to say yes, and worse, a 50% chance to immediately say NO. Right out of the gate, our customer at the door is asked to make a final decision, one way or the other, and there-in lies the problem.

We suggest a more tactical approach that, in our very-un-scientific-but-based-on-opinion-and-experience research, we believe would increase the national level of annual Girl Scout Cookie sales by 200-500%.

In the “Cookie Sale of my Dreams,” Cutie Pie walks up to the front door with an accomplice… NOT HER MOTHER, but rather another scout, perhaps a Brownie. Cutie Pie is dressed as usual, and her accomplice is holding a large, but manageable color poster board showcasing delicious photos of the five most popular cookie flavors. It’s not complex and it’s not overwhelming. It’s just 5 professionally-shot photos of yummy cookies arranged on classy plates next to sweating glasses of refreshing milk. On the corner of each pic is the respective “logo” of that cookie, i.e. Thin Mints, or Tagalongs. At the bottom of the board it reads, “Your support improves our future!” or something else cute and motivational.

The accomplice simply acts like an easel, standing tall, and holding the poster board for our customers to see clearly, especially for our sight- and hearing-challenged customers.

Cutie Pie rings the doorbell and the customer opens the door. Cutie Pie says in a non-script-sounding tone, “Good afternoon, Sir. My name is Cutie Pie, and this is my friend Easel. We are members of Girl Scout Chapter 3421 right here in Springfield. Each year our cookie sales help us go to camp, do crafts, and learn to be better citizens. Which one of our delicious cookies is your very favorite?” (A CHOICE question, rather than a WAY OUT.)

Customer is drooling over the photos, “I like the Thin Mints.”

“Oh, great choice, sir! Our Thin Mints are the most popular,” Cutie Pie says to reinforce his decision and make him feel good about himself and his choice, “You are very generous. Would you like 2 boxes, or would you rather have 3…?” (Again, a CHOICE, rather than a WAY OUT.)

“I’ll take two boxes,” he says.

“Fantastic. We will bring them to you in a week or so. Lots of people are also ordering a couple of boxes of our brand new Savannah Smiles. They are lemon cookies with delicious powdered sugar gently sprinkled all around. I can bring two boxes to go along with your Thin Mints. You can give them as gifts or keep them for yourself… If I were you, I would keep them for myself. They are delicious. Would you prefer to pay with a check, or with your credit card so you can rack of the miles and start earning your next free vacation?”

“I’ll use my credit card…”

And that’s it. Sales are doubled or tripled.

For the cute little Brownie Scouts who cannot remember the entire sales process, we recommend. “Hello, Ma’am. My mom said I can’t eat all of the cookies. So I need you to buy a few boxes. Which cookie is your favorite?”

Think about you and your business. Are you asking YES / NO questions that give your customers a way out?

P.S. It’s our understanding that the annual cookie sales are a fund-raiser, but more importantly an opportunity for girls to build confidence and learn transactional / business skills on their own.

UPDATE 18 NOV 2013 (it’s not just the girl scouts)

TO WESTVIEW HIGH SCHOOL JR. ROTC IN POWAY, CA: One of your JR. ROTC members asked me to buy some dough. His sales pitch started and almost ended with, “I’m selling cookies. Do you want to buy some?” Without my having to ask questions, he would have never shared with me:

  1. Who it was for
  2. What it was benefitting
  3. Why the money is needed
  4. When it will be used
  5. How big his sales goals are

These days you expect a kindergardener to ask something basic like, “Do you want to buy some candy?”

But a high-school student should come fully prepared. And better than a typical high-school student, a JR. ROTC member should have a top-notch, rehearsed, buttoned-up, professional pitch that gets a multi-product sale every single time… and not just out of family member sympathetic guilt.

A better approach may have been:

“It’s good to see you again. You might already know that I am a member of the Jr. Reserved Officers Training Corp at my high school, Westview, in Poway. The Jr. ROTC works hard to (insert some important things you do here). Each spring, we have a Ball and this year’s ball will be at the (location) in March. To help raise funds to defray costs for the ball, my fellow corpsmen and I are offering premium containers of cookie dough, featuring flavors like chocolate chip, coconut, mint, and walnuts. With each $14 tub, you will be able to make about 60 delicious cookies, which comes to only 23-cents per premium cookie. My team needs to sell 200 tubs, and my personal goal is to sell 10 tubs. So far I have already sold X tubs, I will very much appreciate your help to reach my goal. My favorite cookies are the coconut. But which flavor is YOUR favorite: chocolate chip, coconut, mint or walnut? [Customer Answers with Flavor Choice] Great! I will bring it to you on (date). Perhaps you would like to purchase a second tub to give as a gift for your best friend or coworker. Who do you have in mind? [Customer says My Boss.] Fantastic. That will be $28 total. Will you be paying with cash, check, or credit card?

And for the diabetic customer, “I understand. My grandmother has diabetes. So instead of buying cookies, she donated $20 by writing a check to Jr. ROTC. Twenty dollars helps us tremendously.”