Months away from the Presidential election and it certainly has been anything but dull so far. Maybe it’s not the most colorful of all time (or maybe it is), but we do have some interesting characters running. Regardless of which side of the aisle you are on, there is little question that the presidential race has been more engrossing (like something you really know you don’t want to look at but can’t help yourself) than many of the previous races. From the first Republican debate with more racers than lanes, to the most recent Bernie/Hillary brawl, to Trump’s antics/theatrics, as the time draws closer to voting day there will be no shortage of fuel for Facebook posts. (As a side note, how in the world did debates among some of the world’s most influential and potentially powerful people become sponsored by Facebook?)
Campaigns — they’re not just for politicians anymore. While it’s not likely that we will gain a true feel for how a candidate will behave once elected by simply looking at their campaigns, we can learn quite a lot about increasing our sales success through the use of well-developed campaigns. The political implications we will leave for others to consider; people such as accountants, economists and engineers — you know, people with lots of free time. We have quotas to make, customers to serve and deals to close!
Before we look at the specific elements of a campaign, let’s have a common definition and foundational understanding of what a campaign is. A campaign is “A plan consisting of a number of activities directed toward the achievement of an aim” according to Oxford Online dictionary. Let’s break that down:
- A plan
- A number of activities
- Of an aim
Obvious enough, isn’t it? No politician would begin her campaign without a plan and specific activities focused on and around a specific goal. Anything else would be foolish, a waste of resources and stand very little chance of success. Consider a military campaign. It would be unfathomable to consider even for a nanosecond engaging an enemy armed with nothing more than random actions, winging-it activities and no specific aim or goal.
Every campaign of any importance or with any serious consequences must address each of the six points above. And yet, in many of the sales offices throughout small and mid-sized business, the actual campaign looks much more like:
- Contact a bunch of people
- Try to convince them of your mighty awesomeness
- Attempt to close
- Occasionally win table scraps
Of course your sales process doesn’t look like the above six steps, but it may look familiar to a few sales people you know. Maybe even more than a few, and possibly one you know intimately.
Campaigns will help deliver better business development/revenue generation results with far less wasted effort and resources. To understand the power of political campaigns for dramatically improving sales success, let’s look at some of the elements of an effective political campaign.
1. Stamina and staying power — marathon versus sprint, taking place over time.
The activity reports are due. The weekly activities are being tallied. The month-to-date numbers have been compiled and the weekly sales meeting is about to take place. Sprint, sprint, sprint! Are your sales efforts focused on short-term, sprint-like bursts of activities? Probably. But this is not how your buyer makes a decision. When you are selling anything with a recurring revenue stream, the race is a marathon. Yes, we want to win the marathon in record time. Yes, we want to close the deal as fast as possible. You simply cannot win a marathon by treating it like a sprint. Map out the course, prepare, train, practice and then follow your race plan by setting the pace to run just in front and lead, but within close proximity to your buyer to keep them moving along. After all, unless you’re pushing a hard, one-call close sale, your buyer is running a marathon too. Political candidates start years in advance of the actual race. You won’t find a President who was a last minute candidate. And you will not find any race participant who wins by setting his own finish line.
2. Support — obtain friendly and sympathetic support as early as possible to develop allies who will leverage your efforts.
In a world where information about you, your company, your product AND the prospect is available almost instantaneously, you will need allies. Allies can take your message and amplify it not only in terms of numbers but through the bullhorn of credibility. You will never carry as much credibility or create as much trust as your prospect’s best friend who happens to be your advocate. Consider your sister’s crazy brother-in-law who is working for his third multi-level marketing company. The MLM has a valid reason for him to harass friends and family: 1) these once-friends and family are the easiest sales and 2) the marketing company knows that if the rep doesn’t get early traction and momentum, they probably won’t stay in the race over the long run. We all need allies who can encourage us as well as amplify our message to their friends.
