“Will you give money for our Blue and Gold dinner?” my son, with five scouts in tow, asked the store manager.
“Um, we’re kind of busy right now, maybe you can come back later,” she said sheepishly.
Cub/Boy Scouts, as many of you may know, are required to obtain an assortment of merit badges to advance in rank. These badges run the gamut from outdoor activities like hiking, camping and fishing to more community-facing oriented ones like litter collection and (what we were doing above) fund raising.
While I can’t add much value when the boys are tying knots, I do have a word or two to offer when it comes to selling stuff. As a business owner, you’d better understand selling or you won’t be a business owner for long. So, although I was thrilled my son was taking the lead on this project, I was less than enthralled with his technique.
Huddling the boys outside the store, I said, “Guys. The first rule of selling – and, by the way, that’s what you’re doing right now – is this: never talk about what you need or what you want, talk about the benefit to the customer.”
“What do you mean?” one of the boys asked.
“Well, Tyler,” I said turning to my son, “you went in there and told her you wanted money for something you needed. What’s the benefit to her?”
“Exactly. You didn’t really tell her one. Let’s talk about what we’re fundraising for … it’s this dinner. What do people who give you money get?”
I turned to their scoutmaster: “Wayne – what do they get?”
“They get their company name in the program,” Wayne said.
“Great,” I said. “And how many people are going to be at the Blue & Gold dinner?”
“Not sure,” Wayne said, “maybe 200.”
“There you go. So boys, instead of just telling people you need money for your dinner. Start by telling them that, if they donate, their name will be in menu and hundreds of people will see it,” I advised.
As the boys walked off and were about to enter the next store, I decided to give them keywords to help their memory: “Menu; hundreds,” I yelled.
Tyler and the boys went into store after store. While I usually stayed outside, I heard from others he was employing the suggested technique and, perhaps not unmiraculously, their haul grew. In fact, by the time they were finished, they had more and doubled the results of last year’s drive.
Take notice that, in this advice, there were no tricks, no deception. Simply a recognition that everyone responds more positively to an approach that addresses, first and foremost, “What’s in it for me.”
It hasn’t been often, but once in a while, I’ve received a pitch for something or other that seemed to totally lack this factor. I would read the one-sided offer and just be amazed that anyone in their right mind thought it would be effective.
At the Blue and Gold dinner, Tyler will move from being a Cub Scout to a Boy Scout, as he receives the Arrow of Light. A few days ago, I learned that new Boy Scout parents were encouraged to become Merit Badge Counselors for subjects they felt suited to teach. Perhaps I’ll go for the Salesmanship one. After 10 years in business, my tutelage might at least help them pay for their dinners.