Ask for a Pony to get a Goldfish

Negotiation is a skill I learned early on. One of my first lessons in sales and negotiation was asking for my first pet. There comes a time in almost every child’s life when they decide they need a pet; unfortunately, that time generally comes before parents think their child is responsible enough to handle a pet – at least, that was the case for my brother and me.

Our solution? A sales pitch.

I find that the principles we applied in our very first sales pitch for a pet goldfish are much the same as the persuasive techniques I have used in college to raise money, present business topics, and even get job offers. I’ll go ahead and walk you through my pet goldfish sales presentation to illustrate some core concepts.

Set Clear Objectives: Before our presentation to our parents, my brother and I needed to discuss what our goals for the meeting should be. We set 3 goals: Ideal, Achievable, and Least Acceptable. Our ideal objective was to get two fish tanks with colorful Betta fish, one for each of us. Our achievable objective was to get one fish tank and one Betta fish to share. Our least acceptable objective was to have our parents offer to reconsider our proposal two weeks later if we completed all of our chores.

Know Your Audience and Anticipate Objections: My brother and I spent some time thinking about our parents and what their reactions might be. We began to anticipate objections (“If you can’t remember to take the trash out every night, how will you be able to remember to feed a pet every day?”) and practice overcoming them.

Research: We then checked out a few books from the public library (this was long before we had a computer, that would be another sales pitch a few years later!). We did all kinds of research on what type of fish we should get. Which one would be the most resilient, live the longest, look the prettiest? We would then break off from my mom when she would take us to the store so we could look at the fish tanks and get some pricing information.

Presentation: Once we had compiled all of our research, we made a few illustrations for our presentation. We practiced our introduction, main selling points, and concluding statements. We confirmed the date and time of our presentation with our parents (living room, after dinner).

Ask for the Pony: Our parents knew from all of our sneaking around that the pet conversation was coming, but they didn’t know our specific objectives. I think they feared we might ask for a puppy, which would mean a lot more responsibility. We used this to our advantage, and began our presentation asking for a pony. Obviously unreasonable, but we were able to negotiate down to the two fish tanks, our ideal objective.

Over the years, we worked our way up to pet hamsters, a cockatiel, turtles, rabbits, a puppy, and even a duck.

I find today that these basic sales principles continue to serve me well as I make persuasive presentations and negotiate. What will be your goldfish?

Don’t forget to check out my VIDEO TIP OF THE WEEK for this post.

Kelli Lampkin

Kelli Lampkin is a writer, traveler, comedienne, and entrepreneur.

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