Month: June 2014

Top 10 Things Units Should Never Do When Selling Popcorn

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Not Top 10We all know Popcorn Sales help provide funds for Scouts to help them with their program, but there are many things Unit Kernels should never do when it comes to their Popcorn Sale.

1.  Skip Training

The majority of councils around the country ‘tweak’ their sale in some manner. Examples of changes can include product line, pricing, prizes, commission structure, return policy, delivery locations or a number of other items. Sometimes councils even change popcorn companies. Council/District Kickoffs are the most efficient way to disseminate this information in a consistent message to the masses. In addition, many councils have a portion of the commission tied to attending training. So, do not skip training.

2.  Fail to conduct a formal Unit Kickoff

Just like the Council/District holds a Kickoff to disseminate information to the masses, Units should do the same thing. It is the most efficient way to ensure everyone receives the new information. If your Unit cannot do a separate meeting for a Unit Kickoff, at least set aside 20 minutes at a meeting in which parents are attending to present the material.

3.  Neglect to have Scouts set goals

All Salespeople need to have a target at which to aim. We know from research that 78% of Scouts who set a written goal meet or exceed that goal. Go through the prize program and find out what each Scout want to obtain. Write it down and give the Scout a copy for them to view on a regular basis.

4.  Forget to copy every Scout’s order form

There are two main reasons to make copies of every Scout’s order form. First, the Unit Kernel has a copy of the Scout’s Order to verify when placing the Unit’s order. Second, Scouts should receive a copy of their order forms from the previous year so they have a place to start selling popcorn the next year. Last year I just took pictures of every Scout’s order form with my smartphone. It was the fastest way to gather all of the information needed.

5.  Break open pre-packaged items

I see this most prevalent when selling microwave popcorn. Units will break open a large package of microwave popcorn and sell them individually for $1 apiece. Impulse buyers, especially at a store front, will support Scouting at the lowest level possible. If you sell an item for $1, customers will gravitate to that item when would have spent $10. In addition, the individual microwave packets do not have the required FDA product information to be sold as a standalone item.

6.  Displaying a Donation Bucket

The Donation Bucket implies the same lower dollar level as selling an individual microwave packet. It allows the customer to ‘opt-out’ of a $10 or higher item and give a donation of $1-2 dollars. This does not mean you should not accept donations and convert them to Military Orders. My son’s unit one year had over $13,000 in donations. However, we asked people to ‘purchase’ an item for the military by making a donation in the amount of the cost of the product.

7.  Allow checks to be written out to ‘Parents’ of the Scout

Understand, when a person purchases popcorn from a Scout, a portion of the sale is tax-deductible. Most times a copy of the check is used as proof of the donation. If the check is made out to the parent, it is considered a gift to the parent thus not deductible. The second reason is if the check bounces, the parent may have to pay any bounced check fees out of their personal account. This only has to happen once for parents to no longer want to accept checks or worse not have their son participate in the popcorn sale. Finally, allowing customers to write checks to parents help facilitate the rare instance of a parent not paying the Unit for popcorn delivered. If checks are written to the Unit or BSA, non-payment from parents is far less likely.

8.  Wait until the end of the sale to gather payment from Scouts

Payment for product sales should be collected on a weekly basis. At each den or troop meeting, have a person collect any money received from popcorn sales. This is especially important when the payment is by check. Most people write a check knowing they have the money in their account on the day the check was written. If you wait until the end of the sale to collect the checks, it may be 4-8 weeks after the check is written. The longer a Unit waits to deposit all checks, the greater the odds the check will bounce.

9.  Delay in getting your Show and Sell locations

If your council relies on the Unit to get their own locations, the time is now to set them up. Typically, store schedule these dates 3-4 months out. Some larger chains require District or Area approval for use of their site which extends the time period. Send out a letter with the formal request to the store manager and follow-up with a personal visit. If your Council/District coordinates Show and Sell location sites, contact the person in charge before the Council/District Kickoff to share the needs of your Unit. As an example, my son’s Boy Scout Troop has over 50 Scouts. I will need 5 different weekends or locations for everyone to have a 2-hour shift, not just one.

