The Wisdom of Your Inner Child

As you’re shopping for holiday gifts at the mall this season, take a few minutes to observe what’s going on in Santa’s workshop. What you’ll see and hear is kid after kid after kid doing an absolutely brilliant sales job on old St. Nick.

You see, children seem to intuitively know how to ask for what they want—and they’re brave enough to actually come out and do it! We adults used to have that innate skill, too, but most of us lost it along the way, because the grown-ups in our lives told us we were being inappropriate or greedy, or that we didn’t deserve what we were asking for.

But when we sat on Santa’s lap, we had optimism and confidence. We knew what we wanted, and how to get it. And although I only started sharing my five steps to sales success a few years ago, I’m convinced that the kids who are delivering their wish lists to mall Santas all over America this season were born knowing them.

Here’s what I mean….

Step 1: Plan. I’ve never met a kid who climbed onto Santa’s lap without a plan. Every kid has carefully curated a list of their must-have toys of the year. And each tyke has figured out the reason why Santa should leave those gifts under the family’s Christmas tree, even if they’re expensive or hard to find. All of them have figured out that even if mom and dad have already said “no,” Santa can override that decision! A few of them even ask for the impossible: peace on earth, a cure for cancer, or a reunion of divorced parents. They believe—so they figure it’s worth a shot. And they know that if they at least ask, there’s a chance it will happen. If they don’t ask, it definitely won’t.

Step 2: Look for opportunities. Just in case Santa misplaces the wish list, or gets one kid mixed up with another, the smartest kids follow the man in red from mall to mall, crawl up onto his lap again and again, and repeat their requests, multiple times! They know Santa is just pretending not to remember them—he’s all-knowing, after all. But two asks are definitely more memorable than one, so they ask at every opportunity.

Step 3: Establish trust. Like all good salespeople, these mini-negotiators know that gift-giving is not a one-sided proposition. So they carefully stage a milk-and-cookie snack for Santa on a table close to the fireplace, where Kris Kringle can’t possibly miss it as he tumbles down the chimney and into the house. And the tastier the cookies, they figure, the bigger the presents.

Step 4. Ask for what you want. The hardest step for adults is nothing to kids! Asking for what they want is as natural to them as wanting it. They believe they deserve the best bicycle, the trendiest video games, the latest phone, or the coolest kicks. And they know the only person who can make their dreams come true is the one who has been watching their good behavior all year long. That confidence makes the ask a no-brainer.

Step 5. Follow up. Few kids send thank-you notes to the North Pole—even though they should. But they show their gratitude by ferociously ripping the wrapping paper off of their gifts like what’s inside those boxes will save their lives. They spend the next hours and days doing nothing but appreciating the sheer joy of having something new and fun to play with. And—with their worthiness and Santa’s reliability confirmed for another year—they start devising a plan before New Year’s Day for how they will get even bigger and better loot next Christmas.

To my loyal readers, friends, clients, family and colleagues: I wish you a childlike Christmas and a year full of the joy of giving at least as much as you get.