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20 Business Secrets from the Savviest Girl Scout Cookie Sellers

Need motivation to get ahead in your career? Look no further than these Girl Scouts, who have a stronger entrepreneurial spirit than most adults.

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There’s no grind like the Girl Scout grind

Ever wonder why you can’t buy Girl Scout cookies out of season, or why you can’t buy them if you don’t know a Girl Scout? The Girl Scout Cookie Program is a coveted product, for sure, but it isn’t just about money, money, money; it’s about the girls mastering the art of entrepreneurship. And master it they do—the business acumen of these master-cookie sellers could put Wall Street to shame.

selling girl scout cookiesJohn Moore/Getty Images

Assume it’s a “yes”

A presumptive close on a pitch means wrapping up with the assumption that the person will buy. For instance, Olivia V. Cranshaw, 14, who’s been the number-one seller for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York three times, ends her door-to-door pitch by saying: “This year, five boxes cost only $20; can I help you pick out your five boxes?” By framing your words so clients would have to choose to opt out instead of opting in to your goals, you subtly encourage them to agree. Check out these secrets to success from 13 restaurant owners.

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Learn from those before you

Katie Francis holds the national single-season sales record with 22,200 boxes in 2015. Now 18, the record-holder from Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma had been aiming to hit a career total of 100,100 boxes in 2017, which would beat the previous career record of 100,000, set by Elizabeth Brinton between 1978 and 1990. Hoping to learn from the best, Katie got in touch with Brinton in 2014. “She said to ‘think outside the box’ and come up with new ideas,” says Katie. As of 2019, Katie has sold 135,800 total. For more inspiration, don’t miss these 10 CEO secrets for launching a million-dollar startup.

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Don’t be afraid to invest

Putting in cash up front for your business can be scary, but you might have to spend money to make money. Althea Collier, 12, whose record is selling 1,500 boxes of cookies in a year for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, says she pre-buys boxes, then puts all her effort into her sales. Some people will order straight from her, but it’s up to her to hit the streets to sell the rest of the Girl Scout cookie boxes. “Since I buy all the cookies ahead of time, there is no going back,” she says. “This has taught me a lot about responsibility and doing things myself.” If Girl Scouts can teach us anything, it’s that we should invest locally. This is why it’s so important to shop on Small Business Saturday.

girl scouts selling cookies Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Get people’s attention

Getting people to notice you is key to bringing your dreams to reality. Instead of sitting by a Girl Scout cookie booth hoping to catch someone’s eye, Katie gets proactive by singing and dancing. “It’s a great way to make the sales more fun, and it catches people’s attention,” she says. She’s even started a YouTube channel showcasing the Girl Scout cookie-themed songs she writes to the tune of popular songs, from Lady Gaga melodies to Christmas tunes. Here are the 10 body language secrets that will make you more successful.

girl scout cookies sale moneyJohn Moore/Getty Images

Exposure is key

Sabrina from Indiana gets crafty and uses the holiday season to her advantage, opening a booth at a family friend’s florist shop around Valentine’s Day to capitalize on the heavy foot traffic. “You get guys who are like ‘I forgot flowers!’ And then they’d see the cookie booth and say, ‘You know what, it’s not the same old chocolate. This is perfect,” she shares.

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Show customer appreciation

Valerie Rufo, 7, who was the top seller in her Mt. Pleasant, New York, Girl Scout troop in 2015, says she sends a personalized thank-you card to each of her buyers. “It shows them that you care and appreciate their business and will keep them as a loyal customer,” she says.  These are the 20 companies with the nicest customer service.

girl scout cookies selling boxesKatherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Break down big goals into smaller ones

Breaking a huge goal down into bite-sized moves will keep you motivated. Keeping track of your progress gives you a chance to celebrate successes along the way, plus recognize if you’re falling behind. Katie says she records her sales in a spreadsheet to stay on track with her weekly—or even hourly—goals. “Sales go up and down daily, so if they are down, I know I have to work harder over the next few days,” she says.

girl scout cookiesKatherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Think outside the box!

