As champions of the idea that empowered women empower women, we absolutely love how the Girl Scouts are equipping young girls with the skills they need to become confident leaders. Along with being total badasses by declining donations that put restrictions on transgender girls, the Girl Scouts recently introduced dozens of new STEM and outdoor badges so young girls can explore areas where women are still significantly under-represented.
Of course, another way in which the Girl Scouts are empowering young ladies is by teaching them the ABCs of business through their mega popular cookie program (y’all better look under your cushions for some couch change, because the yummy s’mores cookie will return again this year with TWO awesome variations). This is certainly the case for Katie Francis, who marked the centennial anniversary of Girl Scout cookies sales by breaking the long-standing record for the most cookies sold in a Girl Scout career. We recently sat down with the ambitious young cookie boss to learn her secret to selling like a pro.
B+C: At only 15 years old, you recently broke the record for the most cookies sold in a Girl Scout career (101,106 cookies!) when you sold a box of Samoas to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Congratulations! What made you decide to take on such a crazy goal?
KF: The first year that I sold cookies, I placed second in the state with the number of cookies I had sold. I heard that if I sold the most in the state, I could earn a scholarship to go in my 529 college savings account. The scholarship really caught my attention and was the spark that got me started selling lots of cookies. I decided to sell the most that I could the next year and ended up breaking the state record and winning the scholarship.
Aside from the scholarship, I found that I really enjoyed selling cookies and all of the opportunities to give back to the community with the money that our troop earns. After I broke the state record again the next year, I decided to go for the next step and break the national record for a single season. I reached out to Elizabeth Brinton who held the record that she set in the mid-1980s, and she was wonderful and very kind and gave me the advice to think outside of the box. She told me that she sold 18,000 boxes as her single season record in order to reach the career record of 100,000 boxes.
I decided to go for breaking the career record after three years of selling over 20,000 boxes each year, my biggest year being 22,200 boxes. I reached this career goal in my seventh season of selling cookies and it was awesome that it was also the same year as the 100th anniversary of the first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts, which started in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1917. I had the honor of meeting Elizabeth Brinton in person this spring when she flew to Oklahoma City for a special celebration for me after I had broken the record. It was such a surprise and very special.
B+C: If you could boil your cookie selling strategy down to a few key points, what would they be?
KF: First, understand your goal. One of the main strategies that I use is breaking down my goal to make it seem less overwhelming and so I can make sure I am staying on track as I go along. Second, attitude is everything! Another big part of how I sell so many cookies is staying positive. If I find that I am not on track, I keep on selling with a good attitude until I figure out what I should do next. I know that if I was the customer, I would rather buy cookies from someone who is friendly, smiling, and putting energy and effort into what they are doing. Third, dress professionally. I wear my Girl Scout uniform so that people can recognize me as a Girl Scout. And last but not least, show appreciation. I always thank my customers and show them my appreciation for helping me as I wouldn’t reach any of my goals without their support.
B+C: Say a customer comes up to your booth and they look interested in buying a box of cookies, but they still need a little push to actually pull out their wallets. What are some of your go-to selling strategies that you’d use in this instance?
KF: When I am selling at a booth, I have posters that advertise what my troop and I will be doing with the money that we raise. For example, I may mention that we will be helping a local Girl Scout troop that we sponsor with several projects during the year, such as hosting a badge fair for them at a local park. I may also talk about our troop trip goals such as our trip that we took to Barbados to volunteer with two Girl Guide troops, a children’s charity, a special needs school, and a pediatric ward in a hospital. It was an amazing experience getting to know the people there. Customers like to know how we will be using our troop funds to do good things in our community and the world.
We also donate cookies to the US Military that is serving overseas, as well as the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. I always have a large goal of donating lots of cookies, as this is a very important aspect of the cookie sale to me. It is a way to help those that are in need or show appreciation to those that serve our country, and people are often willing to donate cookies to these causes when they may not be interested in buying cookies for themselves.
