Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Candy Bar Story

"Get away from my door!" shouted the old man. 

"Yes please I'll take 3.  Nice to meet you and good luck." said the kind lady next door.  

I learned a lot about sales and marketing from simple candy bar fund raising events as a kid.  I come from a large (church-going) family and when I say we had to work for what we had, I truly mean it.  Our church was a smaller church and there weren't huge budgets for this or that but there was always an effort to keep local youth actively involved and interested in attending our services. Each summer, for example, our little church worked to raise enough money for the youth groups to go to Six Flags Atlanta (I grew up in Georgia).  This was the "IT" thing to do each summer and created great back to school bragging rights.  Since there wasn't a huge budget for these kinds of outings, we all had to put on the famous quote that says "IF IT'S TO BE - IT'S UP TO ME!" 

Our youth group leaders worked hard each year to figure out a way to raise enough money for the annual outing to Six Flags (plus gas for the cars, meals for everyone who went and a little extra for souvenirs or what have you). This planning usually involved some sort of fundraiser for the kids to do (typically selling candy bars door to door).   If you're terrified of sales and public speaking, or if you have no sales experience at all - CONTINUE READING.

At the time of this writing, I decided to call one of the former youth leaders and ask for her reflections on those years and she said "We (the youth leaders) had to figure out how many kids were going, how much money was needed overall, and how we would make it happen.  Of course the adults and parents contributed what they could financially but we still needed larger funding to get that many kids paid for.  Also, it wasn't just a trip to Six Flags that we were working toward, there were so many learning opportunities with these fundraising events."

My father remembers those fundraisers and shared that they leveled the playing field for all of the kids going to Six Flags rather than shining a light on those that could or could not afford to go. Some parents, he said, could have easily afforded the tickets for their kids but not everyone was in the same boat.  Because of this, the church requested that all kids participate in the Six Flags fundraisers.   So the church ordered however many candy bars that were needed and those pieces were divided equally among the kids participating.  On the day of the sale, we began with lessons of being polite when knocking on someone's door, and saying please and thank you even if we were turned down. We then piled into cars and off we went to earn our way.  Throughout the sales day, as you can imagine, we heard everything from "I'm in the middle of eating!"  to  "I'll take 10!" We even heard "You kids get off my porch!"  The best rejection line was always "NOT TODAY!"

I personally know people that would do anything to avoid public speaking or sales.   To me, the outcome outweighed any of those discomforts and these annual door to door sales experiences did some serious strength building for me.  From persuasive selling and relationship buildinggoal setting and goal getting to overcoming rejection, these fundraising activities built confidence and reasoning as well as team building and productivity awareness. I personally didn't want to sell 50 candy bars one at a time, I wanted to sell 5 candy bars 10 times and move ahead.  

It would be a normal thought to feel your job was done when you sold through your share of candy bars but that wasn't the case.  The day wasn't over until everyone had sold through their share. Although I was excited about a trip to Six Flags, I just wanted to get the day over with and I'm sure the adults did as well.  So when we sold through our share individually, we pitched in and grabbed a hand full of candy bars from anyone else that hadn't sold through in order to get the job done as quickly as possible.  There was no "my part" and there were no excuses.  The end result wasn't about me, it was about the group.

The conclusion?  I would personally encourage these activities for any youth groups or organizations and I would encourage the roll out to look the way it did when I was a kid.  Divide the work equally (to teach equality of individuals) and then promote pitching in (team building and contribution) when needed.  These fundraising activities allowed me to work harder when someone told me "NO" or if they had a silly reason "why not" or that they didn't have the heart to support a group of kids trying to earn their way to Six Flags.  From that simple exercise as a kid, I've always looked at things through many different lenses when selling, building,  or marketing.  What WOULD make this person say yes?  What's behind that "no" they just gave?  "Not today?"  What's that about.  We're not coming back tomorrow and these candy bars are the best.  Give me two bucks and I'll eat yours for you how's that!

So go sell candy bars and learn a lesson or two while making money.  Any adults out there needing some team building exercises - this goes for you as well.  Keep it light, fun, and upbeat so the experience with a public audience is strengthened not stifled.  Encourage group sales outings to learn from one another.  This is sales training at its finest!!!

Yours in beauty, 

Billy Lowe

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