Flashback to last February. It’s the first warm (I use that term generously) weekend we’ve had in a while and my Girl Scout Brownie is all bundled up, clipboard in hand, Thin Mints® in the sled. That’s right—she’s getting ready for her first door-to-door cookie sale. An hour later, we’re back at home and she’s sold a whopping twelve boxes. Though this might not seem like a huge milestone for other folks, she’s pumping her fist with triumph. You see, my kiddo isn’t one to hog the limelight and is generally slow to warm up to strangers, so it took some effort to get her out and knocking on those doors.
For shy or introverted girls, the Cookie Program can evoke both excitement and anxiety. Understandable—it takes bravery to put yourself out there and talk up potential customers. Girls gain so much when they take part in the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, so we hope all girls feel encouraged to participate. With a few tips, you can support your shy Girl Scouts to develop the five essential skills for success and reach their cookie goals. Here’s how.
If you sense that some girls in your troop are reluctant to participate, try to figure out why. Chat with them one-on-one to get to the heart of their concerns. If they’re not comfortable vocalizing it, ask them to write it down. Are they worried about not remembering all the cookie varieties, counting out change, or responding to negative comments? Each girl might have different reasons or worries, so knowing the specifics lets you tailor your strategy in working with them.
Practice Your Pitch
This year, Girl Scouts of the USA introduced a new Cookie Entrepreneur Family Pin to promote family involvement in the Cookie Program. One of the steps girls need to complete to earn the pin is learning how to effectively engage with their customers. Tell girls to practice their sales pitch with their families—the more they rehearse it, the more they can work out their jitters and nail down the speech before they try it out with “real” customers. Suggest that they role-play multiple scenarios (such as customers who decline to purchase, customers who have allergies, customers who ask a lot of questions about the cookies, etc.) to give them an opportunity to respond to different questions and types of customers.
Girls who balk at in-person sales can use the internet to their advantage. (Make sure they’ve signed the Internet Safety Pledge and have parental/guardian permission, of course!) Encourage girls to reach out to families and friends through Smart Cookies, the online software system where girls can build their business, track goals, and sell cookies online.
You likely have a mix of personalities in your troop, including girls who are more outgoing than others. Try pairing your outgoing girls with the more reticent ones—sometimes having a chatty partner can help draw out shyer girls. They might be emboldened by seeing someone else being brave. Just be sure to balance out the partners so each girl has an opportunity to practice asking and engaging with customers, whether you’re selling door-to-door or at a cookie booth.
Set a Goal
Speaking of cookie booths, have your girls set goals not just for number of boxes sold, but the number of customers they’d each like to approach. This can help with your overall sales goals—the top reason people don’t buy cookies is because they were never asked! And it also gives girls the opportunity to challenge themselves, especially shy ones who might have participated in the cookie booth before, but didn’t do any of the active asking.
In case it wasn’t clear, there’s nothing wrong with being shy. However, if shyness is impeding your Girl Scout’s ability to fully participate in the way she’d like, you’ll now have tools to help her. The Girl Scout Cookie Program® is about so much more than just cookies. (Though who can resist a box of Caramel deLites®?) The skills that girls learn through the real-world, hands-on experience of the Cookie Program will last them a lifetime. Research also shows that the more involved girls are in the program—managing money, setting goals, working with others, understanding customers—the more impact these five skills will have on them. The way that your shy Girl Scout chooses to participate might be different than her gregarious troop counterparts, but more importantly, your Girl Scout will learn that she can do it—in a way that feels true to her.
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (and rescue dog, Neil!)