The Street Smart Law Blog

Writing 2
  • Frederick L Shelton

Want Success? Two Tremendous Tips from a Ten Year Old

I was a boy scout when I was ten years old. More accurately, a “cub scout” (I wasn’t old enough to be a boy scout yet). Honestly, I wasn’t great at it. I liked camping but back in the 1960’s, you got badges for things like whittling (cutting wood with a knife) and such. Not my forte.

Then came the fund-raising activities. We sold over-priced popcorn that came prepackaged with artificial butter and other, equally unhealthy side accompaniments like caramel, some kind of red dye etc. My job was to go door-to-door and ask people to buy popcorn.

“Hi. I’m a cub scout. Would you like to buy some popcorn?” I would ask. The only word I heard was “No”. And I heard it a lot.

I was horrible at selling. By the end of the first day, I didn’t sell one single package of popcorn. I was ready to give up. That’s when Gay Shelton sat me down for a talk. Mom wasn't just an amazing mom, she was a truly great salesperson. She knew exactly what to say.

“Freddy, there are two things you need to keep in mind. The first is that you’re not selling popcorn." She saw the puzzled look on my face and continued. "Your letting people feel good because they’re helping good little boys like you, grow up to become great Americans. There are little boys and girls in the city (we lived in the suburbs of Detroit) who don’t have good things to do, so sometimes they lose their way and when they grow up, they're like the people on tv." “You mean like criminals?” I asked. Mom smiled at my extreme hyperbole.

“Well that's not exactly where I was going but yes honey, I guess some of them could. Or they just don’t learn how to become great Americans with values like helping others.” This was a time when the cliche about boy scouts, was that we were the kids who helped little old ladies cross the street.

I thought about this. Mom went on.

“The other thing to remember is that if you live your life afraid of a little word like ‘No’, you’ll never get very far. Lots of people will tell you ‘No’. When they do, just ask again. If they keep saying ‘No’, go to the next person until you find someone who will say ‘Yes’! Because eventually someone will say ‘Yes', I promise."

The next day mom walked me out to go door-to-door again. A kind-looking, elderly woman opened the door.

“Hi, I’m a cub scout. Would you like to buy some popcorn so I can grow up to have values and be a great American?” I asked and she said that most beautiful word in the English language: Yes!

“Well sure. I guess if buying some popcorn will make you a great American, I should buy some!” She winked at my mom. Then she asked the price and when I told her, the expression she gave my mom wasn’t quite as friendly. But she’d already said yes and I was giving her my very best puppy dog eyes. I sold my first package of ridiculously over-priced popcorn!

I went to the next door. I got a "No". Same at the next. Then before approaching then next door, I remembered something.

“Hi, I’m a cub scout. Would you like to buy some popcorn so I can grow up to have values and be a great American?” I asked.

The guy looked at me and very politely said “No thank you, but have a nice day.” “You don’t want me to grow up to be a criminal because I don’t have anything to do, do ya!” I practically yelled in the panicky voice of a 10 year old who would obviously be doomed and destitute if my client didn't buy.

He looked at my mom, who was caught off-guard and had her hand covering her mouth in an expression that clearly said “Oh crap! That’s not what I meant for him to say!”

The man burst out laughing and stated that if it meant stopping me from becoming a murderer or whatever, then he had better buy some popcorn.

It became like a new game to a little boy (Google “gamification” to see why this had such a tremendous effect on me). I couldn't wait to get out and try new ways to educate people as to why buying over-priced popcorn would save America. I outsold every cub scout in our region!

The Takeaways:

You’re not selling a product. You’re selling the feeling that product will bring or the experiences it will provide. You need to get your clients to feel or visualize those feelings or experiences, if you want to make a sale.

You’re not selling a service. You’re selling yourself. You’re selling trust, integrity and expertise. Before you sell or market anything about your service, you need to make it clear why people should trust you and why you're the best at what you do.

And if they say “No”, your job is to keep marketing or selling until you find the person smart enough to recognize what you have to offer.

That is what leads to success.

Take it from the greatest 10 year old popcorn salesman in Detroit!