Community column: Smiles and shoe leather fuel sales for Scout
It’s that time of year again, when a spirited sales force takes to streets, churches, break rooms and shopping centers to lure us away from recently penned resolutions to lose those 5 pounds gained from yuletide feasts and New Year fondue.
Yes, the 2013 Girl Scout Cookie Sale in our region officially began Tuesday.
As an assistant leader for a troop in Radford, I can attest to the challenges and virtues of the project. The sale isn’t exactly the quickest way to build your troop’s bottom line.
It is, however, primarily aimed at empowering the girls, or as the Skyline Council website puts it:
“Buying Girl Scout cookies is more than just handing over $4.00 for a box.
“It’s about the skills and learning a girl gains from interacting directly with you.
“It’s about the experience of running her own cookie business and working with others.”
There are lots of tools for the girls to use in their campaigns. Indeed, the trappings are extensive, including this year’s customized online “business center” dubbed COCO (from COokie COmmand Center).
The New River Valley’s top salesperson for 2012, Megan Robertson, has consistently sold more than 1,000 boxes each year since 2010. And she does it the old-fashioned way — by working hard.
“Lots of cookie booths and going door to door,” the first-year Senior Scout and ninth-grader at Narrows High School says about her approach. “I also write lots of letters to past customers.” Robertson has been in Girl Scouts for 10 years and developed her skills over time.
When pressed for specifics, she elaborates on her direct sales technique: “After I knock on the door, I stand there smiling. When they open the door, they should see a smiling person.” Dale Carnegie would be proud to know her.
If facing resistance, this promotional powerhouse knows how to work other angles.
Asking for donations to support cookies for the troops overseas is a winning response to those with too much willpower or tight budgets.
“Just about everyone is willing to give one or two dollars,” Robertson explains. “Then we take all of the donated money and buy cookies to send to the soldiers.”
This is a special Troop 513 initiative in partnership with the local VFW. Last year, Robertson secured enough support to send 150 boxes to our military. Her goal for 2013 is 200.
According to Cindy Robertson, mother and troop leader, the enthusiasm and will are simply part of her daughter’s nature: “Megan’s New Year resolution list had 12 items on it, … six of which were to try or do something new. That sums Megan up. She is always striving to better herself and attempts new things to achieve that.”
Trips to various locations incentivize selling. The Robertsons have traveled to Savannah, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Williamsburg; and New York City with this active troop. But I suspect that personal drive plays a larger role in the picture with someone like Megan Robertson. She already has a paying job at Anna’s Restaurant and participates on the History MACC (Mountain Academic Competition Conference) team.
Robertson joins an elite rank of top sellers with her performance. She will be honored along with 17 other Scouts this afternoon during the String of Pearls Reception, held at Camp Icimani in Roanoke County.
Each girl receives a genuine pearl and recognition for her hard work. The pearl connects honorees to Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low, who sold her own strands to finance a new start-up — a national Girl Scout organization.
Robertson hasn’t quite figured out what to do with the pearls yet.
“I’m very busy,” she politely reminds me.
Other top sellers from the New River Valley in 2012 were Ericka Nash from Senior Troop 811 in Pulaski with 519 boxes and Abigail Carter from Brownie Troop 1048 in Christiansburg with 408 boxes.
Looking for cookies? Ask your local neighborhood Girl Scout — or go online to the “Find Cookies!” database to find a local booth sale near you.
By Catherine Van Noy
Special to The Burgs | 639-3330