Katie Francis, the national record holder for most Girl Scout cookies sold in one year and most lifetime cookies sold, joins us for a special conversation about sales and entrepreneurship. Katie talks about her attitude, behaviors, and techniques for selling over 100,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Learn more about Katie at www.KatieFrancis.com.
Learn how to succeed from a very successful young woman!
Mike Montague:Welcome to the How to Succeed Podcast. The show that helps you get to the top and stay there. This is How To Succeed at Selling Girl Scout Cookies. The show is brought to you by Sandler Training the worldwide leader and sales management and customer service training. For more information on Sandler Training, including white papers, webinars, and more, visit Sandler.com.
I’m your host Mike Montague and my guest this week is Katie Francis. She is the world record holder for most Girl Scout Cookies sold in a season with traditional sales, and as of this season, she now holds the record for most lifetime boxes sold by any one scout. We’re going to talk to her about how to succeed at selling Girl Scout Cookies.
Katie, Welcome to the show. Tell me a little bit about your story and why we’re taking this morning.
Katie Francis: Hi, I’m 16 years old. I started out my first year of Girl Scout by placing second in the state in the number of cookies that I had sold, so I learned that there was an opportunity to earn a college scholarship if I was the top seller and that was my motivation to up my sales the next year. That was the spark that set everything in motion. I reached that goal and received the scholarship in my second year. Each year after that, I kept breaking records and looking for my next goal.
I love selling cookies so much that I wanted to see how far I could go with my sales so I set a goal the next year to sell as many as I could, which ended up being 12,428. So by then, I had broken the state record twice. So I knew that the next step was to beat the national record. I did my research and set an even larger goal of 18,100. So I called Elizabeth Brinton, who held the record before me since the mid-1980s. She gave me the advice to think outside the box. I ended up selling 21,477 that year. Then I set a goal to break that the next year. With that goal, I sold 22,200 of Girl Scout Cookies and the first year that I broke the national record. I found that Elizabeth Brinton had sold so many cookies to reach the career record of 100,000 boxes. This was my next goal, and I recently ended the cookie season with a career record of 101,106.
It’s clear that I’m very goal driven, but each time I set a new record, it was for a different reason. I love the cookie sales so much and look forward to it every year like Christmas, which has inspired me to write some cookie songs to Christmas carols too. Through all this, I discovered I also have a passion for inspiring other people through motivational speaking events and besides Girl Scouts, I’ve done music and dance for a very long time. I study piano, flute, voice and five forms of dance. I also enjoy being in band, choir, and music theater. I found that I love reading, genealogy, geology, and learning of course.
Mike Montague: Wow!
Katie Francis: I’m also a straight A student even during the cookie sale, too.
Mike Montague: Yeah, so you definitely aren’t lazy. Let’s put it that way, but I think for our listeners, you really just hustled on this cookie record because these are traditional sales. You’re standing out in front of grocery stores or doing the normal thing. Walking through the office building or door-to-door and selling these cookies right?
Katie Francis: Right! I go out every day during the cookie sale which this year lasted about 59 days, and I sold for most of that. It usually lasts just for a few months, and my favorite way of selling was setting up in front of grocery stores, and I always like to sing or dance and making up cookie tunes. I just took different popular songs, anything really, like for example, one year I made something to “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” This year I’ve done it to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” quite a lot. I go out, I have fun, and I work hard every day.
Mike Montague: That’s awesome, and those of you who didn’t see it, they can look you up on YouTube now, because you were on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. You actually broke the record selling him the box that took you over the top, and you sang some of your songs, so I won’t make you do that unless you want to. However, people can check out your creative tunes. They’re also just a fun way to get people’s attention, and I guess we should start there which is really in the Sandler world with attitude. When you’re going out sell Girl Scout Cookies, what’s the right attitude to have in mind?
Katie Francis: Well I think that attitude is the most important part of how I sell cookies and I found that about three out five people will say no. So it’s much better to stay optimistic and move on to the next one and never taking no personally because there can be many, many reasons why a person says no. And I found that there are also different ways to sell cookies. I’ve also been asked to train other Girl Scout Troops on how to sell. So each time I’m training, I emphasize with girls that you can’t sell a cookie as easily if you don’t have a good attitude about it. One of the main things I always say is that energy creates energy and happiness creates happiness.
Customers have bought cookies at my booth sales in front of stores because I was friendly and outgoing and they appreciated that because they know it’s hard for most people. And I try to visit with my customers when I have time to get to know them better so to create energy and happiness in the first place. The simplest way is to smile. So while I’m selling cookies, I know that I’m representing my Council and all of Girl Scouts. I always follow the Girls Scout Law and Promise, and it works really well, and I’ve always gotten lots of positive feedback from the people that I sell to because I always behave professionally. So if you really impress someone, they will want to support you, and everybody is friendly in my community.
Mike Montague: Yeah, I think that’s amazing, and obviously that’s a Sandler attitude too. I don’t know why three out of five people would turn down Girl Scout Cookies but you do occasionally have to go on a diet, or you’ve boughten too many cookies already right? So they are legitimate reasons to say no to them.
Katie Francis: Right.
