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How to Handle Politics on Sales Calls
Mind Your Opinions Or Lose Business
Personally I tend to be somewhat opinionated, easy to read, and not afraid to speak my mind regarding politics, religion, and family. These are ALL potential nuclear bombs on a sales call. If you want to turn off just about any prospect, choose the wrong side of an issue, mention an opinion on the wrong side of a religious concept or talk about your neighbors illegitimate children. You may well find either a new way to pull your foot out of your mouth at best, or your prospects boot out of your backside, if you really go to far. And it doesn't have to be a big point to be a major problem for you.
Most sales schools cover the concept that you don't put down your competition directly. Sure, you can compare and contrast - that is fine. You can point out your features and benefits versus your competition, that is fine. But suggesting your competition is cheaply made, sold by hooligans, and collections is run by a bunch of thugs to frighten your customer into buying from you, well that is just wrong.
You don't want to bring up any of the big 3 either - you probably just can't win. If you bring up religion, what are the odds, even if you see a Bible, Crucifix or some other religious symbol in the prospects office, that the person you are calling on didn't put it there? Or put it there because the ex-wife gave it to them and they just haven't gotten around to throwing it out yet? What is behind your bringing up religion in the discussion in the first place? Is it possible you may make your prospect very uncomfortable about a discussion they don't like doing publicly? I can assure you, even if you believe your are the very best evangelical communicator of religious doctrine, you run a great risk of running off a prospect by putting them on the religious hot seat.
It is very possible that you may walk into a conversation where politics is the point of the conversation. Before you jump in, listen - closely. This is like walking into a nest of spinning swords if you aren't careful. I've personally held my tongue (which requires steel sutures and staples into the roof my mouth along with some long wood screws) when I am on sales calls. I've had employees of my prospects go on and on regarding a particular political person and how they are so good and helpful - and should be re-elected. I have to just about shove a pen in my temple to keep from saying what I need to say.
Walk up to a group of people at the water cooler and a conversation and hear something about young people and sex, drugs, kids, or whatever - and jump in with your own story - and kill whatever sales you had in mind. Unless you are genuinely a part of the family, it isn't going to work. One of the industries I worked in tended to be connected by family links. The town I live in had businesses with names like CWT, J&S, CEW, and the like. Making a sales call on one, I didn't realize I was calling on the brother of the other - the brother once removed due to a marriage to one of the other company's owner's daughter. Just say the wrong thing and forget about doing business there. Don't believe you can keep up - it isn't going to happen.
So what do you do and not come across as a putz? Listen, snicker at the punch lines that everyone else does, but DO NOT JOIN IN! Let everyone else point out whatever it is they want to point out - and maybe you can find an ally in that conversation. But still don't bring it up. Stay with your products, your programs and what your products/programs can do. It isn't worth the hassle.