As primary season is in full swing, let's focus on the lessons learned from watching the biggest sales pitch in America: Selling America on the most qualified candidate to lead the country.
I am from the great state of Iowa, so here are some lessons and observations from the first caucus in Hawkeye country that can be applied to sales, salespeople and sales management.
People buy from people they like and who are like them.
It's the oldest sales phrase in the world and still true. Iowa voters described Sen. Barack Obama and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as being real and likable. When people like and believe the messenger, they also believe the message.
The same holds true in sales. Salespeople who are the real deal are likable and outperform stuffy competitors. They're comfortable with themselves and don't waste time trying to impress prospects with fancy words or techniques.
They actually don't talk much; they listen. Likable salespeople don't subscribe to the mantra, "Buyers are liars." They like their prospects and customers and - guess what - prospects and customers like people who like them.
Many people were shocked a predominantly white state would vote for Obama. Outsiders and political experts assumed to know the mindset of Iowa voters.
How many salespeople make the wrong assumptions about their prospects or customers? How many salespeople disqualify prospects based on company size, location of office, age of the buyer, or even how the decision-maker is dressed? Assumptions in sales lead to sloppy sales calls or not even calling on a potential prospect.
Sales is a contact sport.
The presidential candidates have expensive marketing campaigns - but they know it's important for people to meet them in person.
They also know that voters want to meet the candidates and hear the message directly from them.
How many town hall meetings has your sales team planned for 2008? Is your communication relegated to e-mail, without any phone or physical contact with your customers?
Get out of your office, press the flesh and let your customers vote for the next product or service offered by your company.
Messaging is important.
Each presidential candidate works hard to brand himself or herself with a message.
The message that won in Iowa was hope and change versus experience.
What is your company's message in 2008, and is it one that future voters - or prospects in the case of salespeople - are willing to buy? Are you touting quality and experience when your customer wants innovation? Are you boasting about technology when customers just want to talk to a live person on the phone?
Take a look at your message in 2008. Will anyone buy your 30-second commercial?
Don't listen to the cynics.
Obama and Huckabee were the underdogs in their respective parties' contests, told they didn't have what it takes, or the money, to beat the higher-profile candidates. They didn't listen.
Sales teams, take note. This is one time you don't need to listen.
Don't listen to the cynics who discourage you from entering the arena because there's an existing, strong competitor.
Don't believe you can't win deals because of the size of your company. Don't believe you can't be No. 1 because you lack name recognition.
Politely acknowledge the facts and then do what it takes to beat the pants off your competition.
Part of Obama's success in Iowa was attributed to his ability to inspire young and old people through a message of hope and change.
Sales managers need to remember this important component of leadership as they launch into 2008. Goal-setting, strategy, tactics and execution are important topics of focus and discussion.
Don't forget to include another piece of execution: motivation and inspiration. During your sales version of town hall meetings, talk about doing your best and never giving up on the goal.
People follow leaders who inspire them to be great and make the impossible possible.
It ain't over until it's over.
After her third-place finish in Iowa, Sen. Hillary Clinton vowed to keep pushing until the end. The message showed resiliency and determination.
Top salespeople practice this same philosophy. After a loss, they pick themselves up, do a little dusting and get back into play. The pity party is short because they have another sales caucus to win.
Fast forward to the end of December. Will your prospects elect your company?
About the Author
Colleen Stanley is founder and president of SalesLeadership Inc., a sales development firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, consultative sales training, emotional intelligence training. and leadership training for sales managers. She is the author of Growing Great Sales Teams and Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success. Reach Colleen at 303-708-1128 or visit www.salesleadershipdevelopment.com.
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