I went to one of the worst sales presentations ever last night. And there are CRITICAL lessons to be learned for candidates and anyone else with anything at all to sell, so let’s get to it.
Set the stage: I have three kids – 12, 10 and 5. As such, my “hobby” is traveling. Anywhere within an 8-10 hour drive is fair game. Give us a zoo, aquarium, amusement park, children’s museum, science center, sports arena, beach…we’re there.
And since we homeschool, we can go to all the busy tourist-type places, like Disney, when all the other kids are in “real” school…meaning the lines are shorter and, often, the prices are cheaper.
Our annual vacation, since the kids came along, has been two weeks at a family campground in August (before that it was four days of eating and drinking in New Orleans in December!).
For other trips – Motel 6, Best Western, Quality Inn…wherever I can get the cheapest price without staying in a high-crime neighborhood. We’re on the go…go…go…when we travel. And all I’m looking for is a bed and hot shower for the end of the day.
So when I got the tele-marketing call offering me two free roundtrip airfares to anywhere in the lower 48 (hello, Orlando/Disney World!) or a one week stay in a luxury resort just to attend a sales presentation for a vacation club (“Not a time share!”), I bit.
When we arrived at the restaurant where the presentation was being conducted, we were confronted with a three-man tag team: The Salesman, The Manager and The Owner. The Salesman starts off by asking me to fill out a one-page questionnaire. After the basic name, rank and serial number, the first question asked: “How do you like to vacation?”
The rest of the questionnaire was 100% vacation time-share oriented. Well, we don’t have a time-share, we don’t do time-shares and we don’t want time-shares. It’s not our thing. So even though the vacation program they were selling wasn’t “time-shares,” the whole thing was an alternative to time-shares for time-share people who didn’t like time-shares.
In other words, the telemarketing firm did a lousy job of “qualifying” us on the phone.
Which is Lesson #1 for candidates: Rather than waste your precious time talking to everybody, make sure you’re talking to potential donors who you actually have a chance to get a donation from.
Just because somebody wrote a big check to a local charity doesn’t mean he or she is going to write a big check to your campaign. Sure they have the “capacity” to write a big check, but for many major donors, political donations just aren’t their thing.
Sure, some major donors write checks to both – but you should know that before spinning your wheels and aggravating yourself by asking people to donate to your campaign who are highly unlikely to donate to your campaign. Hunt where the ducks are. Pick the low-hanging fruit first.
In the initial presentation I learned more about The Salesman than The Salesman learned about me because he did all the talking…and the talking wasn’t, like in “Jeopardy,” in the form of a question.
I now know where he’s from, how many kids he has, how many times he’s been married, how HE likes to vacation, what kind of food he likes, where he lives, how long he’s lived there, etc., etc., etc. What he basically got from me is that I’m in politics. (He doesn’t like Obama; learned that, too.)
Anyway, when the presentation was over, I explained to The Salesman why his timeshare-program-that-isn’t-a-timeshare program wasn’t right for us. All of the benefits of the program simply weren’t benefits we were interested in.
Fine and dandy. Time to bring in The Manager.
Right off the bat the guy asks me if I know so-and-so. I replied that the name didn’t ring a bell. The Manager then goes on to inform me that he helped so-and-so get elected mayor of a small city in up-state New York many years ago.
A Democrat. Through his union!
Oh, yeah, baby…that’s the way to win over my heart! You know me. I love unions the way other people love hemorrhoids.
The Manager then proceeded to reaffirm all of the benefits of his vacation program – that I already explained I had no use for or interest in – but instead of paying $15,000 for it, if I bought tonight…only $12,000!
Um, no. If I live in the Brazilian rain forest and have no use for or interest in a pair of snow skis, offering me a pair of $500 snow skis for $50 is still no sale.
So Lesson #2 for candidates: If your donor prospect has no use for or interest in your brand of politics – even though he has the capacity to write a big check and has written big checks to certain candidates in the past – asking for a $100 check after being turned down for a $500 check is still gonna result in you walking out the door with an empty pocket.
Now, I’m not saying you should take the first “no” for a prospect’s final answer. Many a solicitation that started off with a “no” ends up with a “yes.” But that’s only if the prospect has both the “capacity” and the “affinity” for what you’re offering.
If you’re a conservative candidate who can’t stand Big Labor and you’re trying to get a lifelong AFSCME member to donate to your campaign – even though he has the “capacity” to write a $500 check and has written $500 checks to liberal political candidates in the past – you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Anyway, The Manager, not surprisingly, had no more luck parting me with my money than The Salesman did – despite spending a lot of time talking about himself and the benefits of his program that I had no interest in whatsoever.
Bring in the big gun.
“They tell me you guys like camping,” The Owner says. “Well, let me tell you about another less-expensive vacation program we have that includes camping.”
OK, now you have my attention.
But here’s the problem. The “camping” he was talking about was generally for luxury RV resorts. We have a tent we bought at Costco. We don’t have an RV.
“However,” The Owner countered, “many of these RV resorts have cabins. And the cabins we’re talking about aren’t rustic cabins without plumbing or a flush toilet. These are high-end condo-type cabins – fully furnished with every amenity you can think off. Here’s a picture (shown on his laptop power-point).”
“Look,” I said cheerfully to my wife, “it’s the same kind of cabin they were building at that Yogi Bear park we stayed at a few years ago in Maryland. Those things were beautiful.”
Hello, Mr. Owner? That’s called a “buying signal.”
SIDENOTE: Our family currently goes to a family campground in San Diego every year for two weeks and stay in a tent. But it’s a full-service resort campground and it ain’t cheap in the summer. It’ll cost me in the neighborhood of $500 a week for the privilege of sleeping on an air mattress with no bathroom (except for the communal one down the path).
Anyway, The Owner notes that with this other, less expensive vacation club, I could stay in a luxury family resort in a fully-equipped luxury cabin for $199-$299 a week, even during peak season. And the cost of this alternative vacation club was $695, not $12,000.
You mean I can vacation in a luxury family campground in a fully-equipped luxury cabin with our own toilet and shower for less than it now costs me to sleep in a tent? Even if my 5-year-old son would rather stay in the tent (it’s a guy thing) I’ll guarantee you my wife and two daughters would rather have their own private toilet and hot shower. So let’s talk more about that, shall we?
We shall not.
I swear to gosh, The Owner just plowed right past the luxury cabins and spoke for the next 15-20 minutes, non-stop, about everything else included in his program. Discount airfare (not interested). Discount rental cars (not interested). Discount restaurants (not interested). Discount luxury hotels (not interested). Discount budget hotels (not interested). Discount trips to Italy (not interested). Discount cruises (not interested). Discount time-shares (NOT INTERESTED!).
“So how’s this program sound to you?”
The guy talked himself right out of a sale.
Lesson #3 for candidates. When a potential donor (or voter!) gives you a buying signal in the form of expressing interest in a particular aspect of your campaign, TALK ABOUT THAT ASPECT of your campaign. Talk about what interests the potential donor, not what interests you.
For example, if you’re a conservative candidate talking about your campaign, and say the potential donor mentions guns…start talking about guns! Don’t talk about abortion. Don’t talk about taxes. Don’t talk about education reform. Don’t talk about immigration. Don’t talk about welfare.
Talk about guns!
Actually…better yet…stop TALKING about guns and start ASKING the potential donor about guns. Let him or her do the talking; you do the listening. If you do, there’s a darned good chance the potential donor (or voter!) will tell you EXACTLY what you need to do to get a contribution.
Does this make sense? Has this been helpful? Wanna buy a timeshare?