How to close a killer deal – how I got tricked by a 5-year-old

How to close a potentially killer deal - #salestips“If you lost all your skin …, would you die?”

Up until that moment, I’d been enjoying a few minutes of downtime with some light reading after a long work day. LT’s latest five-year-old pondering caught me off guard. He had to be asking someone else.

Putting down my magazine, I looked around the room, attempting to locate any other member of my family LT could be addressing. Of course, neither my husband nor my eldest son made eye contact. It would appear I was on my own. “Er … um … as in, if I lost all of it? All at once?”

He nodded.

“Then, yes,” I answered with caution, somewhat worried about what must be going through LT’s head to prompt such a random question.

“Why?” LT asked, elongating the word as only kids can as he took a step closer, eliminating any chance for my escape.

Once again I looked around the room for anything at all I might use as a diversion. “Because without my skin my insides wouldn’t stay inside.” We’re a very technical household.

I could see LT chewing over my answer in his mind as I braced myself for another round of questioning. Instead, he only smiled. “I am going to give you more skin so you won’t die.” He hugged my leg, satisfied with his solution.

Occasionally I wonder if my youngest may be a wee bit off unique.”Um … thanks …?” I replied as he wandered away, but all I could think about was the line by Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs – ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin.’

A day or so later, LT approached me with an orange. “Do you need me to help you with that?” I asked. Once again LT nodded. Within short order, I handed him the peeled results. “Here you go. Now throw the peel in the trash, please.”

“That’s for you, mommy. It’s skin,” he replied with a smile before shoving the fruit into his mouth and hopping away.

I looked at the peel in my hand and remembered our earlier conversation. It was skin. It hit me then – LT had indeed figured out a way to keep his promise (even better, no humans were harmed in the process). That’s a relief, I thought as I walked his ‘gift’ over to the trashcan.

kid's tea party
Good evening, Clarice

As I closed the lid on the trashcan, another thought occurred to me – not only had LT gotten me to throw his garbage away for him, he’d managed to do it in a way that made me grateful for the opportunity. It almost made me wonder if this was the end result he’d had in mind from the start. LT is no budding Buffalo Bill but he could yet be the next Hannibal Lecter (minus the serial killing and cannibalism).

Or he might just be a really good salesperson.

Why? Because at five, he already knows how to close a deal. Lucky kid. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned from watching him (and this goes for selling goods such as books, services, or tricking your parents into doing chores for you) –

  1. Never open with the hard sell

Just like if someone walked into a room and announced without preamble, buy my stuff if LT had given me his orange peel and told me to throw it away for him, I would have said absolutely not. First, because that’s rude, and second, because I know he has two good feet. Instead, he managed to reframed the conversation by priming me to think that orange peel in my hand was a good thing.

But how?

2. Connect on an emotional level

Even those who consider themselves fact-based decision makers, make decisions based on the facts that make them feel like they made the smart and rational decision. The prospect needs to feel good about the decision – not obligated. If he’d dropped the peel at my feet and run away without first reframing the conversation, I probably would have thrown it away for him. Once. But rest assured my youngest would be regretting that poor choice in the not too distant future.

But how?

3. Highlight the potential benefits

Will the reader be entertained, learn something new, or think about life in a new way? Will the prospect save time or money? Will mommy live longer thanks to an extra layer of vitamin C goodness? Your book, service, or product should exist for a reason other than to only make you rich. Don’t be subtle about it. If you leave it up to a potential reader / client / customer to connect the dots, there is a chance they won’t.

But how?

4. Identify the pain

In other words, take the time to really get to know your audience. You know who they are and where to find them, but what is it they wish they had more of? Why don’t they? It is also just as important to find out why they’ve tolerated less up to this point so you can anticipate how to overcome obstacles and objections. Tailor your pitch accordingly. You don’t want to risk dying, mommy, do you?

But how?

5. Keep your promises and follow-up

LT’s seemingly random question may have been mostly forgotten after an amusing conversation shared between friends and family, and a statement on twitter, if it weren’t for his follow-up as well as how he kept his promise.

While he may not have successfully sold me on throwing his garbage away for the rest of time, by this simple act, he has ensured I’ll never look at his leftover orange peels in the same way ever again, and that’s no small deal.

