(This article originally appeared in Entrepreneur)
Meet Lilly Bumpus.
Lilly is 8 years old. And she’s sold more than 32,000 boxes of Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Do-si-dos and S’mores this year. No, this is not a joke. Lilly holds the single season record for selling Girl Scout cookies. Did I forget to mention she’s 8 years old?
“She sold her freaking heart out till the last day of Girl Scout cookie season,” Lilly’s mom, Trish Bauer, told Mercury News. “It’s Lilly being Lilly. She does not like somebody telling her something is not possible.”
Moving 32,000 boxes of cookies is a monumental job for even the most experienced salesperson, so you’re probably asking yourself: How in the world did an 8-year-old accomplish this, particularly when most of your salespeople struggle to make their quotas? There’s no silver bullet. There’s no magical wizardry. Lilly just did four simple, yet powerful things to reach this sales level; things that any salesperson of any age working in any company – like yours – can also be doing.
For starters, she has a compelling story. Lilly is a cancer survivor. So her story was built around childhood cancer. She committed to donate most of the money raised by selling the cookies to support childhood cancer research. She also donated thousands of cookie boxes to hospitals and to homeless charities.
“One of the reasons I’m donating to childhood cancer research is because I went through it,” she told Mercury News. “It’s hard, and I thought I could change this just with a box of cookies.”
Who wouldn’t buy from someone – especially a child – with this kind of story? Of course, your story doesn’t have to be this extreme. And no one says you have to donate your proceeds to charity like Lilly has (although donating a portion is a good idea). But you do have to have a story behind the products you’re selling and the organization you’re representing. What is your history? How are you changing the world? How can a customer feel good buying from you?
Lilly also has an impressive organization. That’s because no one, especially an 8-year-old child, can sell at this level alone. She enlisted her family and scores of volunteers in her efforts. She leaned on her “troops” and her Team Lilly Foundation, which is comprised “mostly of cancer survivors, girls still battling the disease or girls who have lost a loved one to the fight” according to Mercury News. Many in the community offered to help Lilly sell cookies. Salespeople need organizations like this because selling is not a solo effort.
“Lilly has always been blessed with the community of supporters she’s had with her,” mom Bauer said.
Lilly is also selling in the 21st century, which is why she significantly leveraged online marketing and social media. While other Girl Scouts trudged around their neighborhoods trying to sell cookies door to door during a pandemic, Lilly leaned on the Girl Scouts’ ecommerce tools. She also posted frequent updates to her Facebookand Instagram pages where she has a combined following of almost 200,000. As a result, she sold cookies to hungry customers in all 50 states as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Egypt, Paris, Rome and everywhere else in the world except Africa.
Finally, she worked her butt off. Every successful salesperson will tell you that selling is long, hard and oftentimes frustrating. Many hours are spent “chopping wood” as my father used to say. Lilly and her parents sold before school and after school. She sold online, posted messages in the evening and did live Facebook updates almost every day. She set up a booth outside her home from sunrise to sunset. She threw herself into selling Girl Scout cookies during the two-month period allowed by the organization. Why?
“I just wanted to be inspiring,” Lily said. “I wanted to help.”
So there you have it. A compelling story. A support organization. An online commitment. A hard work ethic. That’s how you sell 32,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Or whatever else you’re looking to sell.