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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

6 Reasons Why This Girl Scout Sold 18,107 Boxes of Cookies

Katie Francis demonstrated a true ability to sell. There is plenty to learn from her story when it comes to sales.
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A 12 year old in Oklahoma reportedly has sold a LOT of Girl Scout cookies this winter.

According to reports, Katie Francis laid claim to a new national cookie-selling record with 18,107 boxes.

Since then, she's raised the bar to aim for a personal record of 20,000 boxes by the end of March and she hopes to sell 100,000 boxes during her overall Girl Scout career.

(Before we accept this as fact, let's note that the director of marketing and communications at the Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma "wants to wait until the selling period is over on March 30 to talk about Francis' claim.")

Whatever the final tally turns out to be, it's clear that Katie is off to a successful career in sales, or whatever it is she decides to do with her life. And I know why. I run a small business. But most of my time is in sales. Not Girl Scout cookies, of course. It's something much more boring than that: customer relationship management (CRM) software. But that makes no difference. Because selling is selling and the most successful entrepreneurs I know are, like Katie, salespeople at heart. Many are born with an innate ability to sell. And I bet Katie's no different. But they all succeed because of these six reasons:

1. Katie spent many, many hours of drudgery.

If sales were so easy, then everyone would be successful, right? Being a successful salesperson means spending countless hours doing boring, mindless, tedious work. It's a grind. It's like chopping wood. It's making calls, sending emails and literally knocking on door after door. Katie spent her after-school and weekend time doing all of this, which means she probably invested around 50-60 hours a week selling cookies in addition to her normal "job" of being a full-time student. People that succeed in anything put in a ton of hours. There are no shortcuts.

2. She sacrificed a lot.

Being 12 years old means hanging with your friends, seeing movies, going to parties, watching TV, or just sleeping. (Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like being 49 years old too.) But Katie wasn't doing any of these things the past few months. She was just going to school and then selling cookies. You're only 12 once in your life and Katie sacrificed some of that precious time to achieve a goal. Successful people have to make choices, and usually have to sacrifice something--family, a social life, sleep, health--to achieve their success. These are not easy things to do for most people.

Which is why most people don't do it.

3. She had a thick skin.

No matter how many sales you make, you've been told "no" many more times. That just comes with the territory. Good salespeople learn not to let the naysayers get them down and to keep a positive attitude--there are always plenty of other prospects out there. Dealing with "no's" is one thing, but I bet Katie had to deal with another negative side of success: other kids. I'm sure her true friends had her back, but count on the fact that there were plenty of haters out there too. Competitors, especially middle school girls, can be brutal of someone who isn't part of the crowd because they're doing something special or unique or standout. Successful salespeople quickly learn that not everyone is so happy about their success. They grow a thick skin and keep their eyes focused on the prize.

4. She asked.

One thing I've noticed about great salespeople: they're not afraid to open their mouths. They ask their customers if they want to buy. What's the worst that can happen? And they also ask others for help: referrals, introductions and favors that they can return. I bet Katie got very comfortable asking just about anyone if they wanted a box of Thin Mints. (Like, who's going to say no to that?) And you know she got help from her family and friends--there's no way a 12 year old can sell that many boxes of cookies on her own, without transportation, a little capital or a few extra hands to pitch in.

5. She used technology.

OK, I admit that I'm not sure if she did, but I certainly hope so. Great salespeople leverage technologies (ahem...like the CRM systems my company sells!) to keep them productive and profitable and to make sure that their customers are always hearing from them. Today's sales and marketing tools, from mobile apps to email services, can help make sure that no prospect or customer falls through the cracks. If I were Katie, I'd be keeping a list of every 2014 customer so that in 2015 I could reach back out to them. It's much less expensive to sell to your existing customer base than to find new customers, and besides...people will be craving for those delicious Girl Scout cookies sooner than you think!

But the most important thing about Katie?

6. She demonstrated personal responsibility.

Katie set a goal and then did what she had to do to achieve it. No handouts. No expectations. This is someone who takes ownership of her own life and will always positively contribute to the world. And what more can you ask from any salesperson, or anyone for that matter?

Last updated: Mar 25, 2014

GENE MARKS | Columnist | Owner, Marks Group

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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