This afternoon, Chris Mott and I were discussing Obama and McCain. Since I don't like either candidate, I feel somewhat protected and free to provide my political sales correlation. I've never dared to venture into a political editorial and I don't mean for this to be one either. Please read the following thoughts as they would apply to competing salespeople fighting for the same big account.
McCain wasn't exposed too much during the primaries, jumping to an early lead and not facing much competition. He'll finally go head to head against Obama this summer and fall while millions of people watch, listen and form opinions. What they'll likely do, regardless of which candidate they initially preferred, is perform a side by side comparison, akin to what many companies do with their vendors.
They'll say that next to Obama, McCain seems really old, sometimes unsure of what he wants to say, supports the war in Iraq, and doesn't speak with nearly as much passion. They'll also say that he has a lot of experience, both domestically and in foreign affairs, that could serve the country quite well.
They'll say that next to McCain, Obama has energy, charisma, ideas for change, the ability to shine either one-on-one or from the podium, and great leadership qualities. They'll also cite his affiliation with Reverend Wright, lack of experience and the negative campaign he ran against Hillary.
This is a classic RFP "opportunity". If you simply look at their response to the RFP's, they are similar humans, available at the same price, both able to step into the role of President and assume the duties. They are commodities.
If we look beyond the RFP's and interview the two candidates, Obama will likely come across as the more likable, memorable, dynamic and even quick on his feet.
If we look beyond the interviews, check their background, history and references, we may find that McCain has a better track record, better references, makes no empty promises and even brings up issues we may not want to address.
So the sales question is, as voters (prospects), do we simply compare their proposals (commodities), factor in the interviews (value added) or check references, background history and track record (trusted partner)? If we only choose to comparie their proposals, the decision will be made based on where the candidates stand with regard to the issues (pick). If we go to the interview stage, the decision may be to go with the candidate who interviews the best (Obama?). If we go as far as references, background history and track record, we'll get to understand the candidates' character, ability to perform under pressure, reliability and likelihood of success in the job (McCain?).
Now the question for you and your sales force is, do your salespeople provide you and your company the opportunity to get to the third level described above, or are they taking the easy way out, submitting their proposals and allowing their prospects to commoditize you?
(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan