Do you remember the last time you went trick-or-treating? For yourself, I mean—not with your kids! I have to admit that I don’t. But I do remember the first year I didn’t go. I was in my early teens, and I was very sick, to the extent that I couldn’t even answer the door to hand out candy. I remember thinking, “It’s OK; I’ll go next year”—but I didn’t. At some point between that year and the next, my peers (or my mother) decided that we were just too old for such nonsense.
The thing is, though, that there’s so much to learn from that simple, carefree, childhood practice. It reminds us that it’s OK to ask. In fact, it’s great practice for a career in sales, with its mixture of boldness and curiosity, two things that fade all too quickly in many folks, starting right about at that awkward teen transition when kids give up on trick-or-treating.
The history of trick-or-treating is entwined in asking. Its earliest version was actually an All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2) tradition where the poor (children and adults) would ask for food, and wealthier families would give them “soul cakes” in exchange for promises to pray for deceased loved ones. Over time, the task fell primarily to children, and eventually the ancient Celtic tradition of dressing up in costume on Oct. 31 (Samhain, their New Year’s Eve) became mixed together with it—likely around when both practices made their way to the U.S.
So what are some of the lessons we can reach back to our childhood trick-or-treating to learn?
Be bold in your ask! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? It’s the most basic lesson of sales, but sometimes falling into easy patterns proves an irresistible temptation. Things are going well, right? You have a great crop of regular customers; why rock the boat? If it’s been a while since you last approached a brand new client, or even since you presented a fresh idea to one of your regulars, think back to your childhood and be bold. If you want that candy, you’ll have to ring that bell!
Sometimes the best reward lies past the most daunting gatekeepers. Things were tamer when I was young, but when I took my now-teenagers trick-or-treating five or six years ago, people went all out! There was always one houses on our route that required kids to run a gauntlet of ghosts and goblins with smoke- and sound-machine accompaniment just to make it to the door. That house inevitably had the best candy. I believe “the greater the risk, the greater the reward” is the axiom in play here, and it’s always a good one to keep in mind. Go for that one sale that seems above your reach. The reward is worth it.
Be strategic—and learn when to turn away. Word gets around. If you lived in a neighborhood for a few years, you knew who handed out full-sized candy bars—and you went there first. In fact, you probably had your whole route mapped out before you left the house. There’s an implied neighborhood contract to Halloween that nearly everyone decides to play along with—but kids learn early on who has chosen to opt out of the game. There’s no use knocking if the house is dark. Your time is your best asset; it’s important not to squander it.
Be your best self! Yes, Halloween is all about dressing up as someone you’re not. But be honest: a good portion of the time, you dressed up as someone you wanted to be. The queen, the cowboy, the superhero, the firefighter, the favorite storybook character: All reflected some character trait you wish you had or aspect of yourself you wanted to highlight. So do it! Every meeting you walk into, be as tenacious as you felt when you dressed up as Little Orphan Annie, as powerful as you were as a witch, as clever as when you were Batman.
This Halloween, give your sales a BOO!-st by incorporating the lessons of trick-or-treating. You’re never “too old” to embrace boldness and curiosity.
© Genevieve Trainor - Bankers Advertising 2018