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The Ruby Group | Akron and Columbus, OH

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Remember the days of the school fundraiser? My youngest son, Ian, is in the middle of one right now – selling pastries and such. He headed out last weekend to hit to streets in the neighborhood with his four-color brochure, purchase form, and pen, ready to conquer the world!

Well, not really.

He was scared to death! He’s 11 and wasn’t quite sure what exactly to say.

“Hi. Would you like to buy something to help me raise money for my sixth grade camp?”

“Hello. I’m selling pastries to raise money for our 6th grade camping trip. Would you like to buy something?”

“I’m selling stuff. Will you buy something?”

So many scripts…so little time!

He’s a bit of a nervous little dude anyway, so putting him in a situation where he has to do something outside of his comfort zone is always interesting to watch.

The challenge with the traditional process of going door to door in your neighborhood as a kid – or cold calling as an salesperson – is you’re just hopeful someone will open the door, answer the phone, give you a few minutes, and at least consider what you have to say (or sell).

This picture of the child walking up to a home, nervous and excited, scared and unsure of himself, is a perfect sample of how we act on a sales call or meeting. We are often a “child” approaching a “parent.” In this scenario, the parent has all the power, and the child feels like he’s at the mercy of the parent.

Neither role is good for making a decision.

In the mid-1950’s, Dr. Eric Berne developed a concept called Transactional Analysis. Berne understood there are three “states of being”: Parent, Child, and Adult. I won’t get into all the details of Transactional Analysis in this article, but it would be worth reading more at

The bottom line is our best conversations – and therefore our best decisions – come when we are in an Adult-to-Adult state. When we’re in either a Child or Parent state, we make decisions emotionally, based on past experiences or fear of future problems, etc. Only when we truly communicate as equal adults can we determine the best solution for a given situation.

If we go back to our fundraising example, most often it plays out something like this:

●The child walks up to the door, explains why he’s there, and asks if the neighbor wants to buy something.

●The neighbor, feeling pressured to buy because she bought something from the other neighbor kid, asks to see the brochure.

●The child nervously shares more about the fundraiser.

●The neighbor buys one item, not because she needs it, but because she wants to help the child.

●The child walks away thinking he just did a great job “selling,” and moves onto the next house to replay the scenario.

If we bought and sold this way in real life, all salespeople would be successful and all buyers would be broke!

The purchase wasn’t made because there was a need or pain. (Although there’s always the promise of future pleasure when I dig into that pumpkin roll…but I digress!)

The sale was made out of fear; the purchase was made out of guilt.

This example works well because it’s an actual child and parent. But, this transaction could work in an adult-to-adult manner. Let’s reframe the scenario. Imagine if Ian knew our next-door neighbor loves Snickerdoodle cookies (because she’s bought them for the last several years), and Snickerdoodles were the featured cookie in the fundraising packet this year.

If Ian walked next door, knowing he had something our neighbor wanted, he’d have the confidence (not fear) to approach her with his fundraising packet. She’d be happy to see him and to learn that Snickerdoodles were featured this year. She would order because she wanted to, not out of guilt. Even though it’s a child and a parent, they would be in a state of Adult-to-Adult.

Let’s talk as adults.

In order to accomplish anything in a sales conversation, the Adult state is where we need to be; and we need to ensure the prospect is in an Adult state, too. There are tactics to move both our prospects and ourselves from Parent or Child into an Adult state, if we find that one or both of us are in the wrong place; but we’ll save that for another article!

Interested in learning more about Transactional Analysis and other sales strategies? Give us a call at 330-929-9449 or shoot an email to


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