“Trick-or-treating is just as much of a sales pitch as anything else, and it doesn’t take kids long to catch on to that,” says Blair Nicole, CEO and founder of Media Moguls PR. It may surprise you, but the innocent event of dressing up and flitting around the neighborhood with candy buckets can be a foundational crash course in some important business and sales lessons.
We asked business professionals to look back in time to their trick-or-treating days and share their insights into the sales etiquette and business lessons kids can learn. As Halloween approaches and your own neighborhood fills with little ghouls, ghosts and movie characters, you might remember a few things your trick-or-treating experiences taught you as a child.
In this case, learning the ropes in business and sales can start young.
1. Conversing with strangers
“Social skills are super important and can be developed during trick-or-treating,” says Jamie Beck, career educator of Career Vision by Jamie. Beck says her daughter has learned to chat a little with the homeowners and businesses when she approaches them for candy. Folks find her so sweet that they typically give her extra candy.
“We encourage her to be grateful and converse with the homeowner because that is why they participate, to see all the kids and enjoy the community event,” Beck says. In her daughter’s case, the trick-or-treating tradition has bloomed into fundraising for charity, teaching even more valuable business skills.
Beck says her daughter displays no embarrassment when talking to adults as a result of these interactions. “I love opportunities that allow my daughter to engage with strangers because I know I am raising a competent future employee or business owner as a result,” she adds.
2. Negotiation 101
“I have been in sales for over eight years now and I always say that everyone has been a sales person at some point in their lives,” says Michelle Bonavitacola of Joynture. Bonavitacola says negotiating with parents, neighbors or friends about the trick-or-treating plan can be one of the times we all become salespeople.
“My brothers and I would start our ‘sales process’ by negotiating with our parents to go to as many houses as possible,” Bonavitacola says. “When we got home, we’d bargain with each other for our favorite candies and had our own candy-economy.”
Michael Heiligenstein, director of SEO at Fit Small Business, highlights the end-of-evening trades as a great crash course in sales negotiation for children. “Making a deal can be difficult,” she says. “First, you have to find a kid that likes the candy you want to trade away, so both of you can come away with a benefit.”
Even beyond that, Heiligenstein says kids who have candy no one else wants can learn a valuable lesson in upselling to make their trades. “They’ll learn how to sell something that is unappealing—that's a great sales skill from trick-or-treating.”
3. A little hustle goes a long way
“Trick-or-treating can teach kids valuable business lessons--such as hustle pays off,” Heiligenstein says. Trick or treating isn’t necessarily an easy event. Sure, it’s a step or two down from having to hit the pavement selling a product, but those hours of tromping through the neighborhood with candy buckets can be exhausting for little bodies.
“Whoever goes to the most houses will get the most candy, as long as you’re knocking on the right door,” Heiligenstein says. “If the kids really want candy, they’ll be out there as long as possible knocking on as many doors as possible so they can impress all the other kids.” Trick-or-treating might be one of the first ways a child experiences that kind of individual motivation to kick it into high gear.
4. Confidence, confidence, confidence
It’s not everyone who can strut out the door in puppy face paint, blood-spattered robes or glittering butterfly wings—all to spend the night knocking on strangers’ doors. The process of trick-or-treating is very unique, and children can benefit immensely from the experience.
“Going door-to-door and asking for candy and treats can build tremendous confidence,” says Yolanda Muckle, career sales professional. She adds that approaching strangers normally makes most people very anxious, but trick-or-treating helps exposes children to the process, helping them gain confidence. Confidence benefits kids in many different ways and down the road, it’s a must for sales professionals.
5. Creativity gives you an edge
It can be so difficult to get creative when it seems like everyone sells the same way or uses the same tactics to attract customers. But trick-or-treating may have helped you recognize the value of standing out from your competitors. “The more creative your costume was (along with a winning smile and personality), the better your chance of getting more candy,” Muckle says.
Maybe the years you put extra thought into your costume brought back greater yields. Dressing as a goldfish bowl, a helicopter or a clever pun tended to stand out against the sea of generic princesses and vampires. If you made the adults laugh, you were sure to hit a candy goldmine.
6. Know your audience
When you are trick-or-treating, you pick up pretty quickly on what charms the adults. “When we approached each house, we’d be as sweet as possible or play into our characters (barking like a puppy, cackling for a devil costume) to wiggle our way into an extra handful of candy,” Bonavitacola recalls.
When you know what your audience wants and prioritizes, you know how to cater your pitch to make it the most convincing and relevant to them. “I often played the younger, cuter sister card and it worked well,” Bonavitacola says. “You have to work with what you got.”
7. Come prepared
The trick-or-treating ritual that begins as a fun, parent-led outing for kids can grow into something much more strategic as they get older. “You are preparing to go out and ask for what you want,” says Rachel Varghese of Reel Volume Promotions.
Varghese sees plenty of sales training benefit when kids think ahead about their costumes, their neighborhood game plan and how long they plan to be running door to door. Afterall, it only takes one year of a truly thrilling candy haul to plant the seed that preparation and strategy are worth the effort.
8. Know when to walk away
“When trying to make a sale, know when to step away from a bad situation,” Varghese advises. For this particular skill, Halloween can be a fabulous teacher. Kids learn to skip the decoration-less houses with all their lights off.
That not-so-subtle hint that no one would be answering the door to give you candy taught you an early sales lesson: You can’t win over everyone. Knowing that some sales just aren’t going to happen can better equip you to notice a bad situation and know when to walk away.
All grown up
Though trick-or-treating definitely teaches some solid sales skills, the lessons you learned while going door to door as a pirate or a cat carry over into many careers in the business world.
If you enjoyed chatting up the neighbors, getting into character and persuading your pals to trade you your favorite treats, there are a handful of business careers that might suit you. Learn more about some of your options in our article: 7 Best Business Jobs for Extroverts.