Don’t Sell Like A Politician

Sep 9, 2015 | Sales Blog

Anyone else both fascinated and exhausted by the presidential campaign?

politicianWe’re 14 months away from the 2016 presidential election and it’s already hard to avoid taking my eyes off of the news about the candidates because of the sense that a spectacular train wreck could occur at any time. Again.

Politics are the ultimate sales job. During the primary season, the candidates engage in hand-to-hand combat in a hyper-intense battleground of competing ideologies (which are not to be confused with actual ideas) to rise above the fray and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Candidates latch onto a single issue value proposition, which they usually develop from in-depth market research among their most fervent followers, and wield it like a cudgel in every speech and media appearance in an effort to persuade (read as frighten) undecided voters to punch the chad next to their name on a primary (or caucus) day ballot.

However, despite the fact that politics is the ultimate sales job, every time I read about the candidates, I am also reminded about why you shouldn’t sell like a politician.

Here are some anti-political sales strategies to use in your selling:

Don’t pander
Stand for something. And stick to your guns. Shifting your beliefs to pander to an extreme, but vocal, minority might make political sense for a politician. But, it sucks as a sales strategy. Having firmly held beliefs and speaking the truth to the people who make decisions, which includes your prospects who look to you for inspiration and leadership, is essential in sales.

Run toward something; not away from it
Fear can be a powerful motivator among the electorate. But, while scaring the hell out of people may win you the nomination, inspiring voters with a shared vision for a better future wins the presidency. Especially for those candidates that were considered underdogs. JFK, Reagan and Obama were examples of this. The same is true in sales. Fear of missing out may get you in the door with a buyer. But, most B2B decision makers are motivated and inspired to take action by a compelling vision of what they can achieve for themselves and their business.

Have integrity and be truthful.
Politicians knowingly tell outright lies about their proposed policies, and their opponents’ policies, every day. You can’t do that and survive for long in sales. If a sales rep, while talking to a prospect, slammed his competitors in the same manner that politicians confront their opponents, or knowingly misrepresented the capabilities of the product or service he sold, in the same fashion that candidates boldly misrepresent the potential outcomes of their proposed policies, he’d never win the order. Buyers work with sellers that they trust. And they can sense integrity within seconds of you opening your mouth.

Don’t reject data because it conflicts with your beliefs
We live in a era of big data; data that can provide us with a better understanding of our customers, their requirements, how they make decisions, when and why they make decisions. And the data supplies incredible insights into the effectiveness of the various processes we use to market and sell our products. Unlike politicians, who blithely ignore any data and science that contradicts their carefully constructed world view, you can’t afford to do that in sales. Data will tell you what works and what doesn’t in your selling.

Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong
Candidates from both political parties are putting forth various economic prescriptions that have conclusively been proven over the past 35 years to be wrong-headed and ineffective. If you’re a sales leader, and you persist in following a sales process or sales philosophy that just doesn’t work, or is ill-suited for today’s buyers and sellers, then you can’t be afraid to admit that you were wrong. You have to be able to set aside your ego and ideology and accept the facts. And then proactively explore new ideas and new methods for achieving your objectives.

Talk less. Do more.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said over 100 years ago “What you do speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Actions speak louder than words. So does inaction. Voter frustration with elected representatives stem from the perception that politicians today love to preen and posture in front of the cameras, but seem reluctant to actually get their hands dirty and do the hard work of governing (since it involves listening, negotiation and compromise). So it is with sales. Buyers are frustrated with sellers of the “spray and pray” school that talk ad nauseum without saying anything. They want sellers who carefully listen and demonstrate an ability to help them quickly gather the information and insights they need to make an informed purchase decision.

Learn something new everyday that forces you to think
Most politicians seemingly are interested in learning only new things that support their current positions and points of view. Which isn’t really learning at all. Imagine what would happen if a salesperson believed that there was nothing new that he or she could learn about selling. Imagine that salespeople didn’t read sales books, subscribe to sales blogs and podcasts, watch sales videos or invest in any way in furthering their knowledge of sales or their customers. I don’t have to imagine that he or she will soon be looking for a new job.





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