Sometime in the last twenty-four hours I heard or read or maybe even half-remembered the following concept:
When we stretch ourselves mentally, physically or spiritually, you cannot undo it. We’re forever stretched.
That’s my summary, but the idea is clear.
It reminds me of an older – again, stolen – thought about achievement. When Roger Bannister first ran a mile in fewer than four minutes, it sparked a rush of others doing the same. He gave athletes permission to break a previously unsurpassed barrier.
We all need to give ourselves permission to break barriers, especially the smallest ones closest to hand. They are the most important.
If I think a particular way about something, others do too. It’ll be an unknown percentage of any population, but I’m not deluded enough to think my ideas are any different from the bloke or bloke-ette ahead in the coffee line. He or she is wondering the same thing as me: Why is the coffee line taking so long?
Selling to me is actually pretty easy. I’m interested in new and different and shiny, but I am annoyed by the subterfuge of tricky sales maneuvers. The first new car I bought, a Mazda MX-5, back in 1993, was my first experience of “the grind”. In the car business, the grind is the time-wasting and frustration-inducing process that some salespeople use to manipulate you into taking their finance deal, or otherwise get more money. It didn’t work on me, because I had cash, and knew a fair price for the car. The guy had no leverage. I left feeling he was a fool for not being honest with me. His loss.
Now that I do selling for myself, I took that lesson to heart. I’m as upfront as possible. Yes, this is a request to give you a sales presentation. Of course I’m planning on making money by selling. Naturally I want you as a customer. What’s the point of me doing this otherwise?
The corollary of this brutal honesty is the following:
The products I sell are ones I use and love myself. Yes, love.
I believe my company’s products can (and more than likely will) improve your life.
I know my company’s products are at least as good as any supermarket brand.
I know my company’s products are a better value than any supermarket brand.
I know my company’s products are better for you, better for your household, and better for the planet.
Hello. I’m Tim. Are you interested in my sales presentation?
I notice in myself an ability to keep two opposing thoughts in mind at one time. For instance, I tend not to pay my household bills until about two days before they’re due. That’s a fondness for keeping hard earned cash in my possession as long as possible. What I know I should do is to pay all my bills by the fifteenth of each month. It’s a small housekeeping fantasy that I nurture with promises to self of “…there’s always next time…” on the 30th of each month.
The logic of paying early is to avoid the stress of a) having to remember to pay just prior to the due date, and b) to create a good habit of keeping a cushion in case something goes astray.
Are you similarly split? Another example might be that you know you should be eating kale and cucumbers for breakfast, but choose milk and cereal instead. Ahem. I might also have this dual current going on.
What I think is happening here is a mismatch between intellect and the flesh. We’re intensely tied to our habits. Think of smoking cigarettes, for example. I cannot imagine many smokers would, if asked, agree that the deliberate inhalation of burnt fermented vegetation is of any benefit to them. And yet they still continue to do so. The power of the rhythm of the smoking routine is so difficult to break, let alone the chemical addiction.
The problem with habits is their essential illogicality. If I could show you a more cost-efficient, safer, better quality way to do your laundry, would you be interested? Most people are not, because they’re so in the groove of tossing a giant container of Tide into their shopping trolley and calling it good. An inferior and more expensive pathway is easier to negotiate than changing to something new.
My theory is that our lives are made more difficult by change…at least initially. Change is hard, and requires effort. But aligning what we know is good for us with what we really do each day (cucumbers instead of cereal for instance) has enormous long-term effects. Not least among them is the stress reduction we feel every time we observe that we’re actually doing the right thing by ourselves.
And even the smallest changes work like this. Excuse me, I’m off to pay some bills. Or at least set a reminder.
It must be because I’m so new at this sales business. This morning a (nameless but close) friend and customer told me how much she liked my company’s protein powder in her morning health drink. With that, she presented me with a cup of the cucumber and spinach juice to which she had added the protein powder. It was delicious. Frankly, I was surprised just how good it tasted.
My reaction was a new one, for me, a mix of pride and happiness. Pride because receiving an unsolicited accolade like that brings to sharp focus that people really do like – or even love – the products I sell. Happiness because it means my friends have gone beyond the idea of being customers as a favor to me, and found their own fit for my company’s products in their life.
It’s an important transition, and one that reinforces that I am selling good stuff, for the right reasons, and that people get it.