Four Lessons in Selling From the Politician

Adapt your presentation to the audience, differentiate feature from benefit, prospect even in suspect territory and remain visible and ‘felt’.

How do politicians successfully sell themselves every election period and we ‘buy’ them? Most have nothing to show for it and yet still, they get ‘bought’. What makes the politician’s sale tick, and what can we learn from him?

  1. Adapt your presentation to your audience

If there is anything credible about a successful politician, it’s his ability to read the crowd; to know what makes each tick. The world over politicians have a manifesto. It’s the pitch that says what they shall do when they get to power- “No more taxes; a laptop for every child; drug barons will be executed, etc”. That’s the product; in theory at least. In practice, the politician only sells this in formal settings- at a Presidential debate, for instance. In less informal settings he morphs into another creature altogether. Discarding the product, and sometimes his conscience taking leave of absence, he will tell you anything that you want to hear to assure him of your vote (a sale). Here, former President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh, takes the cake with his claim of curing AIDS. Politicians know what to say to whom. Different strokes for different folks. Likewise, the tactical technical presentation to the technician must be (ethically) reworked to reflect the strategic thinking of the executive.

  1. Differentiate product feature from benefit

As political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi’s famous tyranny of numbers prediction proved, ethnicity holds sway in Kenyan politics. Based on this knowledge there’s a media house that’s already inviting politicians to sell themselves through the commensurate vernacular station. Buyers don’t buy the product as you know it (that’s for classroom understanding); in the field they will buy it as you explain it to them in their language (pun intended). They buy what they feel it can do for them (benefits). Especially in business to business selling, it is critically important to clinically show how, for instance, your product will assuage the buyer’s pain. Successfully done, this starts with explaining the buyer’s pain (productivity and therefore profits are affected because of the current system hanging; or, keep off the immigrant Mexicans) and showing how, when you own this program or product (equivalent for vote for me) all this will be resolved. (By building a wall)


  1. In your face

The campaigning politician wholeheartedly embraces the Biblical wisdom that no one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. He shines his light bright wherever he goes. And he will go anywhere there is a crowd. Church, school, funeral, nothing is off limits for him so long as it inspires votes. The politician is in your face. Being ‘seen’ is a cornerstone to successful selling. You do not necessarily have to put up a billboard, but frequent visits to a market you are growing creates a ripple effect for you. You become the go-to person, solving problems and exploiting opportunities as they arise. Hitting and running is a short term game. Consistency is King. And technology permits us to scale our presence exponentially.  Depending on your product, writing a blog; posting on LinkedIn; creating hilarious videos to be shared on WhatsApp; and having a dedicated YouTube Channel are all examples of how you can ensure you are ‘top of mind’ (to use marketing parlance) for your buyers.

  1. Prospecting

Yet, ‘being in your face’, exposes the politician to rejection. But he knows that even though you can’t win them all, you must be in the face of them all, to know which ones you will win. Selling (like campaigning) is a game of numbers. Even the politician knows the importance of prospecting.  He knows his strongholds are prospects and all other areas are suspects. And so he cultivates relationships with the suspects without neglecting the prospects. Prospecting gets him votes. Even in suspect territory,4 % of the votes means something. It’s easily 1,000, 11,000 or 21,000 more votes (sales).

The Kenyan politician is currently selling in full throttle. Are you?


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