Americans despise politics. Sure we enjoy a good circus when it comes to town but we collectively hold politics and politicians in low esteem. One needs to look no further than the historically low approval rating of our congress to prove this point.
It makes it all the more interesting then to consider that some of our most sought after private sector consultants are in fact, political strategists. Roger Ayles, James Carville, Karl Rove and Robert Gibbs are but a few examples of people that got famous in the political arena but got rich in the private sector.
Why would people that work in such an unpopular field be in such demand? Because they understand persuasion in way the rest of us barely pay attention to. They know how to inspire people to action and they accomplish this by doing the following:
They Craft the Image
In 2004, Americans were given the choice between a man that makes swift decisions and stands behind them or one that shifts his positions with political winds. We had to choose between a regular guy that enjoys tacos and clearing brush or a snob that windsurfs.
Whether or not these images were true was irrelevant. It was the image that won the election.
Consider the amount of time that media consultants spend screen testing the neckties of candidates to make sure that their guy projects strength and character during a debate. It takes literally hours to decide such a simple detail because the image that is projected from the stage can be a matter of winning and losing.
Think of receptionists and gatekeepers as your electorate. Does your appearance and image project competence and strength? Political consultants understand better than most that image is a difference maker.
They Manage the Message
In politics, they that control the message, win the day. This is just as true in business, it’s just often overlooked. George HW Bush wasn’t aloof, he was patrician, Bill Clinton wasn’t slick, he was charming, George W Bush wasn’t dim, he was folksy. These images were created by managing the message.
There isn’t a better example of message message managment than Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential Campaign. No matter what subject was raised about Bill Clinton’s character or his record in Arkansas, the message was shifted to one aspect the campaign’s three part mantra; It’s the economy, stupid, change vs. more of the same and don’t forget about healthcare.
This kind of message management pays off in every sales call. Your price isn’t too high when your message is that the cost of not acting his higher. Your terms aren’t too rigid if your message is the extraordinary service that’s offered.
Political consultants know that managing the message is the key to winning both elections and in business.
They Do What Is Necessary
In his 2004 Book, Life’s A Campaign, Chris Mathews makes the point that great politicians understand how people really behave, not just the way they’re supposed to. When I read these words, I wrote them down and carry them with me because it is a really profound thought.
Yes, you’re supposed to just leave a voicemail and wait until your prospect calls you back but that’s not how people REALLY behave, thus the value of the well timed text message to the person you can’t reach.
At one time I had a client that I could not get a hold of despite my best efforts. I mailed him a “Get Well” card and received a call back the day he got it with laughter.
Political consultants succeed because they do what is necessary even if it’s unpleasant. Remembering that great politicians understand how people really behave, not just how they’re supposed to, is a great way to keep that in focus.
Yes, we love to bash politics and politicians alike, but by learning to think like a political consultant and crafting the image, managing the message and doing what is necessary we can learn to win business the way they win votes.