8 Highly effective ways NOT to promote YOU

background image courtesy of Ricky Kharawala and Unsplash
background image courtesy of Ricky Kharawala and Unsplash

There are a number of things I am good at, however, self-promotion is not one of them. Ask any of the people who comment on my posts regularly. Heck, ask pretty much anyone. Chances are they will agree. As a firm believer in the concept that there is always something to learn, some additional skill to master, I rarely consider myself an expert in anything, but if there is one thing I deserve an honorary Ph.D. in, it is in how NOT to self-promote.

So I hope you will sit back and enjoy these tried and true tips from Dr. Potts.

  1. Treat your interests and hobbies like state secrets, better yet, treat them better

Don’t share anything that you do for fun with anyone. When people ask you to tell them a little about yourself, convince yourself that they are only looking for a way to bring the conversation back to what it is they do or what they sell. Stick to the expected script. Only tell them about surface level things such as your day job and never expand upon your hopes, goals, and dreams. Limit your networking to only watching shows on TV.

If you actually let it slip that you enjoying painting, for example, your sibling might call to ask you to help with a mural on a child’s wall. Even worse, someone not related to you might actually make you an offer to be *gulp* paid professionally for your hobby.

2. Keep your smiles to yourself

If you find yourself doing a job that makes you want to smile, bury that joy deep down. If it looks like you are actually having fun performing a task that others view as work those same others might start thinking of additional ways to make you smile. If you aren’t careful, you might just be asked to paint another mural in the not too distant future. Or worse, your connections might just introduce you, and your skills, to their other connections, and what did we just cover about networking in tip number 1.

3. Never accept compliments

That beautiful thing you just created. It was a pure fluke. If it hadn’t been that spasm in your back keeping you from adding additional brush strokes or the sun blinding you at just the right time, you would surely ruin it. It certainly had nothing to do with skill or honed practice. Those are gifts only possessed by the professionals and this was just something you do when you don’t have anything else to do and you got lucky. Make sure you emphasize the word ‘just’ repeatedly. ‘It’s just a hobby.’ ‘I’m just doing it for fun.’ ‘I just got started.’ Deflect, deflect, deflect

4. Destroy the evidence

Be like Tibetan monks and treat your interests like the Sand Mandala. Enjoy your hobbies simply for the moment and then get rid of any trace of evidence the minute the task is over. Under no circumstances should you actually save things in a way that someone might misinterpret as a portfolio or resume. Someone might misinterpret that sort of thing as credibility.

5. Convince yourself that timing needs to be right

Success is all about being in the right place and the right time. If you can just be patient enough to wait for that perfect time to call yourself a qualified expert, your name is bound to be in the headlines. The fact that those headlines may be in the obituary section is only a minor detail.

6. Never publicize your accomplishments or other interests on social media

That’s the sort of information that can be used against you. The next thing you know, you will be hit by all sorts of spam bots showing advertising for products you actually might be interested in buying, classes that might help you hone those skills, or even worse. What if some stranger actually contacted you about your not-so-secret skills with genuine interest? Didn’t your parents always tell you not to talk to strangers?

7. Don’t treat yourself as a boss or your hobby as a business

They say that the day you start doing what you love, you will never work another day in your life. Do you really want to put yourself out of work?

8. Associate your self-worth with the success of your business or product

Never remind yourself that even the most valued companies have product flops. A failure today is proof that you could fail tomorrow.


But… a failure today at least means you tried, and that you is worthy of promotion.

At least I get to keep my miles

I was standing in the middle of a pre-dawn parking lot in Florida dressed in a crumpled tee-shirt and pajama bottoms waiting for the booming horn and pulsing strobe light to signal it was safe to return inside the building while hoping beyond hope that my boss wouldn’t see me. Actually I preferred no one see me. This is not how I planned to start my day.

Some of my Asian based colleagues were visiting the US and several of us were asked to accompany them on customer visits. I am not a huge fan of business travel, preferring to sleep in my own bed, or at least travel with my family, but you do what you have to. Perhaps I should have protested a little more.

My travels began yesterday. The first plane was late arriving at its gate. It must have experienced some technical issues earlier on the day. I was immediately hit with a dry heat the moment I entered the cabin. We were told that one of the auxiliaries was out and that air conditioning couldn’t kick back in until we began taxing for take off.