In 2014, 13-year-old Danielle Lei set up shop outside of The Green Cross, a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco. According to her mother, Danielle sold 117 boxes in just two hours—37 more than she sold outside of a Safeway in the same timeframe.

selling girl scout cookiesAnn Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Fit your customers’ needs

Keep in mind your customers’ lifestyles, and accommodate to them, if you can. Not everyone carries cash around with them, so Althea makes it easy for buyers by giving them the option to pay for Girl Scout cookies with plastic. By making it obvious, she doesn’t let customers who assume her booth is cash-only walk away. “Some of my signs advertise the fact that I take credit cards, chip cards, and Apple Pay with Square,” she says.

girl scouts selling cookiesPaul Morigi/Getty Images

Give others your full attention

Never seem like you’re distracted when you’re talking with someone who could help you reach your goals. Olivia says she always makes eye contact with customers buying Girl Scout cookies. “It shows you are interested in them and that you care and are serious about the sale,” she says. “If you focus on the customer, they will know that they are important to you.”

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Get ahead of the game

“I find that in the first or second week of cookie sales, I sell the most,” Sabrina, a Girl Scout from Indiana, told Fatherly.com, “People are surprised and say, ‘Oh, it’s that time of year again!'”

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Flash a smile

Greeting people with a smile isn’t just polite, but it will also boost your charisma. When others know you’re passionate, they’ll share that excitement with you. “I have found that when I show energy, it creates more energy,” says Katie. “I share a smile, and people smile back. Have fun with what you do and show it!”  Memorize these 10 attributes of wildly successful people.

selling girl scout cookiesPaul Morigi/Getty Images

Always be prepared

Keeping the right materials on hand will help you reach your goals, even when you least expect it. “You need to be prepared at all times, wear your advertisements, carry around your order card, and even make business cards,” says Althea. Be ready to network and hand out your own card when the opportunity arises.

girl scouts selling cookiesPaul Morigi/Getty Images

Show customers how they’re helping

If anyone asks for more information, be prepared to show them how the money they’re spending will help that client or your cause. Katie says she tells customers how the money from the cookies will help her Girl Scout troop host day camps, throw cookie-training events, help other troops, and more. Olivia says she sends updates to customers before they even ask. “I send out an email to all my past clients detailing my goals, past accomplishments, my Silver and Gold Awards, Digital Cookie, and all the fun activities we have done as a troop and are planning on doing this year,” she says.

girl scout selling cookiesJohn Moore/Getty Images

Never be afraid to try

If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. Olivia says she’s never afraid to ask people if they want to buy Girl Scout cookies. “Even if you get a no, it means you are one step closer to a yes,” she says. “It’s not embarrassing or the end of the world.” For inspiration, check out these millennials who started with nothing and made a fortune.

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Make yourself accessible

A master of unconventional marketing, in 2014 11-year-old Julia Vieria Reis parodied popular Adele song “Hello” (“Hello from the outside, I must have knocked a thousand times.”) The video went viral on Facebook, and drove tons of traffic back to her personalized cookie sale website. She also has business cards listing her website and a phone number to leave with customers. “That way, if they need any more, they can call you,” Julia told Money.com, “So you can continue to get sales.”

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Don’t limit yourself

Be ready to surprise yourself. Goals are great, but don’t stop there. You might end up with better results than you’d hoped for if you stay motivated. “In previous years, I’ve always been able to go over my goal by not setting limits on myself,” says Katie. “I stay positive and believe in myself because you can’t sell cookies if you let the ‘no’ answers get you down. I keep moving forward to the ‘yes’ answers.” Get inspired by these “dream big” quotes.

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Be confident

If you assume your dreams are unreachable, you’ll never have the drive to meet (or exceed!) your goals. Always be brave and confident when starting a venture, even when others have their doubts, says Althea. “If you are willing to put yourself out in the world and make sure people know you’re there, nothing is going to stand in your way,” she says. “Don’t let others’ criticism stand in your way!”

girl scout cookiesPaul Morigi/Getty Images

Don’t shy away from reminders

Your goals are your top priority, but they might not be top of mind to colleagues and customers who have other things going on. Reach out and politely nudge the people you’re relying on, says Valerie. “If it looked like I was not going to reach my goal, I would send out reminder emails to my customers, friends, and family members,” she says.

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Give other options

Your product might not be for everyone, but it’s definitely for someone. If customers are hesitant to take you up on your original offer, add a twist for another option. Katie’s troop suggests potential buyers donate boxes to troops overseas or a local food bank if they don’t want the cookies for themselves. Want to get your hands on a box (or ten) for your own? Visit girlscoutcookies.org to find out when Girl Scouts will be selling near you. Next, learn about the 12 bizarre secrets from the world’s biggest businesses.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.