As I write this article, I have no idea who will be the next President of the United States. However, for the next year, we will all be subject to the social and political implications of presidential politics.
I have learned over the course of my career to keep conversations fixed on the weather and avoid at all costs, discussing politics and religion. In the case of the weather, the worst that can happen is that you are wrong. With politics and religion, it is guaranteed you will not win either friends or the argument. However, at the risk of losing friends or the argument, I would like to refer to the Presidential campaign, without bias, and extract a few valuable lessons that we can relate to the world of sales.
In a campaign, all candidates have a platform and agenda they want to sell to the nation. Good, bad, or indifferent, their platform is analogous to their party and company and their program for the nation is both their product and service, as we relate it to the world of sales. The candidates are essentially salespeople trying very hard to persuade the voting or buying public to choose their product. Candidates understand the principles of selling and go to extreme efforts not only to sell their products, but also, to sell themselves. While you might find yourself wondering what they are selling, you quickly realize they are selling themselves. They know if you buy them first, there is a very strong likelihood that you will buy their platform and their product, or plan for the nation. Ask yourself this question, “How well am I selling myself and am I selling myself before the product?” It is very clear in politics that voters buy the candidate first, and so it is in the world of sales.
We have all witnessed the negative approach taken by all candidates in this campaign. Ask yourself how this has made you feel? What affect has it had on your attitude about the candidates? In the world of sales, one of the worst things a salesperson can do is to talk negatively about their competition. Buyers and voters don’t thrive in a negative environment. In many cases, when you speak negatively about a salesperson, their company and products, you drive the buyer away from you and cause them to draw closer to the competition. You have subconsciously created in their mind an “underdog”, and human nature draws people out in support of the downtrodden, victim or loser. Don’t create a psychological advantage for your competition by speaking ill of them in any context, i.e., personally, company, or product.
Several years ago I had a client who spoke negatively to a prospective buyer about a particular company that was competing with him for a very lucrative piece of business. My client was correct in the fact that his competition was not reputable, but he shouldn’t have made unflattering comments about them. He should have focused on selling himself, the reputation of his company, and the quality, features and benefits of his product. Because of his negative comments, the buyer felt an emotional desire to help and support the plight of the competition. My client lost the business, even though he offered the very best solution to the buyers needs. Within a short period of time, the buyer had been severely damaged due to his relationship with my client’s competition. Had my client focused on selling himself, his company and his product and avoided the temptation to speak ill of the completion, he could have closed the sale and spared the buyer from a major economic loss.
A negative sales campaign will only hurt you. Resist the temptation to take the negative approach. Be positive and focus on solving the prospect’s needs. Let the competition hurt themselves by taking the negative approach. In selling, as in sports, no defense is as effective as a strong offense. Take the high road and avoid the negative approach, as tempting as it may be. Sell yourself without tearing down your competition. Build value in your own company without taking a shot at other companies. Be specific about how your product will meet your prospect’s needs instead of talking about the weaknesses of competitive products. This approach is sure to increase your sales and build strong relationships with your prospects and new customers.