Why My Biggest Year in Sales Wasn’t My Most Lucrative

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My biggest year in sales was 1989. I was 9 years-old. My most lucrative year in sales didn’t come until 16 years later. I pounded the pavement week after week pedaling my wares, Girl Scout Cookies. Going into that cookie season I wasn’t particularly psyched. It was cold. Even at 9 I didn’t really care about the spiffs offered. What got me motivated? My Dad; he had a plan. It was a good plan. It was a plan that resulted in a cookie sales record.

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Below are 10 tactics that lead to a record sales year.

1. Have a segmented and focused effort. I worked off of a map targeting the neighborhoods to pursue. I knew, everyday, who I was going to approach. And that map didn’t include my neighborhood. I sold in the Air Force Base housing occupied by single officers and Wright State University’s off-campus housing.

2. Timing is everything. Sure, you can catch people at dinnertime but I found a more optimum time for cookie sales. The winter of 1989 was the same season the Bengals won the play-offs and reached the Superbowl. Selling on football Sundays was a piece of cake.

3. Surround yourself with people that know more than you. At the age of 9 and with little sales experience I would’ve failed had I gone it alone. My Dad designed our sales strategy and my Parents drove me through the neighborhoods. I also had a troop of Girl Scouts encouraging me.

4. Have a product that people want. Yes, selling cookies is often easier than selling a complex software product. But if you know how to position your product as a delicious and appetite-satisfying solution to their hunger, it’s easier to sell.

5. Penetrate a market others are avoiding. As mentioned in the segmentation section, I avoided areas where I knew other Scouts would be selling. Everyone was trolling my neighborhood and of course booths were set-up at the supermarkets. I focused on the areas where there were no other children, but there was still a desire for what I was selling.

6. Saturate the market. I didn’t hit up one apartment complex and move on. I approached every apartment in every complex in the area. Until you’ve reached a yes/no resolution throughout the entire market, don’t write it off.

7. Work your network. Before social selling became the effective tactic it is now, I relied on my network. Of course, at the time my network consisted of family members scattered across the US. My network also worked their network chain and gathered orders in their offices.

8. Move beyond the “No”. I overcame the literal doors closed in my face. As many “yes” answers I heard, I had just as many (if not more) “nos”. As a kid it was hard the first few times but I got over it. Process the “no” and move on.

9. Back yourself with a trusted brand. Selling is much easier when you have a strong trusted brand behind you. People know and trust the Girl Scouts. They recognize the value in the product and trust where there money is going.

10. Put forth the effort, it will pay off. I followed all the clichés. I planned the work and worked the planned. I gathered the low hanging fruit. I carried the ball across the goal line. I was persistent, worked harder, worked smarter, and sold a s!@t ton of cookies.

I closed out the ’89 cookie season with a record number of boxes ordered. I didn’t make a profit that year but I certainly learned skills that allowed me to cash in on commissions later in life.

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Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.
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