(reading time: 3 minutes)
It can seem like nearly everything is political these days. Not even basketball is immune from the tentacles of politics. Try as we might, it feels almost impossible to escape the gravitational pull of politicos and their ever-amplified messages.
For people in sales, politics can offer more than just a distraction from cold-calling. Politicians have to sell themselves to the public, both before an election and then on a daily basis. So it stands to reason that salespeople can learn from politics and, perhaps, vice versa.
For now, let’s take a look at one side of that equation and explore what politics can teach salespeople. And if you’re ever looking for a career change, maybe you can refer back to this list when you launch your campaign for higher office.
Here are five lessons that politics can teach us about sales:
1. Being likable helps
If history has shown us anything, it’s that people are generally willing to excuse bad behavior from politicians because they like them. In fact, surveys have shown that while the overwhelming majority of people don’t approve of Congress, the same people usually approve of their own congressperson. While we’re not suggesting the bad behavior part, the lesson here is that being likable can be incredibly valuable. So take the time to form relationships and allow your potential customers to put their trust in you – and you’ll likely end up earning their business.
2. Focus on benefits, not features
Granted, a lot of politicians make this mistake, which you’ll recognize if you’ve ever watched a debate that devolved into policy nuances that made your eyes glaze over. This is something most marketers already know: instead of telling people how your product works, tell them how your product will benefit them. It’s wonderful that your software uses a complex algorithm that took a team of MIT scientists ten years to develop, but the only thing that matters to your buyer is the fact that the algorithm will cut costs in half.
3. Framing the problem matters
Great politicians are masters at framing issues. This means positioning their messaging in such a way that takes a problem and not only makes it easy for people to understand, but allows the politician to be the one that offers a solution. Salespeople need to do something similar. First, they must identify the problem that a prospect is looking to solve. Then they need to position their solution as the best choice to solve that problem. If you’re able to dispassionately distill your sales process into this simple equation, you’ll be able to see the big picture and focus on your product’s value instead of getting bogged down in the sales weeds.
4. Always know your audience
One of the things people detest about politicians is that they say different things, depending on who they’re in front of. We realize this isn’t an admirable trait, but there is something to be said for tailoring your messaging to your audience. Different prospects will have different needs and motivations, so you need to figure out what those are and emphasize them in your pitch. Similarly, you’ll find that prospects have different communication styles and some might prefer a lower-key approach, while others want to be your best friend. You should always try to match the prospect’s preferred style instead of trying to make them match yours, just as a politician would.
5. Learn how to build consensus
Although not many people would associate consensus-building with politics these days, it’s an integral part of being able to govern successfully. Politicians who have been able to form coalitions and compromise to get things done have historically been the most effective legislators. Salespeople should learn to do the same, especially when selling to an organization. Identifying who the stakeholders are, getting them all on the same page, and getting everybody to “yes” isn’t an easy thing to do. But if you learn how to do it, you’ll become an (unelected) master of your craft in no time.