Last Monday evening, I was walking up the trail on Melita Island to the Order of the Arrow ceremony area (what we call “the OA bowl”) for our camp’s opening campfire.
An opening campfire gives the staff a chance to show their stuff, do some skits, songs and generally be funny for the boys in the crowd. It’s a great way to show off the staff to the boys – and give the campers some ideas for their camp’s closing campfire, where each troop gets to do a skit, song, or similar.
I was near the end of the line of 250 or so people hiking single file up the trail to the bowl when a young (15-16 years old) camp staff member caught up and joined me. A few minutes later, he heard the boys in front of us talking as we hiked up the trail.
OA members know that it is our tradition to be silent on the trail to the OA bowl – but 12 year old boys excited about their first campfire on their first visit to Scout camp have no idea about these kinds of things, so they are quite naturally chatty, laughing and excited.
When we approached the first group of chatty 11-12 year olds, the staff member raised his voice and belted out “No talking on the trail!”
Naturally, the boys didn’t have a clue why he said this to them, but they complied – for about 50 yards. He started to take off and get on them again when I put my hand on his shoulder and suggested a different approach: A sales job, packaged in mystery.
We stopped for a moment as the boys walked along in front of us, talking again as you’d expect. I suggested that he walk up, bend down to their level so they are face to face, and ask something like this: “Hey, did you guys know that it’s a long time camp tradition to walk in silence on the trail to the Order of the Arrow bowl?”
With a skeptical look that only a 15 year old can serve up, he asked if I thought it would work. I said “Give it a try, it can’t hurt”, so off he ran to catch the guys in front of us.
A few minutes later, he came up to me and told me that he couldn’t believe it, but it worked. The boys were quiet the rest of the way down the trail to the OA bowl.
Sales and packaging isn’t just for toothpaste. No matter what you’re “selling”, you have to get into the head of your prospect and as Robert Collier said “Join the conversation already going on in their minds” in order to accomplish your goal – whether you’re selling a car or trying to quiet a group of 12 year olds on a campout.
By the way, our guys did the raisin bran skit at the closing campfire Friday night.