Mike Montague: I guess if you sold that many cookies in like 60 days, you didn’t have a whole lot of bad days but what do you do if the location isn’t working or you need to change things up?
Katie Francis: Sometimes, I find that I’m not quite reaching my goal because I over set smaller goals for how many I need to sell each day and each hour. So sometimes if I’m not reaching that, I know that there’s always another way to sell a cookie and I try to change gears, assess the problem very calmly. I’m still selling as much as I can with the people that are there, and sometimes, I just have to wait it out for a little bit and not every hour is quite the same. So one hour might sell just a little under the goal, and the next I might sell a whole bunch more than I need to. It kind of just evens out. There’s a whole bunch of high and lows to the cookie sale.
Mike Montague: I think that takes us right into behavior. So in the Sandler terms, behavior means what do you have to do every day to be successful. So when you’re pursuing these goals, and really just having these goals is a huge part of that, too. We’re kind of already talking about behavior, but I love that you have the plan to do that every day. Can you share with us what some of your plans and goals are that help keep you on track?
Katie Francis: During the cookie season, I always sell after school as much as I can. So, of course, I have to juggle some lessons or classes and stuff like that, but I always try to sell for as many hours as I can as well as on the weekends. And, I just go out every Saturday and Sunday whenever I can, and sometimes, I might have a conflict with my new high school schedule. I’ve gotten a little busier but I still always try to find time to squeeze in and sell cookies.
Mike Montague: Has the way you sold changed over the years? I’ve always wondered like can you go sell 1,000 boxes to one person and make your job easier or have you found that just being in a public place with a lot of traffic is the best way to sell a bunch.
Katie Francis: Well, I really don’t sell very much to one person ever, but during a cookie sale, my favorite way of selling is just setting up in front of grocery stores cause that’s where I see a whole bunch of people walking by. I always think, “Okay, I need to go where the people are.” So, I always go to a busy Walmart or something like that. Throughout the years, I’ve created a mailing list of people that’s fairly small and changes every year, but I’ve been able to create a few relationships within my community, and it’s been nice to go back to some of the same people every year.
Mike Montague: Yeah. That’s great and I know that you had a website set up this year there’s an official Girl Scout website, and we should warn people that while they can buy them from resellers on Amazon and stuff, sometimes those are expired cookies and no money goes to the Girls Scouts. So they want to find an official website, right?
Katie Francis: Right, there’s something that girls can do and some councils called Digital Cookie, and it’s where girls can set us their very own website. They can give out the link to different customers, and we get to put up videos and a progress bar for where we are on our goal.
Mike Montague: Cool and did that help you out at all this year?
Katie Francis: I really didn’t sell very much from that, but I found that it is very helpful for some other girls, and they’ve gotten to sell a whole bunch of cookies through that.
Mike Montague: Well, what about any other techniques or any other secrets or tips or tricks that you could share for girls that are out there or maybe parents that have to help their young girls sell cookies?
Katie Francis: Well, I believe that technique is so important because it helps me determine what are the best strategies for reaching my customers. I found that through a lot of trial and error that if I leave out even one of several elements that my sales will go down. For example, if I don’t sell in my Girl Scouts uniform, on a particular day maybe because of the weather, it makes a difference because I don’t look like a Girl Scout while I’m out selling cookies, I connect to people and strive to make a great first impression.
I enjoy creating new songs and changing the words to popular songs to make what I call Cookie Tunes, and that’s one of my secrets to success. I also make sure that people know all the different options while I’m selling cookies. Girl Scouts have really advanced in the last few years so girls can accept credit cards, offer gluten-free and vegan options, and sell cookies online. So if people don’t know about these options, they may not buy the cookies, so I have signs that states all the things that we have available. When I talk to my customers, I share my goal with them and tell them what my troop plans to do with the money that we earn.
Something that helps me in my cookie sale is that I pass out kindness coins, which are little colorful coins that say encouraging words. I like to give them to people who are exceptionally kind, and I enjoy brightening someone’s day in return. I also show appreciation by sending out thank you cards to people at the end of the sale.
Mike Montague: Wow, that’s awesome and a really cool, nice customer service bonus that you do. I also saw on one of your videos that you do something for troops overseas and stuff too, right?
Katie Francis: Yeah. We send donated to the military serving overseas, and also our council personally donates cookies to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma so I always make sure that people know about that if they just don’t want the calories of cookies, they can choose to donate and support me on my goal.
Mike Montague: Wow, that’s a really cool way to give back and sell cookies. Katie, anything else you want to add for people out there to know how they can get to their best and stay there?
Katie Francis: One of the main factors of my success is bringing everything back to the basics. So this is the 100th year of the Girls Scout Cookie Sale, the so the chances are that most people grew up with this product and love them already. I try to make my sell unique by always smiling and being friendly, dressing and acting professionally, and learning from experiences that I have in order to use several elements that help me to sell cookies. These include singing cookie tunes, making sure people know all the options they have like accepting credit cards, sharing what my goal is, and showing appreciation.
Mike Montague: Once again we’re talking with Katie Francis. She is the record holder for Most Girls Scout Cookies sold. Katie, I’m interested to know how you defined success?