3. Deep personal engagement — social media has its place, to amplify, not replace one-on-one and group conversations.
With so much free messaging available to us via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and the rest, it is tempting to rely on bombarding the masses in hopes that some percentage will join our camp. The reality is that just like in political campaigns, winners do the hard work. Winners go where the people are, especially the influential people. Stories abound about how Bill Clinton created incredible bonds with people within moments. It is in those moments of deep personal engagement that bonds can be created — the kind of bonds that develop into long term relationships. Candidates may not go from town to town kissing babies anymore but they don’t rely on digital connections to the exclusion of making deep, personal connections. Obama should not have won the presidency against Mitt Romney in the sense that Romney was far more experienced and successful in the political arena. BUT — Obama engaged better with the people. The American public can’t connect with a guy who has an elevator for his car! Winners connect on a personal level.
4. Targeted – doesn’t waste time or money trying to persuade those who are least likely to buy in.
This one is obvious and frequently violated. Ted Cruz isn’t going to focus his efforts on gaining hardcore Democratic supporters. He will spend time and money working for the Republican votes. Bernie Sanders isn’t going to spend time and money looking for support from the conservative right. Sales professionals need to be equally diligent in staying focused on determining who their target market is and delivering relevant and compelling messages inside of the target zone.
5. Relationships — constantly look for new allies and supporters.
Use influence (your own personal and that of others) to continually grow your camp of fans, allies and supporters. This is a never-ending process of intentionally looking for opportunities to connect to new people and nurture those connections into relationships.
6. Counsel and guidance – seeking wise input and guidance, they hire the best advisors possible.
Depending on your position, you may or may not have the opportunity to hire others, but you will always have the opportunity to surround yourself with great people. I’m not sure who first said this or how long ago it was originally penned, but “If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.” It can be tempting to think we have it all figured out – resist that temptation. Seek the wise counsel of others.
7. Reputation — the world is an incredibly connected place.
Protect your reputation! Show up. Do what you say you will. Help others. Serve. It is hard to recover from a damaged reputation, especially if the damage is of your own doing. Think Nixon.
8. Aggressive – intend to win.
Not “win at all costs,” but put themselves on the line and aggressively attack the miles ahead with a burning desire to succeed. The best kind of “aggression” is fueled by a compelling reason to win something of great consequence. Whether sales professional or political candidate, the winners know they can’t sit in the trenches and simply hope for good things to come.
9. Celebrate milestone wins – the road to success is hard and long.
By celebrating battles won along the way, the candidate and his team is energized. You can’t run hard and long without refueling. Celebrations are a way to refuel yourself and those you need along the way to sales success.
10. Stand for something – not some thing, something.
Too many messages try to address too many issues! Sales pitches, marketing materials, websites, collateral material, all packed full of everything AND the kitchen sink. Stand for a single, simple issue. Of course, once chosen, you can and will add much more value than just that one thing, but you won’t get a chance unless they choose you, and they won’t choose you if you have a long-winded, windy-road, complicated discourse. (Sort of like the previous sentence.) There is a reason that campaign slogans are one-liners! Hoover ran in 1928 on the slogan of, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Very clear on the message that he knew would resonate with the voters. Simple, clear, emotional, relevant. Hoover had a landslide win over Al Smith (Who? Exactly!). Compare Hoover’s clear message about what’s in it for the voter with Ross Perot’s slogan of “Ross for Boss.” Apparently Mr. Perot forgot that when you are selling something, it is important to speak to what the buyer gets. Not too many voters want another boss. Stand for one thing; one thing that your buyer cares deeply about.
Discussing the idea of sales campaigns with a friend of mine, he wondered aloud, “What if I take my sales success just as seriously as most Presidential candidates take theirs?” If you are ready to do the same, here is a good checklist to consider:
Do you have a plan that includes:
Specific activities – what are they?
Directed – are they focused on moving the process forward?
Toward – are you trying to sprint when it should be a marathon?
Achievement – how will you measure progress?
Of an aim – what is the SMART goal? Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.
Good luck with your campaign and may the best candidate win.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.
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