In 1981, I decided to create my own consulting company. It occurred to me that I must learn more about selling if I was to find clients and flourish. For this I took a short sales training class over a weekend. On my next vacation, I visited my grandparents in Cornwall, where we had the following conversation over lunch:
“Grandma, do you remember when my sister and I spent the summer here in 1966?”
“I sure do. That was a great time, wasn’t it?”
I paused for a moment. I wasn’t sure how to begin, “Well, I’ve taken a class on selling. Thinking back on that summer, I believe you were using sales techniques on us.”
“After dinner, you would say something like, ‘Do you want to clean up before dessert or afterwards?’ That is called the alternative choice close.”
She winked at me. “That’s true. Go on.”
“Then there was the time you made a list of all the reasons I should learn horseback riding even though I didn’t want to. Then you gave me the paper and asked me to list the reasons I should not. I couldn’t think of anything.”
She smiled, “That’s called the Benjamin Franklin close.”
“You would say things like, ‘After we go to the art museum, we’ll go for ice cream.’”
“Closing on a minor point.” She even knew the names of these techniques.
“We could never play you off against granddad like we could with our parents. In fact, it seemed to work the other way around. You might say something like, ‘If you promise to clean the table, wash the dishes, and put your clothes away, I’ll then go see if Granddad might take us out for dessert. But we only get this one chance to ask. Is it a deal?’”
She chuckled. “In my day we called that the MacAdoo close. I think it was named after someone called MacAdoo. Car salesmen use it all the time.”
I was stunned. She knew all these things I had just learned a few weeks earlier.
“That summer in 1966 was kind of weird. Ruth and I enjoyed doing chores for you that we hated to do at home. You seemed so appreciative.”
“We enjoyed your company so much and we did appreciate the help.”
“But grandma, you never worked as a saleswoman, did you?”
She laughed. “Well, there was the time that a builder gave us a house. First, he agreed to let us live in his model home. Then, since I helped him sell most of the other houses in the development, he gave us the house as a reward.”
She continued, “When your dad and his brother were very young we came to know Dale Carnegie. I learned a lot from him so I thought I’d apply his techniques to raising our children. They worked.”
What an amazing confession. “Don’t you think you were being manipulative?”
Her answer: “Not at all.” She paused. It seemed that she wanted to phrase her answer just so.
To persuade another of something is not manipulative if you are doing it in their best interests and not just your own.