Kids are natural-born salespeople, so it’s only fitting that today, on National Salesperson Day, parents take a moment to reflect on those moments when their kids outdid themselves in pitching everything from the case for a new pet to chocolate cake for breakfast.
According to the Inch business blog, Maura Schreier-Fleming founded National Salesperson Day in 2000, to recognize the value of, and hard work performed by, salespeople.
So, take time today to appreciate all salespeople you meet, including your kids.
“Great salespeople are great listeners,” Ms. Schreier-Fleming wrote to me in an e-mail today. Schreier-Fleming is the mother of a grown daughter, who is also a salesperson like her mom. “That’s what kids do so well. They're also fearless. That's kids in a big way. Persistence is what makes salespeople successful. Listening is the essential skill, not talking.”
Indeed, I am taking the celebration one step further today by examining the humble beginnings of every salesperson: the stick-to-itiveness and sheer inventiveness of our kids, who shine as salespeople when they want something badly enough.
Salesmanship is evident not only in the classic examples of a lemonade stand or Girl Scout cookie sales, but also in the classic film “A Christmas Story,” when the protagonist Ralphie spends a month working on his parents in order to get a Red Rider BB gun.
Last year, our own Ralphie was my youngest son, Quin, 10, who desperately wanted a rare and expensive board game called Key to the Kingdom.
This game was invented by Paul Bennett, who told me via e-mail today, “The Key to the Kingdom was published 1991 - 1995 and has not been reissued since that time, so any examples (remaining sets) will be quite old. I’m afraid I have no idea what prices second hand examples fetch!”
This is a board game inspired by the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, with more than just a set of dice. Our three older sons are all D&D fans, and I played the game in college.
So, Quin knew his customer.
While its inventor may not know what prices his game boards fetch, Quin had done his homework and knew it was going to be a tough sell, since they can only be found for sale from collectors and hardcore gamers online for anywhere from $40 for a mostly complete set, to $200 for one in mint condition.
Because Quin knew his customer’s price point was far lower than what he was selling, his sales pitches were a masterwork.
Having experienced firsthand his sales prowess, I am convinced that businesses should take lessons from children in the art of sales war.
Kids know what many salespeople forget: the customer is always right (especially because in this case it’s Mom or Dad), always smile, and be relentlessly optimistic in the face of rejection.
When it comes to sales, every child at some point adopts the timeless wisdom of Winston Churchill, who once said, “Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about.”
Here are just a few of Quin’s “Shark Tank” style pitches, which ran for several months before Christmas last year, and often included visual aids in the form of pictures he’d drawn.
Pitch #1: “So Mom, you know how you’re always telling us to get offline and bond as brothers? You know how expensive electricity is these days? So I think we need to get this game, Key to the Kingdom, so we can all bond and save money.”
Pitch #2: “I just cleaned my room, emptied the dish washer, and took Wag [our dog] for a really long walk. You know, that walk reminded me of all the different paths you can go in Key to the Kingdom.”
Pitch #3 “When my brothers were little, they spent so much time with you and Pop when you lived on the boat. I never got to live on a boat. Did you know that in Key to the Kingdom there are whirlpools and shipwrecks and we could play together.”
It took some doing, but I eventually found a well-loved, slightly frayed, but complete and affordable set on eBay.
Of course, the true mark of a salesperson is his or her ability not only to close the deal, but also to keep the customer on the hook for upgrades and return business.
If you buy a child a board game, you had darn well better be prepared to play it, repeatedly.
To that end, Quin has risen to new heights of salesmanship offering premiums and customer rewards that range from additional chores to a foot massage for Mom.
To be honest, I don’t actually need any convincing since this may be the only board game I have ever enjoyed playing more than Monopoly.
The qualities we celebrate in salespeople today should consist of more than their hard work.
Here’s to the salespeople who can reach out to us with their inner child and in so doing help us acquire whatever the key to our little kingdom might be on any given day.