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Tips for selling Girl Scout cookies door to door

If you're planning to go door to door to sell Girl Scout cookies, consider a few of these helpful tips before you go.

Selling cookies door to door

Whether you’re brand new to selling cookies… Or maybe you’ve been out selling already, but you’re wondering what you might do differently. If you’re planning to go door to door to sell Girl Scout cookies, consider these tips before you go.

How we’ve learned

Why would you listen to us? So far, we have six years of experience selling Girl Scout cookies, and we’re now on our seventh year of cookie sales. We’ve literally sold thousands of boxes of cookies, many of those through door to door sales. We now have two daughters selling. Sometimes, we go out selling with just one girl and one parent. Other times, we go out with what feels like a small team that includes the whole family plus some friends.

Sisters selling cookies
Our girls, selling door to door last year with their cookie carts.

Our councils typically have a couple weeks of cookie season sales before booth sales start. I believe most councils throughout the country operate like this. So these first couple weeks before cookie booths start are a great time for the girls to get out, practice in-person sales techniques, and build their confidence.

So, how about those sales tips?

Before you go out

Bring change with you every time. This one is important, and one we often forget until after we’ve already left our house. You’ll primarily need five dollar bills (and also one dollar bills if your troop sells cookies that aren’t priced at $5). We typically find that about $30-50 in fives and ones is plenty to get through the first hour of selling. Then you’ll usually build up enough small bills through sales anyway.

Prepare your Girl Scout for mixed reactions. You’ll encounter the gamut, from overjoyed homeowners that dote on your little scouts. To kids who beg their parents to buy them cookies. To folks who say they’ve already bought some. Or their granddaughter/friend/neighbor is selling so they can’t buy from you. To grumpy “NO, thank you!”s (and that’s if they’re polite). Most people dislike solicitors. And some don’t even like those selling Girl Scouts cookies.

Some people legitimately can’t eat sugar, or are on a diet. Some will offer any excuse to cover up the guilt over saying no. Just make sure your scout is prepared for the range of people she might meet. Advise her to politely thank all the “no” people anyway, and wish them a nice day or evening. It’s always better to leave on a positive note, than to just walk away without saying anything.

Buddy up with a friend or sibling who is also a scout. This makes the time selling more interesting, and can help build confidence. Tag team on who does the greeting and speaking, and who retrieves the cookies. Or have a more experienced seller model and help train a less experienced seller. Ideally, they’re from the same troop. But regardless, just keep track of sales while you’re out, and split them appropriately at the end of the day.

Walking up some steps to sell Girl Scout cookies
Pairing up with a friend to go door to door can help boost confidence, allows girls to trade off responsibilities, and makes selling more fun.

Choose a sales area ahead of time. Pick a safe, dense block of houses or apartments in your neighborhood or one not too far away. Have an association or familiarity with the neighborhood if possible. People like to ask where your girl goes to school, what troop they’re in, or how far away you live. Chit chat and small conversations tend to spring up that help with familiarity and sales, especially if they know you live nearby.

Keep track of areas you cover. Do this, even down to the block and which side of the street you’ve covered. Before you leave, use a desktop or laptop computer, zoom into a section of Google Maps where you’ll know you’ll be, and print out that map.  (Pro tip: take a screenshot of Google Maps, and print the screenshot, instead of printing via a browser control. You can get an even larger map this way.) Bring the printed map with you, and use a colored pen, marker, or highlighter to mark off blocks you’ve visited.

Go over safety rules. This is a great time to review safety rules with your girls. Cover all the common sense things you know about: staying on the sidewalk, crossing the street, using crosswalks. Advise everyone to take extra care when crossing driveways, and watch out for cars that may be backing out, especially when shrubs or fences may obscure sight lines. And make a strict rule that your girls are never to go inside the door, even if invited to come in by someone who seems friendly; they should always wait outside.

Selling Girl Scout cookies requires being prepared

What you carry the cookies in matters. You’ll be lugging them all over the place, up and over curbs, and maybe up and down driveways. Some of you will want light loads. Others will prioritize carrying more cookies for longer routes. If available, get a lightweight cart from your Girl Scouts store and MacGyver it up with empty girl scout cookie cases like we’ve done. The girls can even carry these carts if they’re not too loaded up.

Selling Girl Scout cookies with a cart and cookie menu
Here’s our youngest with our custom cookie menu (see further below) and her cookie cart.

In addition to the official lightweight Girl Scout cookie cart we sometimes let the girls pull on their own, we also picked up a foldable camping wagon from a sporting goods store about four years ago. It was relatively inexpensive, and has served us well. If we arrange them right, we can fit up to ten cases of cookies in it, which gives us enough for at least a couple hours of straight selling.

Bring the right amount of cookies. Prioritize bringing more of the the best selling cookies over the less-popular options. Ideally, bring all varieties with you. But in our case, Thin Mints and Samoas (or Caramel deLites for ABC Bakers) sell at a rate of almost 2:1 compared with other varieties. So plan accordingly.

Bring signage. We’ve noticed when we’re carrying a simple “Girl Scout cookies sold here” sign, or when we’ve decorated our wagon with cookie signage, people driving by will stop or circle the block and come back to us asking if they can buy cookies from us. Girl Scouts stores carry signage you can purchase, or it’s perfectly acceptable to have your girls make their own signage. Stiff, corrugated plastic signs are waterproof and seem best at resisting getting banged around during transport and walkabouts.

A wagon with signage attached
Adding cookie signage to your cart or wagon, whether it be purchased or homemade, attracts more potential sales.