It was a full flight and I was stuck in a middle seat only a row or two from the lavatory. Perhaps it was my proximity to the facilities or perhaps one of the other passengers experienced a bad dinner, but periodically the smell of old fart wafted through the air like some twisted automatic air freshener. We only cruised for thirty minutes, but I felt every one of those minutes.

The next flight wasn’t nearly as notable. There was a brief turbulence that made you feel like you were riding a bull at a rodeo and a rumor of yet another mechanical issue, but overall nothing to compare with the first. Soon I had joined with my traveling colleagues, collected the rental car, and was on my way to our final destination. Along the way, we discussed our itinerary for the following day. We had another round of travel immediately following Thursday’s visits which would take us into the wee hours of Friday morning, however our first meeting of the day Thursday wasn’t until mid-morning.

It was a good thing we discussed the plan while we were still in the car. Although it was close to midnight on a Wednesday night the lobby was anything but empty. Speakers blared as a handful of guests sang karaoke a few feet from the registration desk. It turns out that the hotel hosts karaoke one Wednesday night each month and we were just lucky enough to arrive on the big day. I quickly grabbed my key card and made my way to my room as fast as I could drag my roller bag with me.

As I settled into my room for the night I looked at the clock and was excited to realize I didn’t need to schedule a wake up call. It was a glorious feeling. My youngest has recently figured out how to open doors. I am grateful that he lets me pee alone (most of the time). Sleeping in then is rarely an option, and I was going to make the most of it.

That is, I was, until the fire alarm triggered this morning sending me in all my bleary eyed bedtime splendor out to the hotel’s parking lot. As I darted back inside, after given the all clear, I realized I had a story. You gotta laugh sometimes otherwise you might cry.

This is not the piece I planned to publish today, but just because an opportunity is unexpected it doesn’t mean I won’t seize it. I had scheduled a short piece announcing that I had finished re-writing my second novel from end to end and that it just needed a bit more polishing. It was a piece about celebrating small victories. And I am celebrating that milestone. Or at least I will be. Later. Much, much later. Right now, I will settle for just celebrating another cup of coffee.

Isn’t travel grand? At least I get to keep my miles.

Luxury travel
Not even close to my typical business travel experience (image from flickr)

Once stung, twice equipped with repellent

Meet Mr. Yellow Jacket (129 of 365) (EXPLORED!)
Meet Mr. Yellow Jacket (129 of 365) (EXPLORED!) (Photo credit: rimblas)

When I was a teenager, I was attacked by a swarm of ground hornets while hiking with a group of friends. I never even saw their nest. Someone ahead of me must have inadvertently stepped where he or she shouldn’t have and by the time they had flown to the surface in a rage I was the closest target.

A very short time later, areas of my body had swollen up like baseballs. I found my way on an express route to the emergency room.

I have a healthy respect for stinging insects of all kinds. I don’t squish them just for the crime of being bugs. I understand that the outdoors is their world. I try to remain calm and motionless when they are near, or avoid them altogether if I see them in the distance. I don’t bother them if they don’t bother me.

But when they try to build a nest in my porch, or more recently, move in underneath my children’s sandbox, I have to do something about it. I am no longer passive or kind. I don’t want to find out the hard way that my allergy has been passed on to my children. Or worse, that their reaction might be more than moderate.

At that point I have to make it clear to those insects that their continued presence will not be tolerated. Those that survive the lesson should move on to more welcoming ground.

“Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” – Al Capone.

I self published my first novel, and have been debating whether or not this was a path I would like to take again for my second. I’ve been reading about how little new authors can expect from large publishers and how aspiring authors are now asked to provide some potential publishers with a business plan and marketing plan in addition to the manuscript. I recently read an article entitled Publishing 3.0 detailing the rise of the authorpreneur. While the term authorpreneur may sound like one of those celebrity mash-up names, I find that it is completely appropriate in this instance. To be a successful self published or indie author, you do have to have an understanding as to what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Like writing professionally, entrepreneurship is hard work. It too requires sacrifice and long hours, but with different results. Purchase orders are rarely aesthetically pleasing. But for an entrepreneur that first order is a work of art, one as beautiful to behold as a published novel with its glossy cover. It gets framed and permanently mounted on the wall for all the world to see.

Entrepreneurship can be at times a wonderful thing. There is something deeply satisfying about watching the business that you helped start grow and thrive. Whether you are your only employee or have a larger staff, it is both rewarding and terrifying to know that their ability to care for their families is because of what you’ve put in place.

