Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 20, 2008

Did Yesterday’s Post Go Far Enough?

I received an interesting email last evening from a reader of yesterday’s blog post wondering if the impressions people have of who they would purchase from would change if they took into consideration the candidate’s communications over an extended period of time.

Here’s the email:


First, let me say I enjoyed today’s post about Obama’s and McCain’s speaking styles during Saturday’s televised event. I do understand you chose that event specifically because the was easy to compare and contrast the two candidates since they were in identical situations.

But most salespeople aren’t in a one-time close situation (which is what I’d compare that event to). How would the people you surveyed respond if the question had been who would they buy from IF they were judging the two candidates over a long series of presentations/interactions? Would there conclusions be different if they were to consider say the last six months speeches, presentations, and interviews as an extended sales relationship? It would be interesting to find out who at this point they’d buy from since during that time each has had situations where they came off strong and in control and where they haven’t.

I know this is asking you to have your staff invest a couple more days surveying the original list and that might not be something you want to have them invest their time doing, but I’d be very interested to see if their impressions changed.

Mike Collins

Mike’s right, I really don’t want to go through the survey process again. I also think it would be even more difficult to separate out the political views of the survey respondents if asked to judge the ‘sales’ performance of the two men over an extended period of time. Saddleback lent itself to this question because it was a more controlled event than any other event they have or will appear in. Even though I’m concerned the emphasis will go from specific communication style to simply which candidate you like, I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

Based on what you have seen of the two candidates and as much as possible only on their presentation/communication style, who would you buy from-and why?

August 19, 2008

It’s as Much How You Say It as What You Say

Over the past couple of days I’ve conducted a mini survey of about 60 business owners and senior managers of corporations on their impressions of Barack Obama and John McCain from their appearances at the Saddleback event last Saturday evening.

The purpose wasn’t to determine who won and who lost in terms of content.  My intent was to get their gut reactions to whom they felt was most honest and most importantly, who they would most likely buy from based only on that evening’s event.

Naturally, this is a highly subjective survey and one where the respondent’s reactions cannot be completely separated from their previous opinions of the men or from their political leanings.  Even though in no way am I claiming this to be a scientific study or anything more than just a small glimpse of how a few dozen business people reacted to these candidates, the brief survey does indicate that the way we communicate influences the perceptions of our prospects.  I did, however, speak to men and women from various parts of the country, some self-identified Republicans, some Democrats, and some Independents.

My questions were simple and dealt with how these men and women reacted to how each man delivered his message, not the message itself, and why they believed they reacted as they did.

The overwhelming majority felt that McCain did a better job than Obama.  They felt he was more honest, sincere, and trustworthy.  Almost every one of them thought that if these two men had been sitting in front of them in a selling situation they would have bought from McCain instead of Obama.


The root difference appears to be the communication styles of the two men–one created a sense of confidence and assurance in the listener, the other didn’t.  McCain’s short, quick, forceful responses came across not only as honest but as though he had a grasp of the issues and knew what needed to be done.

Their emotional reaction to Obama was very different.  His answers were not only considerably longer but his speech was halting and much slower.  There was less a sense of self assurance, less of an impression that he was in command of the situation.

Is it fair to base one’s decisions on the way we deliver our information-on our speech patterns?  Not really.  But how we say what we say does have an impact on how our content is received.  Is McCain more confident and in control than Obama?  Probably not, but his delivery style on this evening was, according to the majority of the men and women I spoke to, more likely to move them to purchase from him than Obama.

Some of us, me included, have a natural delivery style much closer to Obama’s than McCain’s.  We might find it helpful to work on speeding up our speech pattern while setting forth our ideas in a more forceful, self assured manner that creates a sense of confidence and sincerity in our listener because how we say what we say is just as important-maybe more so–as what we say.

March 19, 2008

Obama and Overcoming Objections

Yesterday Barack Obama was faced with the most difficult part of his sales presentation to date. His speech was far more than a speech. His goal wasn’t to rally the troops, although he went in that direction toward the end of the speech. It wasn’t to sooth a few disgruntled potential supports, although he surely recognized there were probably a few he had to bring back into the fold. It wasn’t even an attempt to quash the debate about his former minister.

Yesterday Obama had to begin the process of addressing objections. He had gone for months ignoring the somewhat minor objections from some accusing him of being a closet Muslim and from others who were insinuating he would be a ‘black’ president. Those he tossed off as objections from a small minority of rightwing extremists. But when his association with Jeremiah Wright brought his judgment, which he had spent a year touting, into question, all objections were brought to a head.

Yesterday Obama had to become one thing and one thing only—a salesperson. Yesterday he wasn’t a Senator, aloof and above it all. He wasn’t a presidential candidate sparring over policy or voting records. Yesterday he was just a salesman facing a purchasing committee, many of whose members had serious objections to his “product.” Certainly, the committee he faced was larger and more diverse than any purchasing or executive committee any of us have ever faced. Yet he faced the same task we face—identifying and trying to overcome their objections.

He could have chosen to anticipate and address those objections on his terms within his larger presentation. He didn’t. Instead, he made the mistake many of us in sales make—hoping the objections would never surface or if they did, he could ignore them and they’d just fade away. But they did surface and they didn’t just fade away. So, in crisis mode, he had to shift his presentation from seeking to meet wants and needs (hope and change) to handling serious and potentially sale killing objections.

Yesterday was just the beginning. He addressed the objections by trying to get his prospects to acknowledge a further, deeper need, to recognize a serious pain that needs to be resolved and tying that larger pain to the basis of their objections. In the months to come he will have to expand on his presentation and ultimately give some idea of a solution. As we salespeople know, you can’t simply seek to prick a pain or gain recognition of a need—you have to offer a solution if you want the prospect to buy.

So, politics aside, from a strictly sales presentation perspective—in your opinion, how did he do? I’d love to hear your opinions.

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