The midterm elections tomorrow are shaping up as a referendum on President Obama, with Republicans expected to take over the House of Representatives and the Senate a wildcard on which party will emerge victorious. The GOP, Tea Party in tow, is already sending signals that it will derail Obama’s agenda should Republicans take full control of Congress. But we’ve seen this picture countless times before, with politicians saying one thing but, when push comes to shove, doing another. The electorate, of course, is notoriously fickle, as quick to change its mind as the temperature of the Santa Ana winds. Indeed, election cycles take on many of the characteristics of sales cycles. Here are a few examples, and some tips on how to avoid gridlock.
- Say one thing, do another: The electorate, like prospects, often changes its mind (and what voters tell pollsters over the telephone doesn’t always match who they actually vote for once they get into the voting booth). It’s often the same deal with prospects. Sales reps have to be extremely agile with what communicating their products and services, and, like politicians, almost take a daily (or at least weekly) temperature of their prospects to see what is top of mind, what the trends lines say and what kind of content they require to get them the next in the sales funnel.
- Data management: In the same vein that voters can quickly change their minds about policy, prospects are constantly moving from one gig to another. They’re either changing companies (but staying in the same market) or are being transferred to the satellite office in Singapore. For politicians, demographics may be destiny; for sales reps, it’s data management. The Achilles’ heel of b-to-b marketing, data management needs major improvement throughout the industry lest b-to-b organizations defer to their competitors, who then have the opportunity for lead nurture, lead gen and conversion.
- The blame game, redux: As President Obama and Republicans have both displayed their talent for blaming each other for the country’s woes, so, too, can prospects and buyers bring a certain bias to the table about their (unpleasant) history with a particular b-to-b company, market or association. B-to-b sales reps need to arm themselves with information and intelligence to disabuse those prospects who may have their facts wrong about a particular company, supply chain or partnership (related to the product or service). Perhaps more important, sales reps need to position the conversation about what the buyer wants from the future, not the past.
- Messaging: There are sure to be some surprises in tomorrow’s election, even though the media narrative was baked into the pudding a long time ago. That’s because voters don’t like being told what to do by pundits, left or right. Similarly, prospects don’t like it when the sales rep sucks up all of the oxygen in the room and looks upon a sale as a fait accompli. Listening is the key.