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I’ve spent my entire adult life in some form of sales, with products ranging from roses and pianos to politicians and ideas. After twelve years, a lot of folks ask how I’ve been able to sell so many different things as effectively as I do.
Looking back on the last twelve years, it comes down to three lessons I’ve learned across fifteen states and dozens of political and corporate brands.
Lesson One: Keep Knocking
My first adult job was selling roses, door-to-door. It was aggressive, grueling sales where tenacity was the biggest difference between our top salesman and the worst – which was me for my first two months. Then everything changed.
It was July, and I’d spent nine hours walking from business to business in the oppressive heat of a Texas summer, without selling one damned rose by 6pm.
I pushed myself for just one more door, and decided if I didn’t make a sale it would be my last door. It was a big chain restaurant, where at least one waiter would usually buy a box. I stumbled in and found myself at the restaurant’s monthly meeting of general managers from across the region. In thirty minutes, I sold 43 dozen roses.
It’s always easier to give up and call it a day, but you’re never going to sell anything if you’re not out there selling. Always knock one more door.
Lesson Two: What to Say, When, and How
Showing up in front of the right people is only half of being a great salesman; the other half is knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.
What most people don’t understand about political messaging is the need to sell several different groups of buyers on different messages about the same product, all simultaneously. You have donors, volunteers, interns, activists, reporters, and voters – which is a general category containing dozens of subsets.
You never win an advertising campaign with a single, outstanding message.
Winning requires coming up with hundreds of great messages, understanding each member of your audience, finding the right time and place for each one, and delivering each via the best medium to yield the greatest result.
Lesson Three: Doing Homework
Selling roses, there wasn’t any homework. You never knew whom you were going to find on the other side of a door. It’s a different story when you’re asking a politician, company, or government to hire your advertising firm.
If you don’t understand the problem a client needs to solve, it doesn’t matter how tenacious you are or how pretty you talk; you don’t deserve to have their business.
On my first day at Amplify Relations, I landed in a meeting about reaching single men in their twenties and persuade them to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases – as the only one in the room in that audience, I’d lived the homework.
When we met with the client during my second week at Amplify Relations, they asked for a solution to a problem they hadn’t expressed before, and we had the perfect solution ready, solely because we had done our homework. The result? They tripled their budget.
Most of the time, 99% of your homework won’t actually matter. That’s okay. The remaining 1% is what separates the winners and losers.
Bonus Tip: Even though I’m a grammar nerd who will gladly have an hour-long debate about Oxford commas, sometimes the right message means ignoring all the rules to achieve your goal. This headline was written for social media and you’re reading it, meaning it was the right message for you. Cool, huh?
As an account man at a scrappy, upstart advertising agency, our clients rely on us to help them solve their problems, say the right thing, at the right time, the right way, to the right people, and never give up. It’s what we live for.
Those three lessons are the difference between a great advertising campaign and something boring, predictable, and one-size-fits-all. It’s a #GameChanger.