One on the board



Mr Smith is interested in the Fiesta, I’ve offered £x but he wants a better deal to sign today

Sales Manager:

OK, I can do another £200 but that’s as far as we can push it


But that’s not going to be enough. Can’t you do anything else, with another £500 I’m sure I can close the deal today and that would give me one on the board for this month

Sales Manager:  

OK, let me have a look at it and see what I can do…

This scenario occurs in most dealerships, most months, and is one I frequently have described to me by sales managers… How difficult it is for a salesperson to sell before they’ve got ‘one on the board for the month’, and how it’s up to them to help them close their first deal and get some momentum to move with.

This shouldn’t be ‘just part of the job’ though, because the reality is that your dealership could be losing money and creating the wrong culture by the well-meaning actions of the Sales Manager.

To change this behaviour, we need a deeper understanding of what’s really happening, and it’s helpful to understand Transactional Analysis theory (TA) developed by Eric Berne (1972).

Berne’s work studies different transactions, or conversations, that people have between them and found that people will always adopt one of three different ego states – the parent, the adult or the child:

The parent and child egos represent our instinctive reactions, the ones that are based on our own experiences. In the case of the parent, they can either nurture and support or they can be critical and judgemental, behaviours that have been learnt from our parents or people who have held positions of authority e.g. previous managers.

The child state can also take two forms. The first can be playful and creative but can become irresponsible and inconsiderate to others in the team around them. The second, is based on the behaviours that brought us success as children.

The adult state is the one that we can choose to adopt – it recognises options and considers things without emotion, looking at the situation as it is today with no other influences.

In any conversation, a person starts from one of their ego states (transaction stimulus), the second person then responds from one of theirs (transaction response).

In my example, the salesperson is starting the conversation from a child ego state. He is whining and behaving as a child who isn’t getting his own way in achieving the sales he wants. The Sales Manager responds as a nurturing parent who supports the salesperson to close by enabling the deal and starting his numbers for the month.

This is an example of a stable relationship, one where both people are in ego states they feel comfortable with e.g. parent speaks to and is responded to by a child or a child looks to a parent for support.

The Sales Manager thinks he’s ‘helping the salesperson, supporting him with an unprofitable deal so he can build and achieve his target for the month.

But is he really helping? At the end of this conversation the sales person will walk away still in the child state, again he’s learnt that throwing a tantrum will get him the result he wants.

So what behaviour do you think he’s going to use next time he’s not performing as well as he wants?

Yes, he’s going to go back to his manager and ask for him for another marginal deal to give him what he needs… Not the best way to improve his performance and achieve the sales that your business is looking for.

Here’s how to disrupt the above pattern… Consider a different approach


Mr Smith is interested in the Fiesta, I’ve offered £x but he wants a        better deal to sign today

Sales Manager:  

OK, I can do another £200 but that’s as far as we can push it


But that’s not going to be enough. Can’t you do anything else, with another £500 I’m sure I can close the deal today and that would give me one on the board for this month

Sales Manager:        

Sorry I can’t do anything further on the price. Let’s look at it a different way. Walk me through the process you’ve followed with Mr Smith so far and see whether there are any other opportunities to close the sale.


Well, he initially contacted us through the website and I called up on the lead and booked a demo for last Wed. That went really well and he particularly liked…

Here the salesperson again begins in the child state, but the Sales Manager has chosen not to instinctively respond as a parent, instead move and respond as an adult. He hasn’t ‘helped’ him by giving a price that’s wanted but instead supported him to find other opportunities that may help him to close the sale.

By responding as an adult, he will pull the salesperson out of his child state to become an adult as well as this is the other stable relationship, adult <–> adult. In this, both parties look at the situation in a constructive manner to find the best solution for both of them.

With this response the manager is genuinely helping the salesperson. Not by giving him a quick fix he didn’t have to work for, but by helping improve his sales technique and use other tools to close the sale.

What will be the salesperson’s response next time they’re struggling for their first sale of the month?

Initially they may still look for parental support from their manager, but in time will start to realise that isn’t going to help them achieve their goal, Instead, if the manager keeps coaching them to find solutions, they’ll soon have the tools they need to be able to close the sale themselves.

The salesperson will take more ownership of the sales process and their customers, potentially closing deals with better margins – and delivering a real difference to your bottom line.

This is only one example but understanding these ego states helps give us the freedom to choose and change our responses to stimuli rather than relying on our instincts. Adult <–> Adult conversations are always the most productive and lead to the best long term outcomes.

Final Thoughts:

Take a moment to think about when you’ve adopted the different ego states in a conversation:

  • When have you acted as a parent?
  • When have you responded as a child?

And then think about the reactions you’ve received – did you achieve the outcomes you were looking for? How might you have changed your behaviour to be from an adult ego state?

Start to apply this concept to your daily conversations, think about which ego state your using and when you find yourself dropping into parent or child, take a moment to reassess and change to an adult state.

You’ll be amazed how much more productive your conversations become and if you’re a manager with a tendency to ‘parent’ your sales team, how much more ownership is developed in your sales team!

Further information:

Steward I. & Joines V. (2012) TA today. A new introduction to transactional analysis. Lifespace publishing


About the author: Innovation

Innovation was established by Sally Fyffe in 2015 to provide real support to automotive leaders as they navigate the challenges created by a period of intense change. Sally’s leadership experience includes board level OEM roles such as Network Development and Quality Director (PSA UK), Parts and Service Director (Citroen UK) and Head of Parts and Service (Honda UK). This is coupled with dealership experience from initially being a Non-Executive Director & more recently the Managing Director of Corkills Motor Group.

3 comments to “One on the board”

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  1. Avatar

    Alison Ashley - August 21, 2018 at 2:50 am Reply


    This is a very clear explanation of the power of TA and how it can be successfully applied to team development.

    Thank you

  2. Avatar

    Les Randles - October 9, 2018 at 7:58 pm Reply

    There is a definite C-P culture amongst most of the showrooms i have been into.
    I wonder if this is sometimes managed by the SM to maintain their Parent ego? Without really
    Seeing the big picture! The development and motivation of their staff..
    The dissapointing efforts and rewards.. the continuous up and downs!.. eventually the turn over of staff… …. and so the process begins again C-P.

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