Use a printed cookie menu. It’s so much easier for your girls to sell with a printed menu. Councils often provide these as sales tools the scouts can use, and we’re big fans of them. It’s so easy for girls of any size or age to walk up to a door with a printed menu, and hand it to someone to look over close-up, while the girl talks about her favorite cookie varieties. Or which cookies are vegan or gluten-free. Using a menu is so much easier for girls than lugging a cart or wagon up driveways and stairs, or trying to remember and describe each cookie variety without pictures to help. Plus, the photos and descriptions on a menu can be much larger than on the order sheets you get from your council.

Our custom Girl Scout Cookies Menu
The custom-designed Girl Scout Cookies Menu we use for door to door sales.

Our custom-designed Cookie menu. We use a custom menu that I designed a couple years ago, and I keep it updated each year. If you don’t have access to a menu from your council, or just want to use ours, the version we use is now available as a PDF on Etsy for a small fee. I designed two versions, one menu for troops that sell cookies from Little Brownie Bakers (LBB), and a menu for troops that sell the cookies from ABC Bakers. Both come with and without pre-printed prices per box. Buy it once, and print as many as you need.

We’ve found it helpful to print it on heavy card stock, then laminate each menu to keep it durable and protected. Get them laminated at an office supply store. Or I know FedEx Office stores have self-service laminating stations that cost about $2.50 to laminate each 8.5 x 11 sheet. And the lamination is nice and thick, and come out with no bubbles.

Stay hydrated. Bring bottles of water. Both you and your girls need to stay hydrated. Bonus if your wagon has bottle holders built in to it.

Make sure the girls are wearing their vests or sashes. Not only is this part of the Girl Scout expectations. Neighbors like asking about the patches girls have earned. And it helps identify Girl Scouts walking around the neighborhood to passersby as a potential source of cookies!

Prepare for variable weather. Layer clothing. Have a spot reserved in a backpack or in your cart/wagon to shove a sweatshirt or jacket, or anything you each shed along the way. If it’s warm when you embark, remember to bring layers to add for colder temperatures later in the day.

While out selling Girl Scout cookies

Record inventory before you start. Then count everything again when you’re done. I can’t stress this one enough. We use custom-designed tally sheets (available on Etsy for LBB and ABC) to track sales as we’re out and about, and we try to keep accurate counts. But inevitably, someone forgets to mark a few boxes, or can’t remember which boxes were part of a larger sale, even after just walking away. Getting an accurate count of what you’ve sold during the day is much easier if you know what you started with. Then you’re able to subtract ending inventory when you’re done for the day. This makes matching up sales with cash on hand at the end of the day much less stressful.

Cookie Sales tally sheets
The custom-designed cookie sales tally sheets we use, both for recording starting and ending inventory, and for marking off each sale with tally marks.

Timing matters. We’ve noticed that selling early in the morning on a weekend is harder and sometimes less productive than selling closer to lunchtime, or afternoons and early evenings. Some people like to sleep in on weekends, or wake up and go do something, or they just don’t feel like buying cookies as much on Saturday or Sunday mornings. But let the hour get closer to lunchtime or anytime after, and you’ll typically notice folks are more willing to buy, at least in our experience. Weekdays in the early evenings seem to work well too, especially after most folks are home from work. We prioritize homework over selling cookies. So our girls know they need to have everything done before we go out selling.

Use your car as a base, not house to house transport. Park your car somewhere safe in the neighborhood where you intend to sell. Bring extra cases of cookies if you have them, and leave in your car as a backup whatever you may not be able to carry in your rig. Ideally in a trunk or an area out of sight, and out of a hot sun. Revisit your car as necessary to restock.

Watch your girls closely. An adult should always walk up to doors with younger scouts. If you don’t walk up to every door with older scouts, stress that you must be able to see them at all times. If a front door is out of sight from the sidewalk or driveway, always have an adult go with the girl to the door.

No soliciting signs. Advise your girls to watch out for “No soliciting” signs, and avoid going to those doors entirely. Although you will occasionally see qualification signs that are exceptions, like “No soliciting, unless you’re selling cookies.” We like going to those houses.

Gate etiquette. For places you encounter with fences and gates before you get to the front door, as long as the gate isn’t locked  and requires a key, we consider gates that are waist high or lower fair game to open to get to the front door. Just make sure the gate gets closed behind you before you go to the front door. This prevents dogs from escaping who like to bolt out of the front door as soon as it opens.

Selling cookies door to door

Doorbells and knockers. You’ll encounter a variety of front-door attention-getters. Younger girls may take some coaching on where to spot doorbells. Have them listen and make sure they hear a doorbell ring inside. You’ll also notice “Ring” doorbells are becoming more popular, and have integrated cameras, microphones, and speakers so homeowners can see you and speak to you through their phones, even when they’re not home. Door knockers work well, but can sometimes be installed too high for little girls to reach.

No’s and “houses where nobody is home” come in groups. For whatever reason, people who say no, or houses with no one home seem to come in sets, one after another. These are especially hard for younger girls to take, and can quickly discourage them from continuing on. Encourage them, and tell them they’re doing great, even when they hit a row of these downers. They’ll eventually hit another sale that will give them the boost they need. Over time, you’ll learn to spot houses where it looks like no one’s home, and you’ll skip a few of those to lessen the tax of climbing a steep driveway or set of stairs, only to be left waiting after ringing a doorbell.

Anything else?

Have anything else that you’ve found works well for you that you could add? Feel free to add more tips below in the comments.

And for those of you who are past walkabouts and door to door sales, and you’re already gearing up for booth sales, read our take on How to maximize your Girl Scout cookie booth time.

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