Katie Francis: One of the easiest ways to define success is reaching your goal, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. I believe that your success is measured by the experiences that you gain and if you enjoy what you’re doing or not. There are some girls that are so concentrated on their goal that they really don’t enjoy any part of the cookie sale. Life is more about the journey than the destination. I’ve gained many, many skills from the cookie sales like basic business skills, the importance of giving back, and how to speak in front of larger audiences without getting nervous this is why I consider my cookie sales so successful.
Mike Montague: What was your biggest lesson learned along the way or hurdle that you had to get over?
Katie Francis: Well I’ve learned quite a few lessons, but one of the biggest things can be summed up into an acronym that is G.I.R.L, girl. The G stands for Go-Getter, and I put this into action by setting large goals and knowing that there are no limits to what I can achieve. I usually set a goal, reach it, and then set another during the cookie sale. I stands for Innovator, and I have taken the advice of thinking outside the box by building a mailing list of some contacts that support me on my cookie sale every year but knowing I will have to expand on that list every year because things change with time. R stands for Risk Taker, which I put into place by ordering thousands of cookies at a time knowing that I need to sell all of them. On the other hand, I never doubt that I can do it. Lastly, the L stands for Leader. I’ve had many opportunities to do public speaking events with large companies and Girl Scout Troops and their council. The things that I love most about having these opportunities is finding my spark and sharing it to ignite a flame in others, metaphorically speaking.
Mike Montague: I love all of that. It fits right into the Sandler principles and things we talk about on this show a lot, so I appreciate that.
Katie Francis: Well, Great!
Mike Montague: What is your super power or thing that you lean on when you absolutely need to be successful that day?
Katie Francis: The thing that drives me so much to do all these amazing things and what I consider as my super power is goal setting. I believe without a reason or desire to set these goals, I would have never learned and achieved what I have done from the cookie sale.
Mike Montague: Where did you learn goal setting? Do you think it’s just something that you picked up along the way or was there a moment where it clicked, and you learned that it worked for you?
Katie Francis: Well, really I kind of naturally picked it up, and I found that there are quite a few skills that I’ve learned from the cookie sales that just comes easily. That’s one of the things that I enjoy about the sale is that it’s taught me so much just through a natural process.
Mike Montague: And this one might be tough cause I know you’re familiar with Sandler Training but you haven’t been through a whole lot yet. I don’t know that you need a whole lot of our help, but we also help winners get even better. What is your favorite Sandler rule?
Katie Francis: My favorite Sandler rule is #34, Work Smart, Not Hard, because I think that this is a great goal for me. I don’t think I’m there yet because I struggle with always falling into the routine of working harder to meet my goal at the cookie sale. I log enough hours every week to qualify my cookie sale a full-time job, but I think that working smarter is definitely something I need to improve upon next year especially with being in high school and the demands of homework and activities that take my time. I also believe that this rule can help me improve my sales without putting in more hours because there are no more hours in my day.
Mike Montague: What is next for you? How many more years are you going to sell cookies and do you have any plans for after that? Obviously, you’ve got some good scholarships going.
Katie Francis: Yeah, I don’t know what I’m going to do for college, but I do have three more years to sell cookies until I graduate from high school and in Girl Scouts, I also planned to go for my Gold Award, which is my next goal.
Mike Montague: Let’s wrap up everything for everybody and do some lighting round questions really quick. What’s one attitude you would like girls to have when selling cookies?
Katie Francis: Always put your best foot forward and don’t take no personally. Remember, happiness create happiness and energy creates more energy.
Mike Montague: And a key behavior to do?
Katie Francis: Act and dress professionally. A smile or friendly hello can be the thing that someone needs to brighten their day.
Mike Montague: And the best technique to use?
Katie Francis: Have something that is unique to you and makes someone want to support you and your endeavors. My personal technique is singing cookie tunes and always showing sincere appreciation.
Mike Montague: Katie, anything else you want to share with girls that are out there in scouting and trying to sell cookies?
Katie Francis: Well my cookie sale experience has been an amazing journey, and I can’t wait for what next year brings. I believe you can create amazing opportunities in whatever you pursue by setting goals without setting limits and in turn achieving your dreams.
Mike Montague: I think I’ve mentioned on the show before that I’m an Eagle Scout and I think I’ve even polished off a sleeve of Girl Scout Cookies this week. So I’m a big fan of both, good luck with that and scouting, and the Girl Scout Cookies. Until we meet again, good selling.
Katie Francis: Well thank you very much.
Mike Montague: Katie, thanks for being on the show. You can find Katie at KatieFrancis.com where she does public speaking and you can help support her and her quest to continue to crush the record for Most Cookies Sold. You can find Sandler Training at Sandler Training on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, and get any of our free resources at Sandler.com and as always you can subscribe or leave us a review on Itunes or Google Play. Thank you for listening and remember whatever you are, be a good one. The How to Succeed Podcast is brought to by Sandler Training, the worldwide leader in sales management and customer service training for individuals all the way up to Fortune 500 companies with over 250 locations. For more information on Sandler Training visit Sandler.com.
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