It’s Girl Scout Cookie season. And if you want to sell ideas during a presentation, take a lesson from those sash-wearing hoards that are hawking Thin Mints door to door.

You might want to use what I call the Girl Scout Cookie Theory of Persuasion.

Let me explain.

When my daughter Annie was a Girl Scout, we would go around the neighborhood together. Next door we’d ring the doorbell and Mr. Morton would come to the door. “Hi Annie,” he would say. “How can I help you?”

“Would you like to buy some cookies?” my daughter would say.
Of course Mr. Morton would say “yes” and buy a couple of boxes.

Now why did he buy the boxes of cookies?

Because those are the rules! You have to buy the cookies. You buy the cookies because you have a relationship with your neighbor.

What does this have to do with presenting and persuasion?

Before giving a presentation, consider calling up your key listeners and asking them about their needs. That call will certainly help you focus your message. But it will also build a relationship. And as anyone that sells Girl Scout Cookies knows, relationships persuade.

Let’s say that you’re going into the CFO seeking her approval for a new sales training program. You know that the cost of the program is high: $100,000 a year. But you’ve run the numbers and can easily see a return on investment of $2 million in new sales over the next two years.

You have a strong case, no doubt about it. Who wouldn’t invest $100,000 for a $2 million return?

But let’s say that the CFO doesn’t really know you. She might be inclined to be skeptical of your data. Everyone wants money. And everyone touts a great return on investment.

So what can you do to make her more likely to buy into your plan? You can ask for a brief call to understand her concerns in advance of the meeting. “I just want to make sure that I don’t waste your time,” you’ll say.

That call won’t necessarily win the day. But it could put a thumb on the scale in your favor. The CFO knows you a little better and will tend to trust you more. That trust might be that little something extra that makes her want to buy your cookies.

Joey Asher

Joey AsherJoey Asher has worked with thousands of business people helping them learn how to communicate in a way that connects with clients. His new book 15 Minutes Including Q&A: a Plan to Save the World from Lousy Presentations” is available now. He is also the author three previous books including “How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You from the Competition”, “Selling and Communication Skills for Lawyers” and “Even A Geek Can Speak.”