Sales Lessons from the Presidential Debates


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Sales lessonsThe presidential race is coming down to the wire. With just one more debate left, both President Obama & Governor Romney are battling for the few remaining “undecided” voters who could swing the election their way.

Who are these people? Right now, a lot of them are women. And, if you dig even deeper, you’ll find that they’re white, lacking a college education and on the edge financially. They also believe the country is on the wrong track.

The candidates need to appeal to this demographic at the same time they energize their base. That means they need to find the right words to convey their position. And, they need to convey their message in the right tone of voice with the appropriate gestures.

It’s the ultimate sales challenge! But here’s the deal. These guys are aren’t winging it. Every sentence they say has been thoroughly tested with their targeted demographic (or, should I say buyer). They know what’s effective and what isn’t.

Do you? Seriously. When was the last time you actually tested your message?

If you’re like most sellers, it’s been a while. You’re on cruise control, saying what you’ve said for years. Perhaps you’re blindly repeating the verbiage that your marketing department sends your way. If so, beware! It’s often self-serving pablum that turns your prospects off.

Here’s my suggestion. You need to always be in a test mode. Every single one of us is capable of observing other people’s reactions to what we’re saying. Think of a recent conversation you had with a potential customer:

  • Did your message pique their curiosity — or did it elicit a brush-off?
  • Did what you say advance the sales process — or did it stall out?
  • At what point in the conversation did you run into trouble — and what did you say just prior to that?

By continually testing your message, you find what’s most effective. And, you discover that you need to change your message based on a person’s position or type of business. That’s good to know.

Your words matter. Keep testing your message. It makes a difference.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


  1. From the spin about the debate–at least the second one–I’ve learned that two people, both effective communicators, both clearly well prepared, well coached, and passionate, can elicit wildly different opinions. With equal fervor, different people who witnessed the same debate pronounced Obama or Romney the winner. Hard to say exactly why, but the same phenomenon occurs in selling.

    I think that the lens through which people evaluate sales conversations is shaped by variables that extend way, way beyond a prospect’s position in an organization, or the type of business they’re in. Adding to the challenge is that in many instances, measuring effectiveness requires long timeframes. The bullet points you mention are useful, but they’re a small slice of the attitude-perception pie.

    The biggest challenge is figuring out which words, behaviors, interactions, and messages are most effective. I don’t think anyone can answer that question with certainty (though there are plenty of people who try), since there are no visible “thought balloons” suspended over people’s heads when we’re meeting in the boardroom. We often don’t know when we’re lighting people up, or when they think what we’re saying is “malarkey.” The closest thing we get is Twitter, analytics, and self-professed experts to interpret the numbers for us–flawed as the analyses might be.

    My best litmus test questions are:

    1) did anyone leave the room before the meeting was scheduled to end?
    2) was the meeting cut short without a good reason?
    3) was I, or my team, invited to hold future conversations with influential people?
    4) ultimately, did I fully achieve the sales outcome I set out to achieve?

    Receiving the artifacts and anecdotes to answer those questions unfold over time, and the wait can produce great anxiety. And while my litmus-test questions might seem a low bar, consider the flip side, which are the false positives and false negatives we get from our filtering. If all I hear at the beginning is “Great presentation, Andy,” I have cause to worry . . .


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