How to Teach Youth to Sell – Know Your Product

showing_item_6640This is a second 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

Know Your Product

There are actually two products which Scouts need to understand: Popcorn and Scouting

It is often said, “Scouts are not selling popcorn. They are selling Scouting.” This is only partly true. In reality Scouts are selling both. However, it is more than this. A Scout must understand the brand of Scouting. Let’s look at this a different way. What does a customer think of when they hear ‘Boy Scouts’? I was in a Starbucks writing this article when I asked random consumers this very question. Here is a list of what they said:

In my area the press seems to highlight every time someone is suing the Boy Scouts, the overwhelming majority of people thought of Boy Scouts in a good light. If you did not hear the story about Ann Curry from NBC News being helped by a Scout Unit, click the link above.

It is interesting not once was the term ‘sell popcorn’ used. However, when I asked random people what they think of when they hear ‘Girl Scouts’, people unanimously said ‘cookies’. I am by no way saying that Boy Scouts should be associated with popcorn, but it does show how strong the brand of ‘Boy Scouts’ is.

So how do you teach this? First, make sure Scouts are in a well-kept Scout Uniform. Conduct a Uniform Inspection in your Unit specific for your Cub Scout, Webelos, or Boy Scout. I understand Scout pants are expensive. However, have your Scouts in a clean pair of jeans or other neat pants with no holes. They should not be in board shorts, sweats or baseball pants. In addition, help them understand having a neat appearance is 20% of the score on the Uniform Inspection. This includes having combed hair, good posture, and clean hands and face. I find it interesting the average consumer does not know where the patches go on the uniform but they know when they are in the wrong place. Help Scouts understand they have a distinct advantage when it comes to the Scout Uniform over the Girl Scouts or Camp Fire. As stated earlier, people recognize the Scout Uniform and everything associated with it. The Boy Scouts is a product.

Now let’s talk popcorn.

Here are some items all Scouts should know about the product.

1. Their favorite product

Scouts need to know which product they like the best. The only true way for them to know what they prefer is for them to try the product. First, contact your Council and find out if they are providing any sample product for Units. Most Councils will provide something if they are asked. However, they will not provide all of the products available. This will take an investment on behalf of the Unit. I suggest getting one of each of the larger items and putting each item in small 1 oz. Zip Lock baggie. These can be handed out during the Unit Popcorn Kickoff. If you have any left over, these same unopened samples can be used at a Show and Sell location. I have gone door-to-door with my son, customers often ask which one is ‘his favorite’. My son used to say the small caramel corn and that is what the customer bought. He has since learned to say his favorite item is something $20 or more. Customers still tend to gravitate to his favorite product and he doubles his sales.

2. Understanding the individual items in the larger packages

Many of the larger priced packages are combinations of items sold individually. It is often a better value for the customer to purchase a larger item than two individual items. It is about the ‘upsale’. For example, in 2014 the Trail’s End Sweet and Savory Collection has Dark & White Chocolately Drizzle, White Cheddar Cheese and Kettle Corn. The suggested retail price is $40 for this item. These items, sold individually, are $20, $15 and $15, respectfully, for a total of $50. It is less expensive to purchase the package than individually. When a customer is trying to decide between two $20 items, teach Scouts to point out the larger package for the same price. Research shows once a person buys a package, they are much more likely to purchase the same package item in future years.

3. Understand what is in each product

Scouts should be able to describe, in their own words, what each product is. I have found the best way is to teach this is while giving out samples. As Scouts get a sample, have them describe it on a 3 x 5 card. Compare this to the description on the order form. Often what the Scouts come up with for a description is better. In addition, they more likely to remember it. Give out a prize for the best description of the night.

Scouts may be asked if items are gluten-free or kosher. Ask your Council or the popcorn company web site for information about specific products and make sure your Scouts know the answers to these questions.

4. Pricing

Scouts must know the pricing of each product off the top of their head. In the past I have done a round robin quiz to help Scouts learn the prices. I have them break up into teams and conduct a relay race showing them a picture of the product either by the container or just the actual product itself. They must give me the name of the product and price. If they get it right the team gets a point and the next Scout comes up. We go until all the products are named with the winning team getting a small prize.

Every salesman strives to be a product expert in their field. Teaching Scouts how to be product experts for the popcorn sale is a great start in teaching them to be lifelong sales experts.

Part 3 – Create a Sales Plan



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