Sales and Sales Management Blog

April 26, 2008

Guest Article: “More on the Presidential Sales Campaign,” by Dave Stein


More on the Presidential Sales Campaign
by Dave Stein

I spent some time today on the phone with Grainne Rothery, who writes for the Ireland-based Marketing Age magazine.  I was being interview for an upcoming article on competitive selling.

It didn’t take long before we were discussing the U.S. presidential race.  They are not only very interested in our politics in Ireland, but very well informed.

As each day passes, I continue to find more parallels between the most competitive sales opportunity you can imagine and this presidential race—especially the contest between Clinton and Obama.

Although there are a lot of mistakes, there are some very effective moves being made on both sides.

First, here are just a few of the mistakes:

* Bill Clinton parachuted in, staying off message and antagonizing the “buyers.”  Isn’t this just like when a CEO insists on going on a sales call and delivers his/her standard pitch without any regard for the uniqueness of the prospect or their issues.
* Obama was generally unprepared for what many predicted would happen in the last debate: he would be attacked.  Either you take the high road or you counterattack.  You don’t equivocate.
* Clinton used a new way to count, as she proclaimed that she is winning the race.  “I’m very proud that as of today, I have received more votes by the people who have voted than anyone else,” Clinton said Wednesday, one day after her decisive win in Pennsylvania. This could only cause her to lose, rather than gain, favor with the superdelegates to whom she is attempting to sell.  If you’re going to change the groundrules, you need to do it in a much more subtle and effective way.  The press and Obama’s campaign are all over her for this.
* Obama not having made much of an attempt to gain favor with Hillary’s strongest group of supporters: women over the age of 45.  This is reminiscent of many sales campaigns I’ve observed where the rep ignores an entire constituency within the prospect’s company, only to have them exert their influence when a decision was made.

A few smart moves:

* Clinton effectively changing the mindset of voters and the media that the Pennsylvania primary was a new starting point in the race.  It’s like nothing else had happened before.  Smart move.
* Obama focusing on McCain, as though he is the presumptive winner.
* Clinton’s new round of fund raising started just as the polls closed in Pennsylvania.  That gave her the same kind of credibility as a sales rep winning some new accounts and announcing them during a touch sales campaign.
* Obama’s approach that evenly spread announcement by superdelegates over weeks, rather then when they happened.  This is a very discliplined approach to building momentum.

The next two weeks will be interesting.

Dave Stein is CEO and Founder of ES Research Group, Inc., and author of How Winners Sell.  Dave is an internationally recognized thought leader in the area of sales performance, sales effectiveness and especially sales training. He writes the Smart Sales column for Sales and Marketing Management magazine.

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