B+C: We hear you’ve created some pretty awesome cookie songs that you sing to draw in customers. How important do you think having fun is when you’re trying to sell something?
KF: I think that having fun is a very important part about selling for several reasons. First of all, it draws the customer’s attention to you because you are happy. People enjoy seeing someone that enjoys what they are doing, regardless of whether they are interested in buying the cookies. I have had customers come back to my cookie sale booth simply because they changed their mind about buying cookies because they liked my singing. I consider that quite a huge compliment! I also smile because happiness creates more happiness. People often smile back and I think it may brighten their day. All of this makes the experience more enjoyable and in turn, it makes it into something that l look forward to each year. The more that someone works at something, whether it is selling cookies or something else, the more you learn and grow from that experience and it also gives you a lot of great opportunities. Selling can be fun if you can find a way to make it more exciting, so be creative!
B+C: As someone who has also trekked door-to-door in the pouring rain in search for cookie customers, I totally know how driven you need to be for success in the cookie biz. How do you keep motivated when it gets tough?
KF: My goals are my main motivation, and I always start my cookie season with a particular goal in mind. I set daily goals that I need to reach in order to help me reach my overall goal. I know that if I put an effort out and try my hardest each day, I will be able to reach it. I have faith that I can sell the cookies even when sales seem slower. There are always peaks and valleys to sales, but I think my positive outlook helps me see past any problems. When cookie season comes around, it’s just like Christmas to me. I think part of my motivation also comes from my customers. It’s very rewarding to see people react with glee when they see it is Girl Scout cookie season. When one of my customers shares their joy of getting the cookies, it makes me joyful too.
B+C: In the business world, a lot of people turn to online marketing to help attract customers. Do you use any type of online or social media marketing to help sell your Girl Scout cookies?
KF: Girl Scouts offers a way for us to sell cookies through an online platform called Digital Cookie. Councils that participate in the program give girls an opportunity to customize a webpage with information about their goal and even post a short video. We can then email friends and family with the opportunity to buy cookies through the website. I set this up each year and sell some cookies through it, but I personally like to sell cookies the traditional way where I meet my customers in person and can interact with them. I’m very much a people person and because most people really appreciate Girl Scout cookies and like to support the Girl Scout organization, it is a very positive experience to meet people while selling cookies. I know that some girls have had great success selling through Digital Cookie and it is something I will continue to use as well. I also use social media marketing and my own website, but that is to develop my motivational speaking business, as I have found that I love to inspire business people as well as other Girl Scouts.
B+C: If you could give young businesswomen one piece of selling advice, what would it be?
KF: Never stop believing in yourself and all of the things that you can do. Some days will be harder than others, but if you work hard and stay persistent, you will always reach your goal. Just think logically and crunch some numbers, however tedious it may be. If you simplify your goals, it makes it so much easier to reach a super big goal. Lastly, remember that if you don’t put the effort in, you won’t see any results.
8. Finally, (we have to ask!) do you have a new goal in mind for this upcoming Girl Scout cookie season?
KF: I haven’t decided for sure yet, but I do want to sell a large number again next year. I won’t make an official decision until I get into my school year and I know better what my work load will be, as school and other activities are very important to me too. I know that I want to make a difference in my community, and I hope to plan a big project with my Girl Scout troop. One of the coolest parts about Girl Scouts and the cookie sale is that we learn how to manage money and create a plan where we are able to make a positive impact. Many people aren’t aware that we are able to be Girl Scouts through our senior year in high school and we can also earn our Gold Award, which is the highest award that we can earn as a Girl Scout. Each year, the many opportunities offered through Girl Scouts gets better and better. This year, I will be attending the 54th Girl Scout National Council Session as a delegate and the theme is “Experience the Power of a G.I.R.L.” which stands for “Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader,” and I think that is very appropriate to convey what Girl Scouts is all about!
(Photos via Francis Family and Girl Scouts of the USA)