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Could It Be Sales Is Like Parenting?

There's been a new voice added to the harmony of human song. My good friends Bryan and Stacey have had a baby (Hannah Michele). Bet you didn't know I'm a sentimental sap for these things! But it isn't every day we’re reminded so clearly of the critical basics in the circle of life.


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Now these two new parental units are getting lots of advice right and left about how to do a great job with their child unit. As I listen, I can't help thinking a lot of what folks have to say about being good parents applies perfectly to how we should be thinking about our roles as good salespeople. So hang in there with me while I wax philosophic about Sales as an exercise in Parenting.

If you take a moment to think about it, I'm sure you'll agree that Sales is not just about the exchange of goods or services for money. You need to take a broader perspective. And you absolutely gotta scrub from your mind those stereotypic images of sleazy used-car salesmen obnoxiously pushing for the close at all costs. Try swapping those images for a picture of a mom or a dad - true masters in the Art of Sales.

Consider these situations, and tell me they don't have a thing to do with Sales:

· You want to convince your child she needs to clean up her room.

· You want to convince your child he has to climb up in the car seat by himself, 'cause he's got too big for you to lift in.

· Your child wants 15 more minutes of staying-up time.

· Your child thinks veggies are yucky.

· You want your child to respect your decisions.

· You want to inspire your child to be enthusiastic about reading.

It’s all about persuasion. Sales is not exclusively an exchange that takes place only in a store (or its cyber-equivalent) - it takes place when you persuade your customer to opt into a newsletter, sign up for a sweepstakes, subscribe for an e-mail list, register for a class or conference, become an affiliate, refer a friend, and, yes, buy your product or service.

Sales is an effort to motivate your customer to take action. Not just any action, but those actions that are meaningful to the relationship you have established, in which you guide your customers' choices, present them with options and lead them (often without them knowing they are being led) through a process you have shaped to achieve your goals while being sensitive to their needs.

Just like children, your customers have very basic needs. They need to feel they exercise a degree of control over their world. They need to feel they have some mastery and competence. They need experiences that make them feel valued and reinforce their self-esteem. They need acknowledgement and guidance, praise and support. They need to feel they have been heard and understood. And ultimately, they need to feel good about the decisions they make.

Again just like children, your customers come to you with certain fixed qualities of character and temperament. You might want them all to fit the same mold, and, further, to fit the mold you have in mind or find most convenient, but they never will. They have personalities; they are their own selves. And to succeed, you must learn to work with who they are, rather than who you'd prefer they were.

I picked up a parenting book the other day (visualize: every spare surface around here has been taken over by this stuff lately) and I read, “Learn to be the parent your child needs you to be.” I can think of no sounder advice for anyone engaged in the Art of Sales.

So welcome to the human world, little reminder-of-what’s-really-important. Congratulations and best of luck to my dear friends Bryan and Stacey. And to every e-commerce family out there headed by "parents" who want to “sell,” in any of its myriad incarnations, take a page from “Sales as Parental Persuasion” a la Grok!

Want to join me clapping and cheering for the newbie? Email


I promise to forward your regards to Bryan and Stacey.


click here for a printable version of this entire article

P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends? They'll appreciate it.


Coming soon to a website near you – 
in fact, maybe YOURS!

Dear Digital Entrepreneur:

You guys and gals have been asking and asking, so OK: I'm now making house calls. That’s right, I'm visiting your own websites and will be writing in future issues about how you can apply the stuff we talk about here.

So, want a free Grokanalysis of your site? It’s simple. Just click here, fill out the form, send it to us, and if I think your site illustrates something that will be of interest to a lot of our readers, you’re in!

Good luck!!

The Grok

WIIFM: are you listening? 
A Reader Favorite: Originally Published 3/15/00

Are you listening? We all do; every one of us is always tuned into our favorite "radio station", WIIFM, What's In It For Me! When we design our websites, how do we meet the needs of every type of personality that may visit? Each personality has preferences in how they interact, view the world, and reach decisions.

Since the time of Aristotle, it has been known that each of the millions of different personalities will fall basically into one of four groups by temperament: Driver, Amiable, Expressive and Analytical.

A major objective of a website is to be able to consistently communicate to each of the four temperaments, so that the prospect can "self serve" himself or herself the appropriate information that they require to influence their buying decision. We must give each personality exactly what they want and need.

Lets take a look at the four basic personality types:

The Driver wants Accomplishment:

These individuals have a deep appreciation for challenges. They enjoy being in control, are goal oriented and are looking for methods for completing tasks. They are usually quick to reach a decision. They want to know what your product or service can do for them to solve their problem.

The Amiable wants Acceptance:

These individuals appreciate the personal touch. They like things that are non-threatening and friendly. They hate dealing with impersonal details and cold hard facts. They are usually quick to reach a decision. They want to know why your product or service is best to solve their problem.

The Expressive wants Applause:

These individuals are very creative and entertaining. They enjoy helping others and are particularly fond of socializing. They are usually slow to reach a decision. They want to know who has used your product or service to solve problems.

The Analytical wants Accuracy:

These individuals appreciate facts and information presented in a logical manner as documentation of truth. They enjoy organization and completion of detailed tasks. They do not appreciate the "personal touch" or disorganization. They want to know how your product or service can solve the problem.

Average sales people sell to those that they relate to the best. On average they will usually sell to 3 out of 10 people they meet. Another 3 out of the 10 won't buy from them no matter what. The last 4 out of 10 are sitting on the fence. It is the great sales person or website that learns to give these 4 the information and assistance they need to reach their buying decision.

This is just part of the challenge salespeople/ websites face in dealing with individuals. Each of us also has different means in which our brains prefer to "take in and process" information: Visually, Auditory and Kinesthetically.

One Internet company has used this understanding of individuals to grow as one of the premier brands. AOL has grown its flagship service to over 20 million members, by providing a simple way to get on the Internet, understanding and providing people with a sense of community and, by engaging all three processes, they have made marketing history.

Selling the Internet is a difficult thing, because the Internet is an intangible. AOL understood that by putting their colorful CD-Rom packages and disks in the hands of people, they provided a kinesthetically oriented individual the opportunity to get a "hold of" the Internet and what it offered. When you signed on, you were met with a beautifully simple and colorful screen to provide visually oriented people with a pleasant experience. However, the ultimate genius was the auditory cue that was used, it has become an icon and an anchor for millions of individuals…"you've got mail."

Have you tuned into your customer's favorite station or will you march by the beat of your own drummer?


click here for a printable version of this entire article

P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends? They'll appreciate it.

GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledge and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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