The cookie woman

AT WORK

Terry Mercer, product sales manager, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland

November 30, 2008|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $45,000

Age: 47

Years on the job: Four

How she got started: Before starting with the Girls Scouts of Central Maryland, Mercer worked in the logistics and transportation industry managing segments of the supply chain process and public transportation. During her time off, she volunteered as a Girl Scout leader for 12 years, then later helped on various committees within the organization. When the slot for a product sales manager became available, Mercer decided she would be a good fit.

Typical day: Although cookie sales last three months out of the year, Mercer said her job keeps her busy. Throughout the year, she must get printed materials ready, train volunteers, select awards that will be handed out, and stock and distribute cookies for 1,500 troops in the Central Maryland region.

Mercer often starts her day by answering e-mails and returning phone calls. She then moves on to compiling statistical data, answering any questions that come up, correcting mistakes and managing the sales process. There are warehouses in several locations throughout Central Maryland, and Mercer must often move cases to different locations to accommodate orders.

When the cookie sales wrap up, it's time to move on to the spring fundraiser, which includes selling candies, nuts and magazine vouchers during the months of February, March and April.

"There's really no off-season," Mercer said. "Between reconciling one sale and starting up another, it pretty much runs year-round."

Although the spring fundraiser is not as well-known as the Girl Scout cookie sales, she said it offers troops another opportunity to raise money for their activities.

Mercer works with a group of 20 volunteers on the product sales committee who help her with training programs and disseminating information.

State of the art: Cookies sales are reported and ordered through an online system, making the process almost paperless.

Cookies: Scouts in Central Maryland, which includes Baltimore and five surrounding counties, sell more than 1.6 million boxes during September, October and November. Most girls sell about 100 boxes individually, but top sellers have surpassed 1,000 boxes in one season. The Girl Scout troops retain an average of 56 cents per box.

Best seller: Thin Mints.

Her favorite: Samoas are a longtime favorite. But the newly introduced Dolce de Leche is a close second.

The good: "I love supporting the volunteers who are out there hands-on and making a difference in [the Girl Scouts'] lives."

The bad: She says she has to be quick on her feet and react to ever-changing situations.

Tips for selling: "Be friendly, courteous and know why you're doing it," Mercer says, adding that if the girls know what their goal is for selling the cookies, people are more likely to support them.

Philosophy: Your attitude is important, Mercer says. "I'm passionate about the organization, so it makes it much easier to deal with anything that comes up."

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