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Why Transactional Analysis Can Improve Your Sales
Why Transactional Analysis Can Improve Your Sales

Why Transactional Analysis Can Improve Your Sales

Transactional Analysis (TA) was developed back in the 1950s by Dr. Eric Berne. Berne developed this break- through approach to human psychology while working with a patient who was an attorney. The two were discussing something the attorney had done, but regretted doing. Berne asked, “Well, why did you do it?” The attorney explained that, although part of him hadn’t wanted to do what he’d done, “… the child inside me compelled me to do it anyways”

Berne was intrigued. Out of this conversation he developed the psychological model we now know as Transactional Analysis, or TA for short. In this model, Berne theorizes that people have three ego states: the Parent, the Child, and the Adult. Let’s look at each of these egos in-depth and see how we can use TA to help in sales.


What Berne labeled as the Parent ego state, acts like an audio recorder. It starts imprinting messages from authority figures in people’s minds at birth and then, when they are about six years old, it shuts off. This ego state includes two halves: the Nurturing Parent and the Critical Parent. The Nurturing Parent, for example, teaches things like, “You can be anything you want to be,” “You’re special,” and “You’ll always get credit for trying”. This is the part of the personality that puts bandages on children’s knees after they fall and feeds them chicken soup when they are sick. Then, you have the Critical Parent. That’s the part of the personality that teaches things like, “Look both ways before you cross the street,” “Don’t talk to strangers,” “Finish all the food on your plate,” and “Don’t be late”.

While the Critical Parent might be looking out for a person’s best interests, it is a worrier and can prevent the person from stepping beyond his comfort zones. Many of the Critical Parent messages were useful in youth, but can work against adults, especialls those who are in sales. For instance: “Don’t talk to strangers”. This causes many of us to be very reluctant when it comes to making cold calls to prospects we don’t know.


Next there is the Child ego state, which is also a recorder that turns on at birth and shuts off at about age six. Here resides all the feelings that ever festered about archaic Parent recordings. If you’ve dealt with teenagers, you’ve probably met the Rebellious Child state, which takes what the Critical Parent says and flips it backwards. For example, if you were to tell a teenager, “Be home by 10 p.m.,” the Rebellious Child might compel the teen to come home at 10:05, just because you said 10:00.

Fortunately, the Rebellious Child is not alone. Other aspects of the Child include, the Natural Child, the fun-loving part of the personality that likes cars, jewelry, vacations, and funny stories. Then you have the Adaptive Child, who yearns to please the Parent recordings, and is always seeking approval. Finally, you have the Little Professor. This is the part of the personality that compels people to educate and enlighten others. This ego state shows up on a sales call when the salesperson starts listing features and benefits.

In essence, the Child is that little six-year-old in everyone that is constantly, or at least on a regular basis, trying to “be OK”.

You may see this desire express itself in many different ways. Perhaps your Natural Child tells a funny story on a sales call, or maybe your Adaptive Child comes out when you try to please the prospect by giving a quote with no commitment for a decision. Believe it or not, you may even express your need to feel OK through your Rebellious Child. I once heard about a salesperson who showed up late to a sales call. When the prospect asked, “How’d you get here?”, the salesperson, who had been fighting traffic, sweating the whole time, just blurted out, “I drove”. How’s that supposed to build a bond? That’s a good way to get a free wipe-out! In other words, the salesperson got his frustration off his chest, but then lost the sale and made no commission. He said what he wanted, but he blew the sale doing so. As you read more, you’ll see why it’s important to leave your Child ego in the car when you go on a sales call.


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