Four Simple Ways To Sell More – A Non-Zero-Sum Game

You receive through the same doorway through which you give. The way to receive freely is to give freely. Quality is more important than quantity, since the universe amplifies thought into circumstance

Brad Jensen

Imagine two accomplices locked in separate jail cells, each offered three choices by the police. One: if both confess to the charges, both will be jailed for five years. Two: if only one confesses, he will be freed but the other (the non-confessor) will be jailed for 10 years. Three: if neither confesses, both will be tried for minor offences and be jailed for only one year each.

If both know that the other will not treat it as a competition, that there doesn’t need to be a winner and a loser, then instead, they can take their collective interest into consideration and they can both win.

But how often does that happen?

If I assess every situation, opportunity, project, sale or initiative as a zero-sum game, then I’m making the assumption that in order for me to win, then you have to lose. Conversely, I’m assuming that in order for you to win, it’ll mean I have to lose.

In both game and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of the conditions under which this occurs – that a participant’s gain (or loss) is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the other. To put it differently, total gains plus total losses would have to equal zero. Or differently again, for me to gain the sale, you have to lose the sale.

Contrary to this theory, the idea of non-zero-sum describes a scenario whereby the participants aggregate gains and losses equal more than zero. And in this situation, one person’s loss (or gain) doesn’t equal another’s gain (or loss). In other words, we can both win.

The problem we have is that for the most part, we assume that our word and particularly our business world operate under zero-sum conditions. And to some extent, that’s the way we’ve been taught and conditioned that business and selling works.

Right, I’m going to do that before you do, otherwise I may lose!

If on the other hand we strive to work under the conditions of a non-zero sum game, then the actions that we take vary dramatically. If I’m not assuming that for you to win, I lose – and vice versa – then I’m likely to operate in a very different manner. My thinking will be different and as a result, the things I do will be very different.

And it’s these actions that sit at the heart of the idea of abundance versus the idea of scarcity. The notion that there isn’t enough opportunity out there for you, me and everyone else is only true if I’m operating under zero-sum conditions.

The challenge though with abundance and a non-zero-sum game is that there is no universally accepted solution. There is no single optimal strategy which is preferable to all and no predictable outcome. In some instances we’ll have mutually aligned objectives and in others, they’ll be contrasting.

But there are a handful of simple things which can be done to contribute to the creation of a non-zero-sum mindset and which can lead to the development of abundance.

In fact, if you want four simple ways in order to increase your sales, performance or outcomes, then incorporate these ideas today.

Give time

Yes, we’re all busy, but tackle that by giving your time to someone else. Whilst it may at first sound paradoxical, find an organisation or person and give some of your time to them. Even if it’s only half an hour over the course of a working week that only equates to 1% of your working time – but time which could make a real difference, not just to the other person or oragnisation but to you too. The key of course is not charging for it or expecting something in return. Just give them your time as a gift.

Give help

Think of a problem or challenge which you’re currently facing and, rather than focusing on what you need to solve it, find a business or organisation with a similar problem or challenge and help them first. Write down at least 20 ways in which you might possibly be able to help them and then go and do it. When you help others in this way, it’s likely to help you too.

Give belief

Find someone who is lacking in confidence or self-belief and do what you can to support and encourage them. Spend some time with them to understand where their issue lies and help them consider ways in which they may improve their situation. Ask them, ‘if you already knew you would be successful, how would that change your approach?’ Instill belief in them and it will be repaid multiple times over.

Give ideas

If you see people who are short on creative ideas then give them away. Give others creative ways to increase business, find a new stimulating career or improve a particular outcome. Ideas aren’t a zero-sum game – in fact the next one is only a new thought away. So give your ideas away and others will flood right back to you.


Help, belief and ideas aren’t zero-sum utilities. Even time, which is finite, is a resource which if employed well, can scale and create abundance.

The traditional approach in these instances would be to say that if you want more sales, greater performance or improved output then use your time more effectively, take from other people, focus on improving your own confidence and self-belief, and keep your ideas to yourself.

But the issue with this approach is that it assumes that the sum of the parts equals the whole. Whereas if you can find ways to involve others, to give abundantly and approach more situations as non-zero-sum games, then the sum of the parts will be greater than the whole.


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