Return to: GROK Dot Com 6/01/2001

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.

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.

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 6/01/2001

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