The psychology of selling
A psychological concept know as Transactional Analysis (TA) was developed in the 1950’s by Dr. Eric Berne, a pioneer in the field of psychiatry. TA is a theory of personality and provides a framework for describing and predicting the interaction between people. In simple terms, TA explains why people act the way they do when they interact with others.
Berne’s best known work is Games People Play, published in 1964. The idea of the iLife Scripts we carry in us are now popular concepts and terms used far outside the TA community, and have entered everyday language (including Sandler training that I train). Let’s examine what does this have to do with Sales? Read on and you’ll see how.
The elements of Berne’s theory, referred to as Ego States, or what I call our “inner programming/tapes,” that we all carry in us are the Parent, the Adult, and the Child tapes. Shortly after birth, we began to learn from our parents and other authority figures what was considered correct and acceptable, and what wasn’t. What we should and shouldn’t do. These messages, which we recorded for approximately the first five-six years of life, make up our Parent ego state. For the most part, we blindly accepted them. Our behavior, “subconscious” thoughts, and feelings are strongly influenced by these messages today.
There are two aspects to the Parent tape. The should and should-nots and criticism we hear are considered the Critical Parent tape, which also contains beliefs about what is right and wrong and “judgments” about what is good and bad. The part of us that is loving, helping, supporting, giving, and protective of others comes from the Nurturing Parent tape.
The Adult tape is the part of us that acts, thinks, and feels in the here and now in an appropriate manner. It is the logical, analytical, rational, assertive part of our personality. It collects and analyzes data neither trying to control or react. While the Parent ego state stopped recording at about age five-six, the Adult tape continues to revise and make new recordings throughout our lives.
The Child tape, recorded your internal responses to external experiences-primarily what your parents and other authority figures said and did. Throughout your life, those feelings may replay when you are in situations that are like the ones you had as a child. When those internal responses determine your thinking, feeling, and behaviors to those situations, you are functioning from your Child ego state.
Berne divided the Child part of our personality into three sub-tapes-the Natural Child, the Adapted Child and the Rebellious Child. The Natural child is the impulsive, fun-loving, pleasure-seeking, impatient part .The natural child part also provides some of our important emotions such as joy and curiosity when we are happy, and anger and vengeance when we are frustrated.
The Adapted Child encourages us to please others, not make waves, hide our anger, and generally seek the rewards of doing what we’re supposed to do, which when we were little, meant being a “good little boy” or “good little girl” and “making mommy happy.” The needs to be “good” and conform are often opposed by the needs to rebel. Thus, the adapted child also contains urges to resist order and tradition. These urges can play out as open rebellion, or more subtly as procrastination.
The Rebellious Child is intuitive, clever, manipulative, observant, scheming part of us that figures out how to relate to others to get what we want.
These three sub-tapes of the Child are responsible for much or our personality and interactions with others. Your Child is probably in control when you:
•Act on feelings and/or act impulsively and/or make an emotional decision
•Use words such as love, hate, now, can’t, won’t, give me, I want, and so on
•Get upset with other people or when something gets in your way
So what does this have to do with Sales? Most buying behaviors studies show that people buy emotionally and they justify their decision intellectually. What does that mean? Emotions reside with the Child. When we are acting out, or acting on our emotions, it is the Child that is in control. The Child must want what you have to sell. Perhaps, the Child hates the current situation and sees your product as a mechanism to create change. Maybe the Child feels it can’t live without your product. As a 32 year veteran of sales and a Sandler trainer that teaches TA, I discovered that until the prospect’s Child is saying, “I want,” “give me,” and “now,” the salesperson was fighting an uphill battle based on a sales strategy of “convincing” or “justifying.”
When you take the term emotionally (emotion or emotional) out of the TA context, the first misunderstanding is the belief that the prospect must show emotion-anger, frustration, unhappiness, excitement, pleasure, etc. While a show of emotion is an indicator of Child influence, some people avoid such exhibitions. Perhaps, as a result of a Critical Parent injunction to not show your emotions lest someone will take advantage of you. So, an individual can be emotionally involved, but it may not be apparent by their outward behavior.
Another misunderstanding is that if you get the prospect emotionally involved, they will make a positive buying decision. One person can decide to buy for the very same “emotional” reasons another decides not to buy. Both buying decisions are guided by emotion.
Let’s examine the second concept: [prospects] justify their [buying] decision intellectually. The impulsive, spontaneous Natural Child might make a premature decision, after which buyer’s remorse rears its ugly head and undoes the sale you thought was completed. The compliant Adapted Child prospect may feel pressured to say “yes,” and feel uneasy later-another opportunity for buyer’s remorse to set in. The rebellious Adapted Child may make a decision that reaffirms its position, but is not necessarily in its own best interest. In other words, you may win (temporarily) or lose the sale for the wrong reasons.
To whom is the Child “justifying” the decision? For one, the Critical Parent who will ask, “Do you really need this? Can’t you get along without it?” Then, the Adult will want to know, “Is this a good decision? Will you get your money’s worth? What’s the return on this investment?” So, the challenge to complete a sale with the engaged Child is to satisfy the Parent and the Adult.
Engaging the Child takes place for the most part through your astute questions as you help your prospects describe the gap between where they are and where they want to be, what they have and what they want to have, their desired goals and their current accomplishments, etc. With additional questions, you help them discover the underlying reasons for the gaps-reasons they weren’t fully aware of prior to your conversation and begin to build a case for satisfying the inevitable questions from the Parent and Adult.
On a sales call, it’s imperative to remember many things in completing a sale. But, don’t forget the Parent, Adult, and Child. If the prospect’s Child says, “I want it,” the Adult says, “This seems to be a good investment,” and the Parent says, “This appears to be in your best interest, go ahead and make your decision,” you’ll close the sale.
Gary Harvey is founder and president of Achievement Dynamic, a sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners. He has been awarded the David H. Sandler Award by Sandler Training, the highest award by Sandler Training given to the top trainer of 250 Sandler trainers worldwide. This prestigious award has only been given 12 times in the 43 year history of Sandler Training. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or firstname.lastname@example.org .