But unfortunately, an entrepreneur is still not entirely in control of his/her own destiny. There are always going to be people out there who look upon your success with envy. They either want what you have, or are afraid that you have the ability to take something away from them. They will attack in ways you never saw coming, especially if they believe you aren’t paying attention.

During this time you have to keep in mind that these attacks are actually compliments. They are a testament to your ability and your achievements. They are recognition that what you have done has been noticed. You have to be the bigger person. Stay true to your values and out of their domain. Walk away if you can. Ignore them if you can’t.

That is until you have been stung one too many times and they mistake your kindness as weakness, your willingness to turn the other cheek as acceptance, and they threaten your baby’s life.

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
― Patrick RothfussThe Wise Man’s Fear

At that point, let them keep their compliments. It is time to hire the exterminator and bring out the bug spray.

If you are irreplaceable why try to replace someone else?

My parents divorced early in my childhood and my mom was lucky enough to meet and marry my stepdad a few years later. One afternoon, shortly afterwards, my mom pulled me aside. She wanted me to know that my stepdad was not trying to replace my father, but that we were all going to have to make some adjustments.

Bored… (Photo credit: Thomas Leuthard)

Now I do not recall intentionally acting out, or purposefully saying hurtful things to my new stepdad before this talk, but I assume since she went to all the trouble of speaking to me individually rather than at the same time as my sisters, I must have done something. I do remember thinking that my mom’s decision to marry this person felt rather sudden to me. Only as I matured did I realize that she wouldn’t have introduced us to him until their relationship was rather serious, which would imply that their courtship was longer than it seemed to a young child.

Jumping forward, I have been promoted of sorts at my day job, and part of my new assignment is to take over the management of an established team. Unlike my prior promotion, I didn’t ask for this one, and this promotion came at the expense of a colleague. A colleague who is well liked throughout the organization, but one whose talents, our superiors thought, would better serve the company in a role that didn’t allow for the day-to-day management of people.

The news broke that I would be stepping in to fill this newly vacated role and I had the opportunity to sit front and center as his staff reacted. And react they did.

For over half of the team, I was an unknown. They had seen me in the halls, but we had not had much interaction beyond a brief hello. Additionally they had liked their existing team. They had known their place in the organization. Now the earth was shifting out from under their feet. It didn’t matter that I had known this was in the works for the past few days. It didn’t matter that I have years of experience with my company or an established track record with my own direct reports. To them, it was a shocking decision and I represented a threat to their security.

unwelcome (Photo credit: nevermindtheend)

Therefore I wasn’t entirely surprised when I didn’t exactly receive a glowing welcome. One of my new reports very vocally stated that my predecessor was the best manager he had ever had in his nearly 50 years of professional experience while looking directly at me. While I don’t normally like to elaborate on my age, lets just say that he has more working experience than I have experience living. I could have easily taken the statement personally – a hostile, judgmental attack against ability based on my age.

The next few days aren’t going to be easy.

I had to take a quiet breath and eliminate my emotional response. I had to remember that this meeting wasn’t about me. My predecessor was also in the room and my new direct report was trying to issue one final compliment to his former boss. He wasn’t trying to disrespect me, he was trying to show his respect for my colleague. It also gave me a great opening for a follow-up conversation.

I usually have a healthy ego. As such, I believe I have a unique mix of qualities. Sure, my employer might be able to move on without me, but I like to think that they would not be able to find my clone out there with my exact mix of skills, experience, and personality. If I am irreplaceable, why in the world would I think that I could replace someone else exactly and trying would not benefit anyone. I was chosen for this new assignment for a reason.

Just like my mom had done  with me so many years ago, I realized I was going to have to pull him aside for a heart to heart after our initial meeting. I asked him, what made his predecessor such a great manager? I was up front with him. I told him that I would not pretend that I was going to try to do things the same way, but I would do what I could to accommodate his needs as long as I knew what those needs were. We wound up having a pretty decent chat.

I hope that as a result he’ll learn to recognize that I am not trying to replace the boss he has placed on a pedestal.  We are both now in the situation of making the best of what we’ve been given. After my talk with my mom about my new stepdad, I consciously tried to make more of an effort. I hope it was noticed. There was never a follow-up discussion which makes me think it was.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that this situation might also work out over time as well.

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