sales lessons learned

2 sales lessons learned from a school bake sale

My daughter is attending a new school this year, new to her that is. Once we arrived, we discovered that all 6th graders get to spend a week at CIMI camp and that we need to raise money to go. CIMI is the Catalina Island Marine Institute. How cool is that? Maggie is in 5th grade this year and we received a letter in the mail at the beginning of the school year showing that her CIMI balance was zero! A zero balance on what?? I got the letter before I had even heard of CIMI camp or knew what it was. It was little frightening to say the least! What were we missing?

Turns out that kids at her school have been hosting bakes sales and other fundraisers since their early years in order to raise money for this trip, which costs about $500 per child. Yikes! We felt behind the game from the beginning. During the school year, kids at this school have early release every Thursday. PTA has organized a series of CIMI bake sales to take place that afternoon and as parents, we can sign up to participate and all the money raised goes into the savings account for our child. Great idea, right?

The school asks us to bring healthy snacks and not go overboard on the sugary snacks. So we complied on our first try and made pumpkin bars and trail mix. One mom brought popsicles and another one brought cupcakes decorated for Halloween!

Guess who made more money?

Guess who came home with leftovers?


sales lessons learnedSales Lesson Learned #1 – You can’t sell something to someone that they don’t want or need.

Most kids would not choose a pumpkin bar over a popsicle or chocolate cupcake slathered in orange icing with sprinkles on top. Not that I can blame them. All of us are in sales in one way or another. Admit it! If you are a small business owner, you have to be good at selling! But no matter how good you are, you can’t sell something to people that they don’t want. You have to sell something to them that they are hungry for! That’s why doing your homework upfront before you create a product or launch a new business is so critical. Make sure there is a market for what you are creating! Another way to put this is to find out where you desire to serve meet’s the world’s hunger. You can’t serve hamburgers to vegetarians!

On our second attempt at the bake sale, we did much better. We were short on time so we had a combination of homemade and store-bought goodies: cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls and Maggie’s infamous brownies!

One of the other traditions at Maggie’s school is that they celebrate all of the class birthdays once a month. So if you had a birthday on October 13, you would bring a goodie to share to celebrate on October 31. (That’s a terrible example since kids are already being flooded with sugar on Halloween, but you get my point.)

As a mom, I am grateful they aren’t getting cupcakes and cookies every day. We do try to manage our kids’ sugar intake and are stricter than many parents. Just ask my kids, they will be happy to tell you what terrible parents we are for not allowing them to eat whatever they want, whenever they want and as much as they want.

Any child who wants to contribute can bake something for the birthday celebration. Maggie started last fall to take her brownies to these gatherings and they were a huge hit. So popular that kids started following her home begging for more! Do you see where I am going with this?

Yesterday, she told everyone in her class that she would be selling her now infamous brownies at the bake sale today. When her class let out, they made a beeline for our table and the brownies were sold out almost instantly, we could have easily sold 3 times as many as we had prepared! One kid paid today to have Maggie make him brownies at home and bring them tomorrow.When the brownies were gone, they bought everything else we had. At the end of the day I think we were left with one chocolate chip muffin.

sales lessons learnedSales Lesson Learned #2: Create a buzz about your products and services ahead of time.

Give prospects a taste of what they want, show them how good it is and limit how many you sell when you launch. There is nothing like creating desire and a waiting list to make people want more!

Next time we have a bake sale, we will bring more brownies. Maggie might even take orders ahead of time (her suggestion, she catches on quickly.)

I sold advertising, both print and digital, for 10 years. One of my biggest challenges was convincing clients that they needed to buy an ad in MY publication more than someone else’s. Sales is a fine art between building relationships and understanding what your clients need and what they are willing to buy.

What are you doing to:

1. Discover exactly what it is that your clients want and how you can best serve them?

2. Create a buzz about your products and services?