Emilee is two years old. We spend a lot of time together because her mom and I are very good friends. Since my kids are grown, this is a chance to rediscover life with a two year old. It’s interesting because I see things I never noticed when my kids were that age. As I’m watching Emilee, I’m learning an awful lot about sales.

The first thing Emilee taught me is how to ask for what you want. Two year olds don’t know how to beat around the bush. They see something and they simply say “I want that.”  They say it clearly and definitively and expect you will give it to them. Unfortunately, adult customers don’t do that. Sometimes it’s because they don’t really know what they want and other times it’s because they’re afraid to ask. So your job as a sales person is to create a safe environment where they feel comfortable telling you what they want.

The second thing I discovered about two year olds is they are very comfortable saying no. Testing the control they have over things in their world, they say “NO!” frequently. When they shake their head defiantly, it is pretty clear they are not going to change their mind. So instead of trying to convince them to wear something they don’t want to wear or eat something they don’t want to eat, you pick your battles. Is this something you really need to go to the mat with or is this something you can let slide?

How does this apply to the sales process? Old-style selling experts will tell you if a customer says no, you simply haven’t asked the question correctly. If you ask it in a different way, rationalize with them or show them more features, more benefits and more evidence, sooner or later they are going to say yes. In most cases this doesn’t work, but you spend a lot of time trying to force the sale. In this situation, just as a parent does, you need to ask yourself is this something you need to go to the mat on? Is convincing the customer at all costs really worth it or is it are you better off saying it’s okay you don’t have to buy and spending your time with someone who will say yes?

And finally, two year olds love surprises. As we were walking on the Monon Trail a few days ago I pulled a giant leaf off a tree and presented it to Emilee. She smiled and giggled, and held on to it the entire ride. Your customers like surprises too. After they’ve agreed to be customers, surprising them with extra services they weren’t counting on is a great way to convince them they made the right choice.  Whether it is an hour of free training, a complimentary dessert or chocolate on the pillow in a hotel, it is the little extras that make them giggle and smile and come back for more.

Life’s lessons are everywhere if you pay attention. While I am not ready to fire my sales coach Matt, I do think adding some of the tips from Emilee into my routine will make me a better sales person.