How to be a Better Salesperson by Being “Childish”

Before you get to thinking I’m off my rocker suggesting you act like a 2 year old, screaming and having a temper tantrum in front of your customers in order to improve your sales, hear me out. First off, that is not the kind of behaviour I was thinking of. Not only would that get you lots of unwelcome attention by your coworkers and bosses (and probably with you having to have a “time out”, just like a child), but I’m pretty sure nobody would buy from you either. Even children quickly realize that this tactic is doomed to failure. This is why the terrible 2’s do not usually last beyond that. But that leads me to the very first of many childish behaviours that will improve your sales. And in this case, we are talking about evaluating your process and adapting.

As I mentioned, even a 2 year old, quickly discovers that the temper tantrum doesn’t work to get their way (unless rewarded, but parenting 101 this is not). A child will continually try new processes as they discover what works, and what does not. This happens with each and every attempt. They evaluate what worked, what didn’t and throw out the bad, keep the good and try a little twist here and there until it doesn’t work. To a child, success is all or none, there is no in between. If one attempt does not work, it is scrapped; something new is tried and then re-evaluated. This occurs not once a year, or once a month or even daily but with EVERY attempt. How many salespeople re-evaluate their process on every up, or even every day? Not many. Because of this, children have developed some amazing sales abilities that any parent can attest to. Their goal is to get their parents to let them do things or let them have things. Your goal may be different, but sometimes the goal is eerily similar, i.e. to get someone to spend money on something. As a salesperson, you often have an advantage over the child. Your customer will usually be informed and have an idea of what they want. The child has to start from scratch. And this leads me to the next childish tactic, which is to be an expert!

Some will argue that product knowledge is not necessary in today’s market as the consumer is so better informed than they used to be. And there are some very successful sales people out there with very little product knowledge. And likewise, there are some with great product knowledge that are poor in sales. No one skill will ensure better selling skills. But the more skills you have and the brains to use them properly, the better you can be. Would a talented plumber be better if they had more tools? Of course they would. Likewise, someone with every tool in the world but no knowledge on how to use them would be useless. So how does product knowledge help you? Sometimes, just being able to answer a question easily and quickly gives confidence. Some customers even “test” the salespeople to see if they will lie. Better to admit you don’t know than say something wrong. Children are experts on whatever they are trying to get. They need to know everything before coming and asking their parents BUT, unlike some rookie salespeople (myself included), they don’t open with blurting out everything they know and boring you to tears, but rather they seem to know just how much to tell to keep you intrigued and then leave you hanging. But I suspect the main reason that they know everything is that they expect the objections. They expect a no answer, so they keep the information in their pocket to bring out at just the right moment to beat up the objection. Any parent who has fought the battle over buying something their child wants can attest to the fact that they seem to have a counter argument to any reason you give for a no. And this is the reason why “because I said so” was invented by parents.

Now this leads me to the next point, which is persistence. Children never ask just once. No, no, no. Many, many, many times is the rule. And it would never be the same way twice, always waiting for the opportune time to slip it into conversation. We have a saying in my family when someone says something that is completely off topic. Someone will say “speaking of chicken…” and this indicates to the person that their segue into the conversation made no sense whatsoever and is about as idiotic as saying ‘speaking of chicken” (unless of course, you were actually speaking about chicken). Children learn how to turn any conversation back to what they wanted without sounding like they are speaking of chicken. Isn’t it amazing that when in conversation, like a YouTube click fest, you sometimes wonder how you arrived at a certain point. Children NEVER let it get to that point. As soon as the conversation starts going off topic from their request, they somehow find the means to gently steer it back. The younger ones don’t quite have the gentle part down yet. It’s more like non-gentle persistence. They will ask the same question many times over repeatedly. Any parent who has had a child want McDonalds will attest to this. Few of us give in on the first attempt. But after the third, fourth or fifth time, some cave in. I’m a little stronger than that. But so are my kids! It can be days, and just when I think they have forgotten, I hear “hey you know what, McDonalds would be a great idea”. My one child has been asking to go to a certain restaurant here in town for over a year. And every time, there is a different reason why it is a good idea, such as his birthday, or we just had something like it, or we haven’t had anything like it for a while. Either way, it’s never the same argument and has never stopped.

