Sales and Marketing

Are You Smarter than a 6-Year-Old?

Have you ever been talking to your kids when suddenly, something comes out of your mouth and you say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve become my mother”?

Know Who Makes Your Buying Decisions

Have you ever been talking to your kids when suddenly, something comes out of your mouth and you say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve become my mother”?  Or, you’re involved on the phone with a bad customer service representative who did something you didn’t want done, and you find yourself getting more and more upset at each excuse they give you?  If any of these sound familiar, you’re not alone.

Many of us do things for no apparent reason, but we’re all wired the same way.  There’s a sound psychological reason this happens. In the book, Games People Play by Eric Berne, he discusses three “Ego States” everyone has. We all have a 6-year-old child, parent and adult persona. Here’s how they work, and how we can use this knowledge to better understand ourselves and those around us.

Your child ego state was formed when you were very young (before age 6), when you thought you were the center of the universe. For those of you who were firstborn, you literally were the center – the thing the entire family circle revolved around.

Your parent ego state was the picture you had, as a child, of all the authority figures around you (e.g. mom and dad, big brother or sister, grandma, the teacher, the doctor, the babysitter.) We had both a nurturing parent (“We believe in you”) and a critical parent (“What are you, stupid?”) in our lives in different degrees. Some parental messages might include, “Don’t chew with your mouth open” or “Don’t talk to strangers!”

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

This last message can hurt you as an adult if you’re in sales. Your mom taught you not to talk to strangers and your boss is telling you to make cold calls and talk to strangers.  Now, who’s going to win, your mom or your boss?  In many cases, your mom wins, which is why many salespeople don’t like making cold calls. You’ll find some logical reason why you didn’t make the calls but, if you get really honest, you’ll realize why you have call reluctance. It’s your mom’s fault! By the way, all this programming is permanent memory; you can’t erase it.

Your adult ego state is the logical part of you. We talk about having an “adult conversation” on important things. I call it the “Vulcan Brain” that deals with only logic.  When we do business with people we have “adult conversations.” There is very little emotion involved in some cut and dried or important, big dollar decisions like buying a car or a house, right?  Let’s see …

If you look at how we make buying decisions, most are made by your 6-year-old child. We buy emotionally, but we justify it logically. Think about your car. You’re driving the least expensive vehicle you could possibly be driving at this time. For 90 percent of the people reading these words, that’s just not true. You went to the car dealership and had a budget, but then you saw the DVD player, the sunroof, etc. and you got emotionally involved. Your child said, “I want it. Please get it for me!” and then your adult figured out how to pay for it.

I’ll Take the Harley

When I bought my Harley motorcycle in 2005, my mother said to me, “You’re 54 years old. No 54-year-old man needs a motorcycle. I thought we were done with those 30 years ago when you sold your last one!”  My mom was right, but my 6-year-old said, “Buy that shiny blue one!”  My adult said, “Buy the Yamaha, it’s half the price.” My child said, “But it doesn’t sound like a Harley!” Three guesses who won. My child made that decision and then I figured out how to afford the payments.

So, how do we use and apply this knowledge everyday? If you see yourself getting emotional in a situation, realize its gotten to your child.  If you put your child in the other room (figuratively speaking), you can’t get  emotionally involved and you can deal with the situation. When you feel someone pressing your buttons, don’t let them.  Just leave your emotions (child) out of it and you’ll deal more effectively with people, especially in emotional situations. When you see someone else upset, you communicate to them from your nurturing parent persona. Children respond well to a nurturing parent but they hate being talked down to; that always sounds more like critical parent, and none of us like that.

Remember, when you say something that just sort of slips out of your mouth without your permission, ask yourself, “Who said that?”


Eric Shulman is president of Sandler Training in Altamonte Springs. For more info, visit Eric.Sandler.com or call (407) 740-7355.

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