Selling in an age where conventional wisdom no longer applies

First Brexit, now Trump – two of the most remarkable campaigns in the history of modern politics. It was the year that ‘post-truth’ became the Oxford Dictionary’s ‘new word of the year’, and if we’ve learned anything from the events of 2016, it’s that there’s no longer any such thing as conventional wisdom.

We learned that:

  • Feelings trump reason
  • Anger trumps logic
  • Direction trumps detail
  • Simple messages trump complex conversations

So what does this mean for the future in terms of how we connect, engage, influence and sell?

In December we were delighted to welcome Alastair Campbell as a keynote speaker at our Connections 16 event.

A highly regarded speaker, communicator and strategist he knows what it takes to succeed, even during the toughest of times. Drawing inspiration from recent political events, and from his most recent book ‘Winners and How They Succeed’, a Number 1 best-selling analysis of what it takes to win in politics, business and sport, he delivered a captivating and provocative session to our audience of B2B sales and marketing leaders.

Here is our pick of the top takeaways from his session:

  1. Know who you are up against – What Trump, and indeed the Brexit team, did so well was to not only emphasise their opponents’ weaknesses, but also use their strengths against them. In a competitive business environment, knowing who you are up against is just as important as understanding your audience. Armed with this information you can not only turn their strengths into weaknesses, but turn your weaknesses into strengths.
  1. Active messaging beats static messaging – The Trump agenda changed continually throughout the campaign, whereas Hillary Clinton knew her position and stuck to it. It is hard to keep winning if you are all about continuity. Ask yourself “what is my ‘now’ message”? Be a challenger, and keep looking for something to disrupt.
  1. Focus on the forgotten customer – Trump and Brexit both appealed to those who felt they’d been marginalised in some way. Look for opportunities to appeal to people who don’t normally engage. Make them feel there’s something in it for them, and you will win a whole new army of fans.
  1. Arouse emotion – Trump and Brexit succeeded based on the consistency of emotion they aroused. Indeed, policy really didn’t feature highly in the Trump presidential campaign at all, astonishing though that is! In a world of change and churn, emotion is as important as fact. Understand your buyer’s persona – tap into their pain, their aspirations and their emotional needs. Make them feel better than they did before they engaged with you, and you will stand are far greater chance of building a relationship with them.
  1. Use the power of advocacy – Trump used this technique to great advantage. Any big movement for change needs advocates. Get yours onside, and empower them to tell your story to others. Combine advocacy with technology – social media platforms and forums – and you have a very powerful, winning combination.
  1. Use the media to your advantage – Traditional media and social media are useful barometers of sentiment that can keep you one step ahead. Tapping into news, views, and opinions allows you to spot interests, problems and opportunities you can exploit. Use these tools to your advantage wherever possible. But remember, with people bombarded by so much information on a daily basis, it’s vital to keep your agenda and strategy front of mind. Utilise the tools available to cut through white noise and find the information that will allow you to develop, execute and narrate your strategy, whilst tapping into factors of importance to your buyer.
  1. Focus on solutions – Never say “the problem is…” Changing people’s minds means focusing on solutions. Take Alastair’s New Labour example, what they offered was not incremental change, but real, definitive change for the long term. Trump too, with ‘Make America Great Again’ – the focus of all his communications was around making things better. Don’t focus on the past. Focus on the future, and what you and your customers or prospects can achieve together.