How to Teach Youth to Sell – Discover the Goal


This is a first of a six-part series on how to teach youth to sell. While we are using Boy Scout Popcorn Sales as the example in this series, these steps can be used in any sale.

Part 1 – Discover the Goal
Part 2 – Know your product
Part 3 – Create a sales plan
Part 4 – Create a pitch (Marketing)
Part 5 – Overcome objections
Part 6 – Close

Discover the Goal

If you noticed from the title I used the word “Discover”. This is intentional because for youth to be successful it is more about asking them what ‘they’ want more than nearly any other activity in the sales process.

Many Councils and Units try to make this process easy by creating goals for them. This is largely based on their needs and not the needs of the youth or family.

How do you “discover” what the youth’s goals are? This is different based on the age and experience of the Scout. We will look at Cub Scouts, Webelos, and Boy Scouts throughout the suggestions below.

1. Explain why you are selling popcorn

This step is often overlooked. Adults need to explain to youth were the money is going. Most of the time the most expensive item a Unit spends money on is camp. However, for Cub Scouts, this will need to be explained even further. Adults need to tell Cub Scouts specifically what they will do at camp. Investigate what activities and facilities are at camp to find out what gets them excited. It could be Archery, BB Guns, Nature activities, or many other items. Webelos may have “been there, done that”, but hopefully your Unit has a special program just for Webelos like Webelos Resident Camp or special campout in which they can participate. Boy Scouts tend to rotate the camps they attend, but each camp has something a bit different to offer. In addition, Boy Scouts can be told more specifics about other costs like transportation, awards, and camp fuel to help them understand the true cost of Scouting.

A Scout may come back with the comment, “Why do I have to sell popcorn. You can just pay for it.” This is a great time to have the conversation about the money you make and all the things which are paid with those funds like a place to live and food. Teach him selling popcorn is ‘his way to help pay for his activities’. For Boy Scouts this a great transition into the Personal Management Merit Badge.

How do you do this? It is important to be prepared by planning the year’s program in advance and telling all ages of Scouts what they are doing during the year. This can be done in a group setting at a Popcorn Kickoff. However, make sure every parent receives a calendar of events and takes time with their son to answer any questions they may have. Find out which one or two activities motivate them the most about the planned program. This is important later.

2. Break out the Prize Form

Most Councils offer some sort of prize program to recognize Scouts at different sales levels. They usually consist of physical prizes, gift cards or Scout Bucks. I know my son prefers an Amazon gift card. Every year he goes online to find something he wants he knows I would not pay for. This is usually a video game but has been other items as well. He finds out the cost of the item then looks to see how much he has to sell in popcorn to be awarded the gift card in order to purchase the item.

It is important to neither encourage nor discourage the particular prize they want to obtain. If the Scout selects something in the first prize level, encourage him to obtain that level. Once he obtains that level then see if there something else at the next prize level he would prefer more and work to hit the next goal. If your Scout wants to be the top seller in the Council and sell $10,000, offer encouragement. In either situation it is important to develop a plan to obtain their goal. This will be discussed in Part 3 of this series.

Finally, review any prizes the Unit plans on offering. Often these items are more encouraging than those provided by the local Council. It is important to inform the Scouts of these different rewards and the sales level needed to obtain. However, let the Scout determine if that sales level is right for them.

3. Create a “Vision Board”

The vision board has been a concept taught by many motivational speakers in the past. The concept is if you can visualize what you want or where you want to be it is more likely to come true. To help, others have recommended creating a board with images of all the things you want in life.

How does this relate to popcorn sales? Have your Scouts create a page with images of the Scouting activities they most want to attend and/or the prize they want to receive. I recommend having extra copies of images from camp preprinted so Scouts can just grab the pictures to place on their page. Also get extra prize forms so they can cut out the image of what they want most. Have glue available and have them create the board. Have them place it in their bedroom where they will see it every day to remind them of the goal they set for themselves. This process works for every level of Scouts. The popcorn sale before the 2013 National Jamboree, I had my son make his board of the items he wanted to do at the Jamboree. The item he most wanted to do was go whitewater rafting, it was placed right in the middle of his board. I then took his board and went to a local printing shop and had them reduce the image to an 8 ½” x 11” sheet. He then used this sheet in his presentation when going door-to-door. We will talk more about this in Part 4 of this series.

I will exit with a story. My son has sold popcorn since 2007. In the fall of 2012 he was raising money to go to the National Jamboree, so he was completely motivated. However, last year was completely different. As we approached the first door, he went to knock but then turned to me and said, “I do not know what to say.” I said, “You have done this hundreds of times before, why is this any different?” He said, “Well, I plan to be on Camp Staff next year so I do not need money for that. What do I need the money for?” I had forgotten the first step in the process of teaching a Scout to sell. We immediately stopped and went to a local Starbucks to talk about what items were coming up over the next two years and all of the other things in Scouts for which he would need money. He wrote them down, picked two items and then built his new script around those items. Discovering the goal each Scout wants to achieve is an important part of the process, maybe the most important. They must know why they are selling popcorn and the rewards they can achieve by obtaining certain sales levels. Only then will they stay motivated and strive to reach their goal.

Part 2 – Know Your Product


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