Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fairy Tales for Sales: How to Stay on the Nice List

Introduction and explanation:
A few years ago, a friend (fellow writer) and I were bouncing around ideas for the future. Somehow we got off topic and started talking about the stories shared with our kids back in the day. In a world where none of the kids’ stories actually relate to the life of a distributor salesperson, we wondered what would happen if we created “Fairy Tales for Sales” – stories which carried meaning for the sales professional and the kiddos as well.

This year we are providing a couple of Holiday Stories which fall under these guidelines. Good reading for the kids and a message for the grownups. We hope you enjoy….

Negotiating with Santa
As Frank looks back, he may have been a bit like Billy...
Looking back at the last year, Little Billy wasn’t sure his behavior would put him onto Santa’s nice list.  There had been a few temper tantrums, a little pouting and an issue at school with his teacher.  Just last week, Billy got into some trouble with his perpetually nice baby sister after trimming her dolly’s hair into a mohawk.  Of course, he had his shining moments; he carried out the trash without being asked, he put away his dirty clothes before bed and helped with dishes on Thanksgiving.  Once last summer, he helped a decrepit old distribution consultant across the street.  Still, these were just isolated incidences of niceness. 

Over the weekend, Billy joined his mom on a shopping trip. As they walked in from the car, he could feel the biting chill of winter in the air.  Once in the mall, they walked by the spot reserved for Santa Claus.  In many ways, young Billy was glad they didn’t make their normal stop to greet the Red Suited Elf.  Billy tried to avoid eye contact with Santa sitting on his big red velvet chair, but as they walked by, Billy peeked over his shoulder and noticed Santa not looking like his merry self.  

For the next several days, Billy was good, actually very good, but he was troubled.  What if Santa didn’t accept his newly improved behavior?  What if the North Pole tally still showed him on the naughty list?  How would he respond on Christmas morning when his little sister’s stocking brimmed with  presents and his contained lumps of coal and bundles of switches? 

Billy's thoughts kept him from being his happy self.  He was truly down in the dumps about something.  Late one night, after the kids were fast asleep, mom and dad discussed their concerns about Billy's moping behavior.  They were troubled.  Christmas being a joyful season, this wasn’t right.  His parents decided that dad would drive Billy to school the next day to try to figure out what was wrong.

The next morning, dad and Billy took the long way to school.  After a stop at their favorite Kwik Shop for dad’s morning coffee and a donut for Billy, dad asked Billy a few questions:
Billy, is there something bothering you?  Mom and I have noticed you aren’t your normal cheery self?  Are you feeling ok?  Is everything going well at school?  Is that big kid down the street picking on you again?
Dad, I am worried!  (With a tear starting to slip down his cheek) I am concerned that Santa has me on the ‘no fly naughty’ list.  I don’t want a bunch of coal lumps and switches for Christmas.  I really want Santa to bring me the Official River Heights Distributor play set this year.
Well, son, I think we can figure out a way to get past this.  You just keep being nice and I will think of a way for you to impress Santa.


Thanks, Dad, you're the greatest!
Who needs Hatchimals when you can have The Distribution Play Set?

Billy hugged his father, hopped out of the car and skipped into school.  Dad was glad to see his improved mood. 

As dad drove off to his first appointment, he pondered his young son’s dilemma.  Billy was much like himself, overall a good kid, but had reasons to be on the naughty list now and then.  There was no time to stress as he needed to mentally prepare for his next sales call with Tom Bylow, Buyer at Discount Construction.

Digressing just a bit, Mr. Bylow is not a nice person.  Without much of a “Ho, Ho, Ho," Santa and his elves have a saying, “Nobody is Naughtier than ‘Terrible Tom’ Bylow.”  As a kid, he received so much coal in his stocking, he considered contacting Peabody Coal.  Known as the biggest bully on the block, he found his natural calling in the purchasing department.  He used every trick in the book to bully hard working salespeople into giving him undeserved discounts and what he liked to call “Bylow breaks”.

Give yourself an early Christmas present and watch this video 

Thankfully, Billy’s dad was prepared.  A year or so ago he had attended a special SPASigma course on negotiation skills and took it seriously.  As a matter of fact, each visit to see “Terrible Tom” called for a quick review of the continuing education which was part of the class.  Always a professional, Billy's dad gracefully deflected each attempt to bully a better price.  A sale was made; negotiations done right.  Discount Construction got a good value and dad’s company made great margins. 

After the call, Billy’s situation danced back into dad’s mind.  Then an answer came ringing like a string of Christmas Bells.  Billy was nothing like Terrible Tom.  Deep down inside he was a good little boy who sometimes misdirected his energy.  Maybe Billy could negotiate with Santa.

After dinner that night, dad asked Billy if he would like to help make popcorn while mom and sister watched their favorite show.  Always anxious to spend special time with dad, Billy Boy jumped at the opportunity.   

As they bustled around gathering ingredients for their snack, dad asked Billy if he was ready for their upcoming mall visit to see Santa.  Billy turned gray and started confessing his many excursions into the naughty realm.  Midway through the third episode of bad behavior, Dad interrupted with, “What about the nice things you’ve done?  I know you have helped mom clean and even assisted your sister with a couple of chores.  Those count.”

With tears forming on his cheek, Little Billy pointed out that in his seven previous visits with Santa, he was always asked the question, “Have you been a good boy?”  This would be no different and he didn't want to lie to a man with magical lie detecting skills.  At this point, Dad asked Billy if he had ever heard the word, "negotiate."  Billy wasn’t sure.

Dad explained, negotiation is a way of communicating that helps people work out better agreements; both sides use this form of communications to get what’s really important to them.  Real negotiators take the time to understand what’s important to the other guy.  While Santa may be magical, he is also reasonable, making him the perfect negotiation partner.  Dad shared a list of things he knew about Santa:

  • Santa was already planning to make a stop at Billy’s house to bring presents to little Sis.
  • Santa gets jolly when he sees the happy look on little boys’ and girls’ faces.
  • Santa really doesn’t like to deliver lumps of coal or bundles of switches.
  • Santa often overlooks a few naughty behaviors if the nice behaviors are sincere.

Based on his SPASigma training, dad knew that practicing, or role playing, negotiation strategies gave salespeople an extra advantage.  So he asked Billy to think about what he would say to Santa during his visit at the mall.

The next day on the way to school, Billy practiced his talk with the man in the big suit.  He even asked dad to play the part of Santa:

Dad (as Santa):
Ho, Ho, Ho… Hi Billy, Have you been good this year?
Hi Santa, I admit that I have made a couple of naughty mistakes this year, but I have done a lot of nice things too. 
Dad (as Santa):
What do you mean Billy?
I try to be nice all the time, but some days I make mistakes and feel bad about my actions. Overall, I have had more nice days.
Dad (as Santa):
Well, it’s the thought that counts in the world of naughty and nice.  So, I guess Santa will need to see what he can do!
After role playing, dad and Billy both thought the story was good, but Billy needed to continue practicing.  His exchanges in the mirror every day paid off.  Things went wonderfully.  Santa not only agreed that Billy’s behavior was worthy of being on the nice list, but he also gave a big thumbs up to the elves cranking out another of those cool Official River Heights Distribution play sets.

The moral of the story:  Negotiation is good, Tom Bylow is bad and everybody negotiates… including Santa.

No comments: