Selling the Tea Party, By Charles Robertson, co-founder Broward Tea party
When we collected votes for our Broward Tea Party’s 10 Must Read Books for Conservatives, the list was impressive. There were over 40 suggestions covering all the expected, well-known authors. As I reviewed the list I couldn’t help but think that there was one book missing, for me it should lead the list. Most people would be surprised to find this book on such a list. The thing is, most conservatives have read a variety of the top books and already have a good understanding of conservatism. They know the history, the when, where and whys of how we arrived at our current condition. What most are lacking is the individual knowledge and skill to effect change in others. This is where my book comes in.
It was over 20 years ago when my older brother, who had become a very successful salesman, told me to read, How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins. At the time, I wasn’t involved in sales or so I thought, but I foresaw the need to improve this skill. This would be one of those books that you pick up and can’t put down. I learned very quickly that everyone is in sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling ideas to your kids, your friends, your co-workers or your boss, the fact is we’re selling things every day, and most of us don’t know how to do it effectively.
How to Master the Art of Selling is a well-named title as selling is indeed an art and a skill like any other that can be learned and perfected. To watch a master salesperson at work is to witness a psychologist, a counselor, a teacher, and a motivator all rolled into one. In the hands of such an expert most people aren’t even aware that they’re being “sold” anything. The beauty of a sales transaction being done by a pro is that the salesperson directs the process in a smooth, friendly, helpful manner that makes the buyer feel like a winner in the end. Getting to that point requires preparation, practice, patience, persistence, and more p-words than I can think of.
At every Tea Party meeting I see the same exchanges taking place, members discussing their pet issue or candidate or concern. Someone is always trying to persuade (selling) someone else or others. Listening to these exchanges, where most of the sales rules are being broken, causes me concern that our important message is likewise not being sold to those who need to hear it most. My first concern is that our members are not pushing our message hard enough. They’re avoiding opportunities to connect to others, missing teachable moments. My second concern is that when they are reaching out to share our message they’re not effective. It’s not as simple as laying out facts, and making your best arguments; there is a method to selling and it’s quite different from what most people think of the sales process.
Before I get to the sales process, the first thing we need to understand is what we’re selling and that’s easy; we’re selling our three core values. Fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets are the answer to a whole host of current problems. When you overhear someone talking about high gas prices that’s the opportunity to sell Tea Party core values. Sound fiscal policy would limit speculation and reduce exports; limited government could open up pipelines and allow refinery growth, all of which would reduce gas prices. Very soon everyone will be complaining about the income tax they’re paying. BINGO! That’s our cue to sell Tea Party core values. On that issue we have more ammunition than the Army. Now about that sales process.
Everyone knows that word-of-mouth is the most effective means of advertising. Street rallies, debates, emails, and other forms of advertising all raise awareness, but nothing works as well as a direct conversation. These opportunities are where we will not just educate but hopefully motivate others to take action. The goal in our encounters is to not to sell the whole enchilada in one shot. Hitting a home run in these encounters is getting someone to attend a Tea Party meeting. The meetings are where the sales transaction is “closed.” This is where they will get a more complete understanding of our current crisis and thus become motivated to get involved in the solution.
To get others to give up a weeknight to attend a meeting hosted by a group they’ve heard God knows what about, is not an easy sale. Those of us who think we can “talk” our way into this sale don’t understand the process. The process involves mostly listening, questioning, and providing feedback. The listening aspect disarms the “buyer” and provides you the information you need to ask the right questions. The questions identify the problem or need. Let’s say you’ve established that the problem is the high level of income tax. The next step is the action step which makes the powerless taxpayer feel empowered. The action is to join others at a meeting, to unite and be part a larger powerful force fighting tax injustice.
I realize that there’s far more to this sales process than what I’ve just touched on. This deserves a deeper look into the tools at our disposal, so let’s consider this blog, part #1 of #2. In part #2, I’ll provide a sample dialogue that shows you what to say, how to lead the conversation and how to close the sale. The techniques you’ll acquire will prove valuable beyond just recruiting for our cause. If you’re looking forward to part #2 then you’ve already learned one of the techniques; sell the benefit, build anticipation, and keep them wanting more.