Sales Lessons and the 2012 Elections

DEC 21, 2012 5:39pm ET

Irrespective of your political persuasion (or lack thereof), the recent election is an excellent study in salesmanship and selling strategies. There are interesting lessons to be learned from this election and the subsequent results—lessons that are directly correlated to basic selling situations.
Politicians are always selling something (e.g., themselves, ideas, philosophy, perspectives, policy, etc.) yet they would be highly offended if anyone would be bold enough to label them as sales people when in fact they truly are. But instead of talking in the abstract let me tie the election scenario to sales situations.
Each presidential candidate had their specific agenda (product) to engage (sell) voters (prospects). As in every sales situation, it’s necessary to understand your prospect (voter) and adjust your presentation to their special concerns (i.e., product features, benefits) and/or interests.
The GOP did that exceptionally well when presenting their agenda (product) to white male voters (prospects) and put a major emphasis on that demographic. Unfortunately for them, the proportion of white men reached an all-time low of 34% of the electorate.
This fact did not bode well for the Republicans, yet the Democrats tried to appeal to minorities. A seasoned sales person would have found benefits and/or features of their product that appealed to a broader base (decision-makers). The successful sales person will always present the items their prospect is more likely to approve of, keeping in mind the end game is making a sale (getting the votes).
To ensure success the astute salesperson will attain a consensus of approval from decision makers (voters). This effective salesperson is not fixated on ego nor personal preference, but rather, what is of concern to the decision-maker (voter).
In this election cycle, the Republican Party and their biased pollsters indicated they were ahead in the polls (communicating to the sales person the product being presented is desired by the prospect) and in addition to the presidency they might experience a win of congressional seats—all of which turned out to be erroneous information supplied by a biased source.
Good sales people won’t rely on biased information provided by their company, but rather, will assess products and customers based on their own analysis and/or reliable, non-biased sources (what prospects are telling them and what the market prefers). When the voter (prospect) doesn’t accept (buy) what you’re proposing all subjective and partial research won’t change the inevitable results.
There is a direct correlation between doing your homework thereby knowing your constituents (prospects) before you enumerate your various positions (make your sales presentation). More importantly, it’s imperative to ascertain this information prior to sharing your thoughts about issues (features and benefits) with voters (prospects).
Oftentimes it’s not rocket science in gathering knowledge about your voters (prospects), but as stated previously, inaccurate information is worse than no information at all. In selling, information about prospects enables us to address “hot buttons” that will motivate and generate the required results. A prospect that can only use extra-large widgets will not, and cannot, use any other sized widgets.
Having this specific knowledge prior to a sales opportunity exemplifies a salesperson’s professionalism. It also garners respect and appreciation for not having wasted a prospect’s time and resources.
I’m always emphasizing to salespeople that a lot of the techniques and processes utilized for successful selling are also relevant in many of life’s daily endeavors. In most interpersonal encounters, success will occur with greater frequency when “preparation meets opportunity.” Numerous accomplishments, problems, desires and outcomes can be viewed in the same context; it’s usually the names and numbers that are different. So the next time you’re about to engage in a situation ask yourself, “Do I have enough information about what I’m about to discuss and am I prepared for the opportunity.”