My wife and I have two children, and our older child recently reached the dreaded “terrible twos.” Toddlers are known for being noisy, messy, destructive, adventurous, boisterous, and adorable—but did you know toddlers can teach us a thing or two about being better salespeople?
Toddlers are natural salespeople. They’re curious, they’re engaging, and they love hugs. Sometimes they can be cranky and messy (just like adult salespeople!), but mostly they are trying very hard to learn and get better, and—in their own small way—make a positive difference in the world.
Here are a few lessons I learned about sales from my two-year-old child:
1. Don’t take “no” for an answer
Toddlers are often known for having tantrums—and, wow, those tantrums are often incredibly stressful to sit through. But what do these tantrums really mean?
Toddlers’ brains are still developing at that age. Their sense of fairness and their sense of self is often being challenged. They’re learning the limits of the world around them. They’re surrounded by larger people telling them what to do, and these people can physically pick them up and carry them out of the room if they don’t comply with directions. It must be stressful, right?? No wonder toddlers throw tantrums.
As salespeople, it’s not okay to throw tantrums, of course. But we can learn something from the persistence of toddlers—they often don’t hear the word “no.” They will keep trying to do what interests them, and keep trying to do whatever seems fun or rewarding in the moment, even if other people say “no.” As a salesperson, you have to get used to hearing the word “no” all the time—but don’t let it discourage you. Keep trying to build relationships, keep asking good questions, keep trying to find the underlying reasons for the customer’s objection, and try to find a way to “yes.”
2. Work alone or as a team
Toddlers are so fun to watch in a play group, because they have their own little world of making friends and playing in parallel; some of them, even at that young age, are more likely to be loners or more eager to make friends. Whether it’s “circle time” or nap time, toddlers are learning how to get along with others and make their way in the world.
Salespeople are like toddlers in this way, too. There are aspects of the sales process that require intense teamwork, and there are times as a salesperson where you have to go it alone, making the calls and putting in the added effort by yourself. Salespeople have to be versatile in the way they build relationships and add value within an organization. Some days you have to be a superstar individual contributor, and others you have to be a team player.
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3. It’s okay to cry sometimes, but you’ve got to be resilient
At the risk of offending some toddlers who might be reading this, it’s true that toddlers are known to cry. People might cry more during the age of two than they do at any other year of their lives. However, all of these toddler tears serve a purpose. Toddlers are developing emotional resilience. They’re learning how to recover from scraped knees and setbacks.
In the same way, salespeople need to be resilient and resolute. There are lots of ups and downs in the sales world—maybe not as bad as crashing your tricycle or falling off the playground equipment, but close. Every rejection, every deal that falls through, every disappointment is ultimately a test of your will. Are you willing to keep recovering and keep progressing toward your next goal?
Just like toddlers grow up to be (usually, hopefully) emotionally mature adults with healthy life perspectives and emotional intelligence, salespeople have to go through a growing process of their own. By getting toughened up and by seeing some of the downsides of the business, they can ultimately become more effective sellers who have an inner core of strength to weather any storm.
4. Keep exploring
One of the sweetest aspects of the toddler stage of life, especially as a parent, is seeing all the ways toddlers are curious and adventurous—the ways they are happy to be outside, their eagerness to climb and run and explore. The best salespeople find a way to stay optimistic, earnest, and energized by their jobs. For a salesperson, every day is a new opportunity and a clean slate; you never know when your next big sale is going to materialize.
Just like every day of life is a new experience for toddlers, for a salesperson it’s a new chance to build relationships and make a bigger difference for yourself, your organization, your team, and your clients. Hold on to that idealistic spirit, and keep reminding yourself of what you love about the job and continue to push the limits.
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