December 20, 2010

The Prince of Popcorn

Jon Potter Sr., and his son, Cub Scout Jon Potter Jr., sit with a bowl of popcorn and the
PS3 his Jon Jr. won for being tops in popcorn sales for the state.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Jon Potter Jr. has the fire in his belly for salesmanship — when it’s not full of popcorn, that is.
When it comes to popcorn sales, Jon Jr. credits
 his dad with helping him stay hungry. 
For the second year in a row, the 10-year-old Cub Scout was the state’s top seller in the annual Boy Scouts of America Trail’s End national fundraising popcorn sale.
His strategy is simple.
“I just go door-to-door and say, ‘Would you like to buy some popcorn to support Cub Scouts?’” said Jon, who sold $8,751 worth of popcorn, besting his 2009 sales record by $2,735.
While he’s at it, he also makes a pitch for the health benefits of the Trail’s End products, made with canola oil — and he is not shy about letting customers in on which flavor is his current personal favorite, the Cheese Lover’s Collection.
His pack leader, Lori Douglas, said she is most impressed that Jon makes all his sales going door-to-door rather than relying on group sales events held at locations around the community,
 where the customer comes to you. “It’s all one kid’s initiative to be the top seller, and Jon does a great job for our pack,” said Douglas, who explained that 35 percent of whatever the pack sells goes back to the pack. This year, the 38 Cubs in Pack 98 sold a little more than $17,000. 

Douglas’ son, Robbie, sold the most after Jon in the pack, coming in at about $1,500 in sales, said Douglas. 
“It wasn’t close to what Jon sold, but when you put it all together, our pack did an outstanding job,” Douglas said. 
There are incentives beyond the Pack profit margin. 
This year, Jon walked away with the top-seller’s prize, a Play Station 3, which is plugged into the TV in his living room, next to last year’s prize, a Nintendo Wii. 
“I’m going to go for an Xbox next year,” said Jon, who has already set a personal sales goal of $12,000 for himself. 
His dad, Jon Potter Sr., couldn’t be prouder. 
“I told him I’m going to need a dump truck to transport all that popcorn if he makes his goal,” said Potter, who accompanies his son on sales calls. He sees the fundraiser as a terrific life lesson for his son. 
“He meets new people — and he gets to learn a lot about people in the process,” said Potter, as the two recalled some of the better — and worse moments — on this year’s popcorn sales trail. 
Like the lady who gave a wrong address by accident, so that when Jon tried to deliver the goods, he was threatened. 
“She said she was going to call the police on me,” said Jon, who was able to laugh about it in hindsight even though, at the time, it made him cry. 
“That was a bad one. But I learned that there are more good people in the world than bad ones,” Jon said. 
His father, who sells cord wood for a living, said he has been able to teach his son the essentials of good salesmanship along the way. 
“You have to make eye contact and smile. And you have to focus. He did a good job this year — I didn’t have to remind him once,” said Potter. “Plus, people think he’s cute, which seems to help.” 
For his efforts, Jon also earned college scholarship money which he’s adding to last-year’s till; $300 in Wal-Mart gift cards; and enough “Cub Bucks” to see him through summer camp until he’s aged out of Scouting. 
His dad figured out that, given the amount of time Jon invested in selling this year, he averaged about $100 per hour in sales. 
Of course Potter, a single dad, is proud of his son’s second-generation salesmanship. But he’s even more proud of the young man he’s growing up to be, and credits his Scouting experience with helping to keep him goal-oriented and on track. 
“My son does well in school, he’s smart and he tries to be a good boy. I really feel proud of his accomplishment. Yeah, I give him a push on those days when he doesn’t feel like going out to sell — I just remind him that he set a goal, and that he has to do the work to reach it.” 
As his father pops up a batch of popcorn in the kitchen of their apartment — they’re still chipping away at last year’s stockpile of popping corn — Jon talks about his interest in LEGOs, and his dream of becoming a basketball player some day. 
“I’ll probably use some of my gift certificates to buy a new LEGO set,” said Jon, who admits that he truly appreciate’s his father’s support. 
“It’s fun to sell it,” Jon said. 
“I’m getting the hang of it — and I do love the popcorn. 
I take it to school every day for a snack.” 

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