Can your business learn anything from our politicians?
Can your sales strategy benefit from a politicians manifesto?
It’s been really hard to avoid politicians recently.
As the dust settles on the recent local elections across Ireland, momentum gathers for the vote on Europe and all the while we have at least one eye on the unfolding drama of US Presidential election and the gift that keeps on giving, Donald Trump.
It’s all a bit overwhelming – a never-ending PR machine where the voter is often left alone to sift through the selfies, flyers and TV debates to determine what and where the real content and substance is.
It may not make for a welcome comparison but there is much for a business and in particular sales teams to learn from politics and politicians.
The first rule in business, sales, politics and life is to make sure that you are understood.
I know that the European vote is hugely important yet I don’t fully understand the position of those committed to staying and those who wish to exit. It could be argued that understanding the outcome is a responsibility shared by both the political parties and myself but I believe that in politics, just like in sales, the burden of responsibility rests fully with the politician or sales person, not the customer nor the voter.
Many businesses assume that their value is fully understood by their customers when in fact it isn’t even fully understood by their sales teams.
(That knowledge vacuum is, more often than not, readily filled by the seller offering unwarranted discounts.)
In a world with such proliferation of choice, if you cannot make yourself consistently understood across ALL stakeholders, you will simply be ignored – whether you are a Start-Up, SME or a political party.
Understand your audience – and let them know that you do
Personally I have never felt more disengaged from politics. It feels like a world of “selfies over substance” where the medium has become the message.
Millennials, who account for 50% of the world’s population, spend almost 22 hours a week on their phones, and so it makes sense to engage with them on their medium of choice.
But if content comes without context, then the opportunity for real and meaningful engagement is lost.
And what about the other 50%?
In the North of Ireland, public participation in our version of democracy has been on the decline from 70% in 1998, 63% in 2003, 54% in 2011 remaining relatively constant for the local assembly elections this year.
As a business you would be hard pushed to explain those sales growth figures to your board or investor group.
Businesses that suffer such levels of customer apathy simply don’t remain in business and if you spend more time on product development than on customer development then you too could be faced with that same scenario.
You need to let your audience know that you understand them and that comes from engaging with them to listen – especially on the ground, through your sales teams and through all customer touch points, both on and off line.
Successful brands – political or business – are built around attitude and behaviour as much as features and benefits and that comes from a thorough understanding of needs of your audience.
Start the journey with the destination in mind
It can be hard to determine the real strategy of a politician or political party with so much of the real work undertaken behind closed doors. You never want to declare you hand nor give advantage to your competitor yet how many times do we see a complete u-turn in policy and strategy?
Those great political leaders and businesses that have the ability to stay faithful to their strategy despite facing turbulence along the way, gain greater respect from their respective audiences.
As part of your business development efforts, you need a strategy but more importantly you need well-defined tactics. Those tactics become a process and in order to succeed, you must become a slave to that process.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” Sun Tzu.
Good politicians just like good businesses get the message right from the start, and endeavour to stick with it.
Politicians are sales people. We may often question the value of what they sell and their techniques, but they are sales people.
President Obama is a highly skilled communicator. The content and substance of his narrative may come from others, but the delivery is all his own, via some training in NLP hypnotic language patterns.
Good training always helps.
Politicians may have a way with words but typically the bad ones get found out for lack of substance.
Authenticity is integral to the success of any business or political party.
In my mind, authenticity is that point when “what you think and say”, matches your actions.
Authenticity is a rare commodity in the political world but in business, that’s your brand promise and that brand promise can only be delivered upon if everyone within your organisation is on point with strategy.
Continually build trust
The big issue with politics and one of the main drivers for voter apathy is a perceived or actual lack of trust. One politician gets caught fiddling expenses and the rest unfortunately are guilty by association.
It’s harsh but it happens.
The electorate and your customers are one and the same and for them trust is non-negotiable.
Getting customers or voters is perhaps the easy part.
Keeping them by delivering on your brand “manifesto” is harder and getting them to refer you onto their peer group, harder still.
The cornerstones of trust are “integrity” and “capability” you should remind yourself of that when you next decide to vote or look to review your own business development strategy.