10.  Think you can do it all yourself

The Unit Popcorn Kernel is a big job, especially if you decide to do everything yourself. There are some who are able to keep everything humming along. Most of this select group have been the Unit Popcorn Kernel for several years. However, 2/3 of all Unit Kernels have been in the role less than 2 years. Divide the job between several other people on your Unit Committee. Recruit separate people to handle distribution, Show and Sell locations, prizes and the Unit Kickoff. As they say, many hands make light work. For a list of Unit Popcorn Job Descriptions, click here.


How to Teach Youth to Sell – Close

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figure_at_finish_line_13179This is a final article 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

The ‘close’ of the sale is an often overlooked portion of the sale. There are four elements of the ‘close’ every youth should use when selling and item.

1. Ask for the sale

My wife and I were at a grocery store a couple of months ago where a table was set up with Girl Scouts selling cookies. We have a rule in our house where any youth in uniform who asks us to purchase an item for their fundraiser we will buy something. When purchasing our groceries I made sure we had cash on hand to buy a box of cookies. We left the store and walked toward the table. The young lady smiled and said hello. I replied with a hello and waited for her to speak. She said nothing. My wife and I looked at each other and walked to the parking lot. She never asked us if we wanted to buy cookies.

It is important to ask the customer what you want them to do. Think of getting volunteers to help in your unit. Most people will not offer their time unless they are asked. Once asked they often go above and beyond what is needed.

It is equally important the way in which youth ask for the sale. When creating our initial sales pitch in Part 4, we closed with “You will help us, won’t you?” instead of “Will you buy popcorn?” People are much more willing to ‘help someone’ than ‘buy something’.   In addition, when someone has an objection like those listed in Part 5, the response is an open-ended question. It prevents the person from saying no right away. The reason for the youth giving a response to the objection is to gather more information and find a way in which the consumer would say yes to their ask.

2. Upsell

Upselling a person is more than just ‘asking for more’. Upselling is finding out if you are truly meeting the consumer’s needs. Once you get the initial sale, ask the customer if they have someone else for whom they would like to purchase popcorn. This simple statement could double the sale with this customer. Another option once the sale is made is to ask if they would also like to make a donation to send popcorn to troops overseas. Many times the customer will add the change they received to this donation pool.

Second, Upselling is asking if they know of someone else who would be interested in your product. I teach Scouts in my son’s unit when they go door-to-door and make the sale to ask them if they know of someone else in the neighborhood who would want to support me as well by buying popcorn. Often they will mention a person in the neighborhood. You will be amazed at the number of sales your youth has when they say, “Hi my name is Joe Scout. Mrs. Smith down the street suggested I ask if you will help me pay my way in Scouting by buying some popcorn.”

Finally, Upselling requires knowing all aspects of your product line. If the customer is buying two items it may be to their benefit to purchase a pre-bundled package. Understand customers who purchase a pre-bundled package will purchase the same product the next year 78% of the time. My son takes the first day of the popcorn sale and calls all of the people who purchased pre-packaged items. Over the years this is typically $600-700 in sales the first day. In addition, the consumer feels like you are looking out for them by giving them more than what is expected.

3. Follow up

Follow-up is the step which is often overlooked. In the Salesmanship Merit Badge, Requirement 2b is “Follow up with customers after their purchase to confirm their satisfaction and discuss their concerns about the product or service.” How is this done? Ask. I instruct Boy Scouts in my son’s Troop two weeks after delivering the product to ask their customers three questions.

  1. How did they like the product they purchased?
  2. Would they purchase this product or a similar product in the future?
  3. (if they say yes to Question 2) Would they like to purchase additional product for themselves or another person.

I understand getting follow-up information from people who purchase product at a store front is difficult. However, I know of units who place these questions on paper taped to the product with a phone number and web address to fill out the form. It also gives the customer the ability to buy more popcorn online from their home.

4. Say Thank You

Finally, it is important to say thank you. Follow up by going around and placing a thank you card at all of your door-to-door customers. This can be done in coordination with the follow-up survey. This works well if the person is not home to answer the survey. Do this one thing and see your repeat business next year soar.

I hope this six-part series on teaching youth to sell was valuable information. If you have any questions or comments regarding this series, please leave them below.