A coaching client of mine, Nate Wadsworth, has the busiest schedule of any entrepreneur I know. He runs a highly successful real-estate business, a forestry business and has a young family as well. Yet last year, he embarked on another challenge: running for office.
We often brainwash ourselves into thinking “our business is different” or “our industry is different.” Or, in Nate's case, that political campaigning must be different than entrepreneurship. This misconception couldn't be further from the truth. The fundamentals are fundamental in every industry and when you can create a system, you bring calm to chaos and clarity to confusion.
Whether you’re a politician or entrepreneur, you’re in the same business. You’re first and foremost in the relationship business, then the business of whatever field you work in. If you don’t build the relationships, nothing else matters. This is why you need a relationship-building system.
A campaign, whether it’s a political campaign, a crowdfunding campaign or a business-development campaign is essentially a system with a clearly defined outcome, starting point and finish line. A common acronym for SYSTEM is “Saving You Stress, Time, Energy and Money.”
How does it save you? When you create a system, you save bandwidth, so to speak. When you don’t have a system or process you are using exponentially more emotional bandwidth and energy while accomplishing far less.
If you don’t have an automated or intentional system for your mind to work through, it’s the equivalent of having a ton of apps running in the background on your phone. It sucks up the battery and decreases the speed of what you are trying to do. By automating what you are doing, your mind is freed up from unnecessary decision-making.
The system we employed with Nate’s campaign is fundamentally the same as the selling system I teach my coaching clients. You need to think of business development like a campaign. Just like political campaigning, when done well business development should be a systematized framework that supports your goals and has a definitive start and end point.
Here are the fundamentals of a systematized sales campaign:
1. Define exactly what your ideal client looks like.
From demographics to psychographics.
2. Qualify your audience.
Are they prospects or suspects? A suspect should be disqualified and removed from your list as soon as possible. (For example: visiting registered democrats who voted consistently would have been a waste of Nate’s time.) Prospects were all registered Republicans and also Independents who voted three or four times in the last four elections. Remember all prospects don’t have to be ideal but need to have good potential.
3. Grade your prospects in comparison to your ideal client.
You choose the grading scale. (Nate chose to use a letter grading system, I prefer to use a four-point scale.) The higher the grade the more time and energy should be invested in them.
4. Manage your territory.
Divide your territory up into mini-territories and develop an efficient game plan to communicate with them. Phone calls, direct mail, email, social media, speaking engagements and in-person visits (door knocking).
5. Reverse engineer your goal.
You can’t control making the sale but you can control your process and your effort. Set benchmarks working from the designated end date backwards. For example: How many total contacts do you need to make? Chunk that down into monthly, weekly and daily goals. (Nate calculated that he needed to door knock six days a week for three months, which averaged out to about 75 doors a day. He also handwrote a minimum of five postcards every day and made twice as many daily phone calls.)
6. Go on a listening tour.
Politics and sales are both contact sports. A listening tour is about others and what you can do to best serve them, not about you making a sale or gaining a vote. If you listen, follow up and serve them well, the sale is a natural byproduct of your listening and follow through.
The more touches or mini sales you have with a prospect where you are able to build trust and rapport and add value to the relationship, the more success you will have. Research has proven over and over again that the most successful salespeople and politicians are the people who make the most contacts. The big three are calls, personal notes and in-person visits. (Notice how low tech yet high touch these three are.)
7. Timing is everything.
The best time to tour is when you know you will have a captive audience. For Nate it was door knocking on rainy days because more people will be indoors. It also demonstrated his commitment to serve, as many voters commented, “Wow, you’re out in the rain.”
If you work in sales, the best time you can go prospecting and make sales calls is during bad weather. Why? Because your competition probably won’t do it and that demonstration of your commitment ratchets you up a level in the eyes of your prospect. (Nate was running against an incumbent who served three terms and had 50 years of life experience on him. Rainy day visits closed the gap for him big time.)
8. Protect your confidence.
If you’re having a bad day or facing a lot of rejection, follow up a bad call or visit by visiting a friendly face. Perhaps it’s an existing customer you know loves your company, or if all else fails, see your mom, spouse or dog. They all love you unconditionally and will help lift your spirits.
9. Make the ask.
When I asked friends, colleagues and neighbors why they voted for the candidate they did, the answer was almost always as simple as, “They visited me, listened to me, answered my questions and asked for my vote.” Do you think the sales process in your industry is really any different?
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