Every day in the run-up to the 2016 elections I saw the poll numbers showing Donald Trump with a substantial lead in the GOP polls. In spite of the many gaffes that would destroy any other candidate’s political aspirations, Trump continued to be immune. This fact caused me to question why some people would continue to support him in spite of his many obviously inflammatory sound bites. I also wondered if there was anything a business could take away from this phenomenon.
Psychologists have suggested that Trump’s appeal is normal if you understand the human mind. Specifically, people like people who talk big and tell them that their problems are easy to solve. Moreover, some people argue that Trump is able to make such claims because of his large amount of personal wealth. They thought that he can operate his campaign independently from special interest because of his fortune. Many also perceive him as an anti-establishment candidate because of his lack of political experience. While there may be some truth to these ideas, the key lesson for businesses is the fact that people respond well to those who talk big and offer simple solutions, even if they’re unrealistic.
As a public speaker, Trump does not deliver lines that are carefully crafted to attract applause. He doesn’t design his speeches for easy sound bite extraction like other candidates do. Yet, he is considered to be a very effective speaker. In fact, “decades of research show that charisma has more to do with a person’s demeanor than what he or she is saying,” says Stanford University’s Jeffrey Pfeffer.
In one series of experiments performed by Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal, subjects were able to predict how students in a college classroom would evaluate their teachers at the end of a term based on just thirty seconds of soundless footage of the instructor in action. Since the subjects couldn’t hear the words coming out of the instructor’s mouth, what mattered most were the gestures, not the substance of the lesson. In Trump’s case, what many supporters value is his narcissism. By being over the top in his view of his own talents, Donald Trump appears bigger than life.
In sales, confidence in one’s own ability translates in unique, but predictable ways. People respond to force, movement, smiling, and facial expressions that convey authority. In Trump’s case, he did it better than his competitors and his energy is contagious. To apply Trump’s strategy to sales, one needs to be narcissistic and understand that it’s the emotion, as opposed to the content, that carries the day.
Life is complicated and most often there are no easy answers to our problems. Most people just say “…the hell with it, I’m never going to figure it out so just forget it!” For many people, uncertainty in the future is deeply unpleasant. When someone like Trump comes along saying the problem is simple and he has the solution, human nature makes us inclined to believe in and trust them.
Deep down, we all want the world to be simple. So, when Trump says he will build a wall the length of the Mexican border and have Mexico pay for it, it is human nature to say, “He makes it so simple and he is so confident! He must know details that I don’t know. He must have it all figured out. He must be right so I will believe in and trust him.”
Therefore, a salesperson needs to respond to complicated questions as though the answers were so obvious that he is dumbfounded that no one else can see it. By doing so, he makes the customer feel confident in the salesperson’s ability to control and understand the situation in ways he cannot fathom.
When it comes to sales, what lessons from Donald Trump’s campaign can you use to improve your sales?
How can you talk and act in ways to convey greater authority? How can you communicate to your customers that their problems are simple and easily remedied?
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