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Girl Scouts rev up $2 million sales effort

John Seelmeyer

Krista Rousse sets into motion a $2.1 million sales organization this week, an organization built around a sales force that was more interested in Furby than Thin Mints a few weeks ago.

Girl Scouts from Susanville to Reno, Elko and Ely are on the streets, gathering pre-orders from their neighbors and their parents’ co-workers for the organization’s annual cookie sale.

By the time they are done in March, the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada expect to sell 43,806 cases of cookies, which translates into 525,000 individual boxes at $4 each, says Rousse, a product sales specialist with the Reno-based council.

The cookie sale, which generates about 70 percent of the operating revenue of the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada, is built around a sales force whose age ranges from 5 to 18 years old.

Like any vice president for sales, Rousse was deep into planning this year’s campaign months before the launch. The parent Girl Scouts organization and ABC Bakers, the Richmond, Va., company that’s one of two bakers licensed to produce Girl Scout cookies, were beginning to distribute sales collateral and training materials early last summer.

Rousse, meanwhile, last autumn began training the cadre of 450 adults most of them leaders of Girl Scouts who will oversee the sale across the sprawling region served by Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada.

The council, whose membership of 4,500 is the third-smallest Girl Scout council in the United States, covers 9,600 square miles.

It’s critical, Rousse says, to pay close attention to the cookie-sales training of Girl Scouts in isolated communities as well as those in big cities.

A Girl Scout in Eureka, for instance, has been among the council’s best-performing cookie sellers even though she is the only Girl Scout in the central Nevada community of about 2,000 people.

“At least she has a monopoly,” says Rousse.

And the council’s top seller last year was a Girl Scout who took orders for 2,700 boxes in the tiny community of Walker River in Mineral County.

The skills that the 450 leaders of the cookie sale build among members of the Girl Scout sales force vary widely from the kindergartners who are 5-year-old Daisies to high school students who are senior Girl Scouts.

“The poor little Daisies are just trying to get their heart rates settled down so they can ask for the order,” says Rousse.

Older girls undertake sophisticated work in goal-setting, people skills and business ethics as they prepare for the cookie sale.

The training sticks with Girl Scouts for a lifetime.

Some 80 percent of the American women who own businesses were members of the Girl Scouts as a youngster, says Wendy Firestone, development and communications manager of the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada.

Incentives begin with badges and other tokens of success upward through levels of “Cookie Dough,” cash that Girl Scout troops can use for activities through the year.

About 70 percent of the cookie sales will result from the pre-sale work that’s beginning this week. In March, Girl Scouts will be selling direct to shoppers at high-traffic locations such as grocery stores.

Not that buyers need a lot of convincing to stock up on Caramel deLites, Thanks-A-Lots or the Mango Cremes that will be introduced this year.

During cookie-sale season, Rousse says the Girl Scouts of the Sierra Nevada office typically receives 50 to 60 e-mails a day from people who want to know where they can buy cookies.