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Did Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Get it Wrong?

Few of us would think to turn to the rock singers, Crosby, Still, Nash and Young for business advice.  Their popular song, “Teach Your Children” is well-known by “people of a certain age,” however, it rarely is quoted by business pundits.  And certainly fewer of us would think to reverse the lyrics and think that children can teach us business lessons.  That is, until one looks at how expertly children can negotiate and their efforts at “selling” behaviors.

Reject the Offer, Not the Person

Most adults tasked with selling mistake a prospect’s refusal to do business as a personal rejection of them or their worth.  In fact, it is only a refusal to accept the current proposed product, service, or solution most of the time.  It is NOT the person who is being judged, it is the current recommendation.

The difference between those two is not insignificant.  The person can return with alternatives or opportunities to continue the discussion if they recognize that it is the idea and not them that has been rebuffed.  Children seem to intuitively understand that and can approach getting their needs (and wants) met without feeling rejected if their first attempts do not prove successful.

Holidays are Approaching

Recently, I was in a store that had a toy section.  In one of the aisles was a family consisting of a child, Mother, Father, and a Grandparent.  The child was lobbying for the parents to purchase a toy right then and there.  The Father explained that they did not have time to shop for a toy at that moment as the line to check out was far too long.  However, they can come back at another time.

The child, being an expert salesperson recognized that the “sale” was not going to occur at that moment.  Not allowing the moment to pass though, inquired as to WHEN they could return and make the purchase.  This child realized an important insight that sales people sometimes forget.  A “No” for today does not mean a “No” for always.  Further, the child got a commitment for when the “sale” could be revisited and hopefully completed.

Children can teach salespeople.

Children can teach salespeople.

Then, the child took advantage of another aspect of sales that can sometimes be forgotten.  The child tried to scope out what the future purchase would contain.  The child pointed out the “benefit” of buying a particular toy (I think it was an X-Box game, but it really is less relevant than the process the child followed) and attempted to get the parents to agree to the future  purchase right then and there.

The Father pushed back and said that the particular toy was rather expensive and that they were thinking of something more reasonably priced.  The child then did something we have all seen done before.

Getting a “No” from Dad, the child approached the Mom.  She reiterated what Dad had just said.  Unbowed, the child approached the Grandparent and tried to conspire with her to make the purchase.  While we have all seen that drama played out (or may have done it ourselves or had our own children try to do it to us), there is a lesson to be learned:

The child was assessing who had the budget, and what the limits of that budget are for purchases.

What this child then understood was that the toy was going to take too much time to purchase right then and there, it was deemed to be too expensive at the moment, and the purchase price exceeded the budget (and possibly budgetary authority) of any one of the adults he was with on the shopping trip.

Then, the child did something that was outstanding and illustrative of great sales skill.  He explained how much the toy would please him, shared how he understood that it was costly and that this was not the right time to make the purchase.  However, he then asked all three adults if they could each contribute a third of the cost (thereby not exceeding their own personal budgets) and by pooling resources, he could achieve the “sale.”  Lastly, he said that with the holidays coming up, it was an ideal time to make the purchase for “later.”

Do I have to tell you – the adults all looked at each other, giggled, and then raced with each other to make the purchase right then and there?  Sale made, customer happy (adults), and salesperson happy (child).




David Zahn