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How is selling a Personal History different from selling Tickle-Me-Elmo?

Tickle Me Elmo, a doll that chortled and shook with laughter when tickled, was introduced in the United States around Christmas 1996, and quickly went viral! The doll’s short supply due to the unexpected demand led to an increase in price and some instances of violence over the limited stock among customers. Newspaper classifieds sold the plush toy for hundreds of U.S. dollars. People reported that the toy, originally sold at US $28.99, fetched as much as $1500 on the black market.

Easy to see that “persuasive sales skills” didn’t have to be a priority for toy sellers with Elmo dolls in stock that year. People were eager and rushing to buy the doll.

Realistically, this is not the case for most products and services in the Consumer Marketplace but it is especially true of Personal Histories.  As I commented in article 1:  only a small percentage of consumers are actively LOOKING for personal historians (or books, audio recordings, and video documentaries for their family. ) Secondly, there is not much of a personal history you can make for $28.99.

Enter the necessity for being a good Sales Person for your business.


  • The first thing you need to know about Sales is that it does not come naturally for 99% of business owners; so you don’t have to feel badly if you are not a good sales person!
  • The second thing is that if other people can learn how to be great sales people… so can you! Really! (You couldn’t, for example, be any worse than I was when I started!)


  • The reasons your clients buy personal histories:  Not the reasons YOU think people should have but THEIR reasons for deciding to buy.
  • How to ask really good questions:  If you can lead the conversation with a potential client so that they do most of the talking and they TELL YOU about their reasons and feelings, before you talk about price, they are much more likely to buy.
  • How to listen more than talk.  If you guide the conversation well, potential clients will fan the spark of their own enthusiasm into a flame of desire to purchase.
  • You need to feel comfortable talking about money and confident that you have good products at a decent price.  (Meaning you are not going to lose money creating “heirlooms” and “treasures” for other people.)
  • What supplemental sales materials you need to have at a sales conversation, when to introduce them, and how to talk about them at the right time.
  • Finally, you need to know how to ask for business.  When you hear interest in someone’s voice, you need to be able to say “Shall we work together?  When would you like to start?  How about next week?”  And you need to be able to say those things in a non-pushy, enthusiastic way.

Tomorrow Let’s look at the BRIGHT SIDE! I will talk about the advantages and talents you bring to the table while finding clients.

IN THE MEANTIME:  If you are looking for a business skills training for personal historians check out the description of the APH sponsored 6 month class, starting in March, on the APH Events and Classes webpage. – See more at: APH Events and Classes

2 Responses to “2-19-14 Challenge #3: Selling Elmo vs Personal Histories”

  1. Debra Baxter says:

    Thanks for the tips. I modified a letter I had just written to a potential client according to your tips.

  2. dhyan says:

    Nice! Always good to know articles are helpful! I’m curious – what did you change? Which was the important tip?

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