The psychology of selling, a lesson learned through a little girl scout’s story
Welcome back boys and girls!! I’m glad you’re here because I want to talk about something that has been racking my brain for years. To others, it’s the psychology of selling, or, using psychology to sell things or to gain brand allegiance. To me, it’s the Holy Grail. I think I’m gaining some ground in understanding this prized tool, all because of a little girl. I’ll tell you how, but of course, it must start with a story.
I was at work a few days ago and I saw this small family of four walk into the apartment building lobby claiming to have permission from the building’s management to set-up shop and sell Girl Scout cookies. (Ah…thin mints!! GOD!! They are so good!!)
After being given a premo section of the lobby near the elevators, the father and mother hauls their tables, chairs and their Girl Scout products out of their SUV. Once everything is inside, the father tapes a hand drawn sign made of poster board on the front of the table. When I say “hand drawn”, you can imagine who did the work. Time to visualize with me! Are you ready?
The sign was very colorful. About “16 crayon colors” colorful. The picture looked almost like a bunch of little basketball players, some with dresses, many doing the Michael Jordan pose with a “ball” in their outstretched hands ready to make a slam dunk. Included was rainbows, stars, scribbles and other random crayon marks. On the sign it was meant to say: Girl Scouts Cookies, $3.50 for each…. What the sign looked like: Gril 2coUt Cookie2, $$$3.50 fo reach. (I used “2” to make up for the literal backwards “S”)
How cute. Well it was! You just had to be there to see it. Any who…. The sign was obviously made by the kids.
With the sign all set, and the boxes of cookies on display, the little Girl Scout was ready for business.
The daughter and father manned the tables and waited for their first customers. People came and went.
No sales. It was heartbreaking ladies and gentlemen. People would comment on the sign, and the father would shake his head in agreement. That’s pretty much the only action they were getting. Then, after a short lull in potential customers walking through the lobby and a little pep talk between father and daughter, I heard something game changing.
A little 7 year old voice shouting, “Hi! Would you like to buy suuuum… Girl Scout Cookiiiiies!”, to a passing lady on her way to work. The woman’s reaction to the little 7 year old girl’s pitch was, uncanny for lack of a better word.
She bought 4 boxes! Four boxes, guys!! Oh, I’m forgetting the most important part to this story segment. I know the lady that bought the 4 boxes of cookies. She is a health conscious, fitness fanatic. With the figure of Jillian Michaels, and no kids.
She’s not going to eat 4 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. As a matter of fact, she gave me her box of peanut butter patties the next day. I’m eating them right now. I just wanted to get that out there. So delicious, but I digress.
After giving me the box of cookies, she explain that all she could think about was her favorite little niece and that she just had to buy. She regretted buying 4 boxes but she said she couldn’t help it.
More and more passerbys fell victim to the charms of the newly born pitch girl. So much so that one guy in particular bought 3 boxes in 3 different visits, 9 boxes total. It was crazy! For every 7 people who walked off the elevator and into the lobby, 6 of them stopped to buy cookies. About half of the people walking into the lobby from outside or from any other part of the building stopped by the tables to stock up on Girl Scout Cookies. She was doing so well, that she didn’t even have to speak anymore. She just watched as people would walk up to her, money in hand.
Then, something happened….
The inevitable potty break! The pint-sized sales girl was escorted by her mother to a relative’s apartment upstairs. The father was left to hold the fort until the little Girl Scout returned.
Things didn’t look good for the father. Sales plummeted. Don’t me wrong, he still made sales, and he put in a good effort. He spoke to almost every person who walked past. But he didn’t have the same obvious selling advantages as his daughter.
For every 5-6 people to walk by, he made one sale. A big difference. I think he knew what to expect.
He knew that his daughter’s presence was good for sales. I think that was the purpose for the pep talk. He knew that his daughter’s voice and way of speaking almost resembles Curly Sue (If you don’t know who that is, Youtube.com is your friend), and the cuteness factor was money! I repeat…. THE CUTENESS FACTOR WAS MONEY!!!
I want to step away from this story to ask a question. If this wasn’t a Girl Scout Operation, and none of the proceeds went to a nonprofit organization, do you think the little seller would still make sales?
How does this story tie into seller psychology?
When we develop our brands or our marketing strategies in particular, there’s a key component that should drive the direction we take in our efforts to appeal to things that touch people on a deep level.
Things that make a person go, “Awwww, that’s so cute!” or “I’m afraid to go outside anymore without having…”.
Knowing what it takes to be able to connect to a person emotionally, and bring them to purchase things, thus easing their emotional flair up, is the holy grail of the psychology of selling.
The low hanging fruit would be to develop marketing around something that people fear. Listerine did it. Listerine was marketed as a cure for “halitosis” to scare consumers into buying a product that they could have mitigated with a more Deceptive Marketing natural solution. The NRA draws tons of members each year by pushing the fear of “Big Government taking away law abiding citizen’s right to firearms”. Companies like Roc Skin care sell the fear of aging and deteriorating beauty to sell skin serums. Viagra and Enzyte (remember Smiling Bob?) made their money selling the fear of losing sex drive and ability.
Depending on your type of business you may or may not be able to push fear in your advertising. It’ll take a team of marketing vets to effectively scare consumers into a used game store.
In the case of the little sales girl from the story, having access to people’s emotions, such as the guilt of ignoring the pitches of a pretty little girl, can springboard your business to riches if displayed effectively.
It just takes some brainstorming. Finding out what your consumer base cares about.
If I were selling clothing to women, I would tap into their vanity. Most women have it.
If I were to sell products or certain services to guys, I would push sex or the ability to impress the opposite sex in my marketing. Manipulative, I know. But isn’t that the idea of advertising?
Business is a game. And at the end of the day, we either win, or we lose. Now I value my morals and integrity, but sometimes they need to take a back seat when it’s time to make sales.
Believe me, I’m probably one of the most honest and loyal people you could meet on this cold planet (unless you know a lot of nuns and monks), but I’m willing to get a little dirt on my finger when I need to. So should you. Some don’t consider advertising and marketing your brand by playing on the emotions of consumers fair or honest, but unless you don’t mind watching your competitors make money over you while going against the grain, I would suggest that you get your hands dirty as well.