After months of putting off having to deal with my phone provider, I eventually rang up the other day to sort out my mobile contract. It’s one of those mundane jobs that is necessary, but which takes up valuable time that could be used doing something more constructive, or at least thinking about doing something more constructive. Having my hair cut and gardening both also land firmly in the same category.
It was the customer service bloke’s lucky day; he’d made his sale before we’d even exchanged pleasantries. All I wanted was a phone similar to the one I already owned, but for less money each month. I knew these offers were available – it wasn’t like I was hoping to expertly negotiate him down to some outrageous tariff for the latest model – and yet he felt the need to turn it into a one-sided negotiation whilst I listened on the other end of the call, slightly bemused.
During the ten-minute transaction he:
- Put me on hold to “talk to his manager” and see if he could get rid of a £70 upfront fee that I know never actually existed.
- Offered me a special deal on the monthly rate that seemed remarkably similar to the one advertised extensively online.
- Told me he’d throw in a case, in-car charger and screen protector if I agreed to sign up. These budget accessories arrived packaged together and are clearly something they promise EVERYBODY on the phone, hoping to wow them with their generosity.
None of this was necessary. I didn’t need swaying or persuading; I was ready to buy, safe in the knowledge I wouldn’t have to participate in this tiresome dance again for another two years. However, it did make me realise that being the parent of a toddler utilises many of the same skills as a sales person relies on every day.
In the early days of parenthood, I felt like a police negotiator talking down an unreasonable perp. Now three-year-old Elsa is becoming more logical, it’s more like I’m trying to sign a sceptical client up to eat all of her tea, go to bed early, get dressed in the morning and pretty much every other functional daily activity.
It’s a very specific brand of sales; “you have to do this because Father Christmas is watching” is a line better suited to toddler wrangling than it is to flogging an air conditioning unit to an office in Slough, but I’m essentially using the same playbook as the phone fella. Elsa’s not a massively fussy eater, sleeps really well and is usually keen to pick out her clothes for nursery in the morning but, at the first hint of hesitation, I reach for the big guns. My version of the ‘chat to the boss’ or the ‘free case, in-car charger and screen protector’ is ‘eat your veg and get your Christmas presents’ or ‘go to sleep now or you’ll be too tired to have fun with grandma and grandad’.
Baby number two is just weeks away now and I look forward to selling him the idyllic vision of peaceful sleep through the night and eating green food. This is the one thing I do have over the man at the phone company – he can’t control how many people call him, but I have the power to create new ‘customers’. Not that I’m suggesting sales people try this tactic if they’re struggling to hit target, of course.