President Obama could learn from a C-Level selling expert. He’s having issues persuading senators and congress people to support gun control, immigration reform, budgets, debt ceilings and more. These are powerful people, just like the ones sales people encounter or try to encounter in their endeavors to make sales and/or win projects.

So there are, among others, two critical and relevant problems when trying to win over powerful people and there are strategies and tactics to help eliminate them.

One is getting to these people. Obviously, the President has no problem getting to anyone, so he doesn’t have to worry about this. But if you or your sales people struggle with this problem, the quick answer is networking. In the event you are blocked, see my resource box at the end of this article.
The second problem is winning each senator and/or congress person over. This is a problem and here are some tactics that he could deploy and sales people can also use.

To win people over, you first have to know what they want and then be able to give it to them. Knowing what someone wants cannot be an assumption. Even if you’re real sure, it has to be spoken by the powerful individual. Otherwise, this powerful person doesn’t know if you really do know.
So the first tactic has to be to interview the person to find out exactly what s/he wants. Interviewing is a whole topic in itself, but suffice it to say, you have to have some provocative questions to open this person up and lead him or her in the right direction.

Don’t worry that this person may want something you can’t supply, or may want it from somewhere else. Embrace it and encourage him to keep talking. He may work himself into something you can provide. Besides, even if you can’t provide it, you’re better off learning it quickly than to die slowly trying to persuade the individual to think differently. There are some senators and congress people that President Obama will never win-over, for whatever reason. Just like there are some sales you will never close. But it’s good to know this early on so you can use your time to pursue sales /people where you have a good chance of winning.

Now another issue might be that this powerful person may not have mentioned everything you think s/he should want. S/he may have forgotten to mention some desires. S/he may not know it’s available or may not think of you as one who can provide it. Or, s/he may not want it or care about it. So the only way to complete the “what does this person want package” is to ask about these other things that you think they should be thinking about (preferably that you can supply.) In this way, you’ll know all of what should be included in the “what does this person want package”. I call this technique Expose and Entice.

For example, I may ask a CEO or Sales VP about what s/he wants as it relates to sales training, and s/he tells me he want better sales people who are able to close faster, have better closing ratios, and a host of other things. However, no where did he mention anything about the sales managers and training for them. So I might say, “You didn’t say anything about sales management training. Is that something of importance to you?” Whatever the answer, I will now know more of the “what does this person want package” so I’ll know what to present that hits his or her mark. It will also make me appear more consultative, as a solution provider rather than just a pushy sales person.

So back to the President; if the President were to interview these powerful legislators instead of trying to rally their constituents against them, he’d probably have better success. In his constituent bully campaign he’s only going to rile the senators and congress people, who will dig in more to resist any chance of compromise.

So Mr. President, when you’re golfing with them and hosting them for dinners, ask each one what it is s/he wants to win his or her support. Be sure you have the full “what does this person wants package”. Then determine if there is any way you can give it. If not, move on to another. Unlike selling, you can lose some powerful senators and congress people and still carry your initiative.

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Bonus Tip: FREE E-book Getting Past Gatekeepers and Handling Blockers . If you can’t get to the powerful decision makers, you’re depending on others to do your selling at the high levels. The problem is that you won’t know what they say, if they say anything at all. Most importantly you won’t know the “what does this person want package”.