What do you think of when you hear the term sales? If you're like most people, the feeling is negative, evoking the sense of searching for a metaphorical door as you scan for your exit route.
"No I'm sorry, not today".
But sometimes when we're selling, we don't take no for an answer, and we try to "make the sale" when the buyer doesn't truly want it or isn't quite ready.
You might gain in the short-term, with a little income that otherwise wouldn't be there, but you'll lose the relationship, forfeiting any future value.
Not only that, but by selling something they don't want you'll leave them worse off, and no-one wakes up in the morning hoping to make others lives incrementally worse.
Instead, as my friend Martin Stellar often says, you should only clinch the sale when both the buyer and the seller are convinced it is in both's best interest, not simply because you can, or feel you need to.
But selling doesn't just happen when we're doing "sales". Sales permeates every area of our lives.
Every relationship we have involves sales, whether it's selling a vision of a life together with your significant other, selling a friend on meeting in the middle rather than traipsing across the city to their neighbourhood, or selling your colleagues on the best way to spend their lunchtime is watching you try and fail for the hundredth time to eat a burrito with any form of dignity.
But what's often overlooked is that not only are you selling when you're "doing sales", or selling in relationships, you're also constantly selling to yourself.
Every action you take has passed through a sales process. Your internal monologue is a well oiled sales machine.
In the vast majority of cases this sales process resembles a subscription, a recurring yes that happens with minimal friction due to previous yeses made by previous you.
Sometimes however, we are prompted with a course change decision, and routines are a great example of this.
"Should I tweak my morning routine or continue as is?"
If you're anything like me this thought comes around regularly but rarely manages to close a deal in which both parties (my ideals and my reality) are happy.
My ideals tell me that I should have a better morning routine. But the mechanism it has often offered to achieve this is brute force, try harder, be less lame, or as Nike would have you believe, just do it.
As you can probably tell, the brute force nature of this sales process has often left me feeling guilty, and in the times it did make a sale and achieved a short routine change, it did not leave a positive lasting impact. I quickly rang the customer complaints department and asked for a refund, going back to the comfort of my old routine as soon as the seller (Idealistic Fred) had left the room.
More recently however, I've made a subtle change that seems to provide a win-win to both Idealistic Fred and Reality Fred. In other words a sale has completed and the buyers remorse is uncharacteristically conspicuous by its absence.
The change is simple, and one you will very likely have heard of before: "don't keep your phone by your bed whilst you sleep".
I've heard this from others many times. I've tried it before too, but it's always felt like a "should do", not a "want to do".
Ultimately, I've never been really convinced of its merits enough to fight the allure of the glowing dopamine vending machine formerly known as "my phone" which has pulled me back into its orbit time and again.
For some reason though, the change this time feels different. It doesn't feel hard. It doesn't feel like a sale. But that's the beauty of it, it still is one.
The best sales people know that a sale should never feel "sold", it should feel natural and almost happen without either party really focussing on the nature of the transaction at all.
And that's how my subtle shift to a new morning routine has felt. It's felt liberating, invigorating, freeing. I actually enjoy my new routine, I'm not simply brute forcing my way to a "better me", I'm gaining more value than it's costing and not only that, I've become the unbearable one who recommends it to their friends (case in point: this very post).
The differences between the attempted sale of this morning routine to previous Fred and the sale to current Fred are subtle yet vital.
I've moved into a new flat, so my old routines are less deeply ingrained and therefore the resistance is lower. I've further lowered the friction, by using a wireless charging dock and removing my old charger from my bedside. My phone now looks in its rightful place charging on my desk, a few metres away from my bed, whilst it lying next to my head would now feel like a violation of my private space.
But the real clincher, has been quietening the subtle, anxiety-inducing background noise of always being "on the clock".
Having a device next to my bed that continually reminded me of the time, and focussed me on exactly how close I was to my alarm going off. It made me delegate the question of "should I wake up now?" to the machine. I would wake up when I had to, when the alarm told me it was time, and in reality many snoozes later.
By removing this digital dictator from my bedside, I now have the freedom to choose when to wake up. I'm now free to differentiate between feeling sleepy and feeling tired.
Naturally I feel sleepy when I wake up, I've just been asleep. But most of the time I don't feel tired, and there's just enough joy in deciding to wake up without checking the time, with the possibility that I might actually be waking up crazy early and have gained 2 hours on my normal day, that the unknown is motivating.
Anyone who knows much about gamification is well aware that variable rewards can be addictive. Adding this into the mix, along with reducing friction with my phone feeling in its right place on my wireless charging dock, all happening at a time when I feel ready for a change due to the new environment, has meant the sale has gone through extremely easily.
Both the seller (Idealistic Fred) and the buyer (Reality Fred) have gained from the transaction, and that's the key to a sale that doesn't lead to buyers regrets, and behaviour change in general.
It's a lesson I've not been conscious of enough, and one I'll look to remind myself of next time Idealistic Fred tries to sell Reality Fred on a lifestyle change:
Stop selling yourself short.