More Sales Lessons from the Campaign Trail

patriot flags

Politics is one of my favorite spectator sports; as it brilliantly illuminates the best and worst aspects of our humanity. This month I return to the campaign trail to uncover more lessons in persuasion and perception that can be applied to the sales profession.  The evening news continues to deliver material that’s better than anything I could make up.  So here we go….

They have to buy you before they’ll buy what you sell.  The emerging standoff between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush illuminates a couple points. In August Mr. Trump accused Mr. Bush of being weak. Mr. Trump has upped the ante by refuting Mr. Bush’s assertion that his brother kept us safe after 9/11. In August, Jeb Bush chose not to respond to an attack on his character, and instead, focused his campaign on policy positions. What stuck with the public was “weak.” By forcing Jeb Bush to defend an unpopular chapter in his brother’s presidency, Mr. Trump continued the focus on Mr. Bush’s character and has stymied the Bush campaign’s progress. In sales, it’s important to make a friend and earn credibility before you give your pitch.

Pick your target audience.  The argument whether “George Bush kept us safe” brings up another observation. Safety is a question of how one perceives their immediate surroundings. People who still feel unsafe after 9/11 often feel that the US government failed the country; where people feeling more secure may see a more complex situation and feel Mr. Trump’s criticism unfair. In a Republican primary, Mr. Trump is chasing the “unsafe” group. Sales people and marketers often must take a position that will endear them to one customer group while distancing them from another. Always endear the audience you favor.

Stay clear of emotional landmines. The attack on the World Trade Center is a horrible chapter in American history and we all hold deep memories of that day. By calling out 9/11, Mr. Trump is gambling that his own character will not be called into question.   Sales people are wise to tread carefully when meeting prospects. Recently departed executives, failed product campaigns, and missed promotions are topics that must be discovered and discussed with sensitivity.

Never help the competition sell.  I will never understand why Bernie Sanders excused Hillary Clinton’s email scandal in a public debate while surging in the polls. Between Bernie and the Indianapolis Colts handing over a game to the New England Patriots by lining up in an illegal formation for a fake punt, we’ve had a week where the underdog seemed firmly committed to being an underdog. This can too easily happen when a sales person takes their focus off the sale and needlessly volunteers information that places the competition in a better position. Sales people who believe a technology or product will sell itself can be lulled into complacency.

My caution to the sales community is stay aware and alert or you’ll end up like a politician. As always, please share your observations and comments.

 

Want to Hire Talent? Here’s 3 Ways to Fail.

Despite all the bad news that pours in over the air waves, I continue to find evidence that our economy is strengthening. The most striking evidence is the number of business owners that are looking to increase the size of their workforce. It’s also striking that the desire to hire is almost immediately followed by the complaint that you just cannot find good talent.

I’m old enough to remember the malaise the US fell into after the OPEC oil embargo and the taking of US hostages in Iran. It seems that the 2008 recession and the divisive politics that followed have had the same chilling effect. Changing the conversation from Carter’s “what to do about inflation” to Reagan’s “we are a great nation and it’s time to show it” was all it took to get the economy in high gear. Focusing positivity on hiring strategies will also bring improved results. Here are three common attitudes that can derail your hiring initiative and business:

“I need to find talent” Too often, I hear people say they need to find good talent. My response is always, “Do you want to find good talent or attract it?” If you find good talent, there’s no guarantee they’ll accept the job or not leave after a few months. Whether you’re “finding” or “attracting,” you know employees of high skill and character are in short supply. Successful companies create two or three viable reasons for why someone would want to work for them. In addition, they have a compelling story for where their business is going.

“I’ve have had problems with younger employees, so I’ll keep looking for older ones” Never mind that it’s against the law, it’s just bad business. My career has spanned…umm…several decades and I cannot remember one time that a company did not draw on the fresh ideas of youth to carry the business forward. Younger employees will bring in innovation and ideas that will position your company for the future. It is worth tackling the challenge of adapting your company culture to embrace younger employees’ work preferences.

“If it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for them” I read an article last week that half of Millennials surveyed were dissatisfied with how they were “on-boarded” at their company. For those not familiar, on-boarding refers to initial employee training and orientation. Younger employees expect companies to be more socially responsible and motivated to build relationships with their employees. A relationship includes some empathy for the reality that employees face today and a willingness to take the time to explain what is expected of them and how they will be developed to meet those expectations. Employers wanting a simple labor rental agreement will have difficulty.

Please share your thoughts on hiring. And as always, if you have questions I’m glad to help.