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Seven lessons from political trail


Mark Siebert

Every four years, it seems, we hear the same complaint. With all of the candidates running for president, there never appears to be a single one worth a vote. Yet every four years, another politician finds a home on Pennsylvania Avenue.  

And while some commentators will decry the low voter turnout as a sign of apathy, it is important to remember that each of these politicians inspires tens of millions of voters to take several hours out of their busy days to cast a vote that, by itself, will not influence the results of the election.  

So, as much as I hate to admit it, perhaps the politicians know more than we give them credit for. Perhaps (and as much as it kills me to say this) there are lessons to be learned.  

Here are my takeaways from watching this year’s political events unfold.

Get out the vote: Just like you can’t win an election with a handful of votes, it’s going to take a lot of interested prospects to close a franchise sale. Given the historically low close rates in franchising, you will only win the election if your lead generation efforts bear fruit. So be sure you have an adequate campaign budget from the start.

If your budget is limited, think about how effective Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign was in the Iowa primary. Political pundits touted his grassroots ground game that meticulously worked across every county in the state to attract voters. It was organized, calculated and persistent, just like your programs for generating referral leads should be, and it gave Cruz a surprising victory over poll leader Donald Trump.

Narrow the field: When your voter is confronted with a dozen different choices, their first reaction is to try to narrow the field.  And, as competitors drop out of contention, the landscape can change as new front-runners emerge.  

But note how the skilled politicians narrow the focus of the debate by focusing their arguments just on the front-runner, asking the voter to look at it from the perspective of a two-horse race. When you are differentiating your brand, you need to focus your sales conversations on those franchises you are competing with—and not on those that will be gone after the primary.

Sell a vision for the future: Like a franchisor vying for a franchise sale, politicians are competing for someone’s vote by tapping into their personal hopes and aspirations. They campaign against a field of others who have the answers and a compelling future to sell voters.

People buy for emotional reasons—not logical ones. Whether it is “Make America Great Again” or “Change We Can Believe In” or “Happy Days Are Here Again,” the promises from political campaigns appeal more to our emotions than our intellect. Throughout the franchise sales process, you also should be appealing to your voters’ emotions. They are making an emotional decision, one that comes from their gut.

Embrace the debate: As has been demonstrated in this year’s campaign season, in order to win the debate, you need to show up. To not address the fact that you have competitors would be similar to when Donald Trump sat out the last televised debate before the Iowa primary. He decided to ignore the competition and only ride the waves of his message.

Problem is, without acknowledging competition, you’re leaving out an important element of your business. It’s important to educate franchise prospects about other options, and explain to them why your concept brings more value than any other one in the field.

Take the high road: How often have we seen politicians spend a large portion of a debate simply bashing rivals and knocking down the message of the other? At this year’s Republican debate before the New Hampshire primary, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent a lot of his time on stage criticizing Marco Rubio for not having enough leadership experience. Independent of whether or not that is a fair assessment, the decision to focus on attacking the credentials of another candidate took Christie nowhere...except to the end of his run for president.

On the flip side, Ohio Gov. John Kasich chose the technique of distancing himself from competition through a more positive assertion of his stance on the issues. That path bought him more time in his bid for president, as he was a surprise runner-up in the New Hampshire primary.

While you want to be sure to differentiate yourself from your competitors, stick to what makes you great, not what makes other concepts bad.

Understand image: Your verbal and written communications is only half the battle though. Image is important too. If you are old enough, think back to the first televised presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy. When the polls came out, people who listened to the debates on the radio thought Nixon was the clear winner. But those who watched the debate on television felt that Kennedy—with his crisp suit and his confident demeanor—was the winner.

Likewise, you need to portray your brand as the winner. Be sure your marketing materials pop and your message is clearly defined. Make sure you website jumps off the page and your correspondence is crisp. Exude confidence throughout your sales cycle. Be Kennedy. Not Nixon.

Ask for the order: Finally, on election eve, one can count on every candidate to urge their voters to go to the polls. And ultimately, you too need to ask for the order.

Some franchise brands do a fantastic job moving prospects through the sales process. They have invested money into the right marketing mix and receive a steady stream of leads. They do well during initial conversations and have a strong follow-up system in place that moves the right people through to Discovery Day.

People go to the polls because they want to vote for someone—not against their opponent. They have a vision for the future and they are ready to do something to influence it. So know when the time is right to ask a simple question: “Are you ready to move forward with us?”

Mark Siebert is CEO of consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or info@ifranchisegroup.com. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”

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