Besides persistence, my son also showed the importance of followup. Knowing that he may not get his choice right now, he has ensured that if for some reason, the opportunity presents itself, it will be his restaurant that we will be going to. His followup was timely and never annoying (ok sometimes mildly), but the point is that I will NEVER forget where he wants to go. And to make it more impressive, he has 2 other siblings that may not agree, but I will still go there. Why is that? It’s because in the back of my mind, he has been asking the most. And I feel bad having said no to him, and not so bad saying no to the other 2. He “deserves” to be rewarded. When salespeople are facing competition from other brands or other salespeople, wouldn’t it be wise for them to have their potential customers feel bad to say no to them and not so bad saying no to the others? Of course it would. As I mentioned, not every request gets rewarded right away. But usually, eventually, it does. And anyone my age will know the phrase the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Be persistent without being annoying. That is done just like my son does to me, which is to remind me at every opportunity by having a reason to. Sometimes, the reminder is as simple as “remember how much fun we had last time we went?” And generally speaking, he is correct. We had fun. And why would I want to experience that again? You know what, let’s go out to dinner!

But the flipside is we had gone somewhere and the kids were an absolute mess, making a fuss, making noise, drawing unwanted attention, etc. Basically, I wanted to leave as fast as I could. So the present experience dictates the possibility of a future experience. Sounds easy, right? Well as I mentioned, I’m sure my kids would love to go back to certain places that I am very hesitant to go to because it was just not comfortable. Could have been bad timing, not enough sleep, or something else but the reality is that no matter the excuse, there is no way I want to return, as much as I love my kids and want them to have fun. The fear of another bad experience over-rules my love for them. As salespeople, we survive on repeat business and referrals. And we each have those customers who “love us”. But just like children, all it takes is one bad experience and they will fear returning. It may have nothing to do with you at all. Maybe you were not even here but someone else at the dealership did or said something that ticked them off. We’ve all been on the flip side of this, selling a car to someone who has bought many cars from another dealer but the last time they were there, something bad happened. The key to the last visit, it to ensure it is NOT the “last” visit. Never take a customer for granted and ensure that every aspect of your dealership will be a pleasurable one for your customer.

The only way to attain this is to act like a team. Children do it all the time. On the odd occasion when they all agree on something, the onslaught is relentless. In record time, even I bow down to their request. There is strength in numbers. But likewise, if only one of the three says or does something to make me mad, they all lose out. The secret to teamwork is to coordinate your efforts and to ensure everyone is working within the “guidelines”. To the kids, having more than one person on board has many advantages. My son can be relentless but often his arguments are carefully placed but all have basically the same message. Now when my daughter and other son get involved, not only is the pressure coming at a more steady pace, but also the “other face” can come up with other ideas that are relevant and strengthen their argument without sounding so repetitious. If all working a different angle to get to the same goal, the followup is also relentless but does not seem like badgering at all. Always the hints are timely and informative rather than repetitive.

The next advantage is that the task for the individual is easier and also usually more successful. The more “salespeople” you can employ, the better your chances and the more subtle pressure you can apply. An individual cannot be somewhere 24/7 but many people can be. When dealing with a customer, make sure to engage every decision maker. Kids do this quite well. Any father can attest to the fact that when the kids feel they are losing the battle, all of a sudden Mom gets dragged in, or vice versa. The efforts are put towards the one who is leaning towards saying yes. This may seem counter intuitive until you think that they know that with me, Mom’s word is a much stronger argument than any of theirs. If they get her on board, she is now their strongest sales person. Now the team has grown, and there is even more pressure on me to change my mind. And they have brought in the “closer” (aka Mom). It usually doesn’t take long once this occurs. It’s funny how it doesn’t seem to work in reverse. And that of course, means that you have to be careful and thoroughly know your customer before bringing in another person.

Lastly, once they have a team all striving within certain guidelines to attain a unified goal, the successes are usually swift and also quite numerous. So why wouldn’t you, as a salesperson, engage every decision maker, including the children, when dealing with a customer? They can be your biggest allies when the prospective customer is out of the store. There’s nothing like having the best, natural born salespeople on board with your cause, working with you when you are not there.

By Trent Sheldon

Internet Sales Coordinator