Sales and Politics – strange bedfellows or twins separated at birth?


A few weeks back, just after dinner, my wife and I decided to take the dog for a walk. It was actually my idea for a change because we were still on European time after a business trip and my fear was that I would have been asleep on the couch by 7:00 p.m. Truth be told, I was only trying to stave that off by a few minutes because normally that happens around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.

Just as we were about to leave on our walk there was a knock on the door. We found ourselves face to face with one of our local political candidates. This wasn’t a huge surprise, since we had an election coming up for provincial MPPs.

We were greeted by the usual “My name is so and so, and I’m running for office in the election and I’m hoping I can count on your support” side note – I’ve always found this a very assumptive way of going about things.

Nevertheless, my wife and I responded that we are undecided given all the things that have transpired in the last number of years, and we had no idea whom we were voting for. As a side note, neither my wife nor I are affiliated with any political party, and we tend to vote for the party/individual who represents our needs and the needs of our community at a particular point in time.

The response to our comment is where things got, from my perspective, interesting. The candidate simply handed us a brochure and said “please give me a call if there’s anything that I can do.”

Wait, what… you’ve got two undecided voters staring you in the face and you choose to hand us a piece of marketing literature and turn on your heels and walk away?

As we began our walk, still a little dumbfounded, I mentioned to my wife, (and this is where she usually starts shaking her head), that what just transpired is something that we often see in sales. An opportunity might have been missed. We were prospects, we gave the indication that we vote, and that we were undecided. Qualified prospects? Not sure, but I think we were.

This is where I started thinking about parallels between politics and sales and how some of the core principles had been breached.

People need a reason to change

This was a perfect opportunity for ‘Candidate A’ to spend two minutes to understand what it was that we were looking for in a candidate and possibly link that to her platform and differentiate herself from all the other candidates. She even had us face-to-face. Fail.

The product is in the mind of the buyer

We had seen this person’s picture in various pieces of political literature but there was nothing that connected her to us up to that point. A quick question or two about where our concerns were might have been a great way to understand our position and to help align her platform to our vision. Fail.

People buy from people

It’s all about human connection, and I believe all of us want to feel connected to our clients/constituents. In this case, there was a huge opportunity to make that one-on-one connection with us. When in fact it felt more like a situation where she knocked on a door, handed out a brochure, and ticked off a metric. It’s as if she met her call quota and was on to the next. Fail

Do we see the same behaviors in sales? Sadly, yes, we do… I can tell you that my wife and I were undecided, but we moved a little bit farther away from this candidate due to this rather unsatisfying interaction. We’ve moved from potential qualified prospects much closer to closed lost. In the end, we have to feel that connection, and often all it takes is a little effort.

David is an accomplished ValueSelling Facilitator, Coach, and Practitioner with over 25 years of applied ValueSelling experience. He leverages his leadership experience by guiding sales professionals to become more effective, efficient, and relevant.