How To Blow The Sale: Lack of Rehearsal May Cost Trump the Presidency

Update 11/9/16: Never Mind

The biggest buy of your career is up. You are one of two finalists.

The two of you will be presenting to a committee of 20.

Seven of them are solidly in your corner. Seven of them are determined to vote for your opponent no matter what.

The other six will decide who gets the business.

Are you going to rehearse your presentation, or just wing it?

No rehearsal means no sale in a presentation.

Photo by razihusin

Update, early morning 11/9/16: Never mind. 

“The wing-it days are over” — Jim Doyle

A quick disclaimer:  I am making no (public) judgments on which of them should be President of the United States. You go ahead and vote for your candidate, and I’ll vote for mine.

Going into the very first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the 2016 Presidential race was very close to a dead heat. As Nate Silver put it on his poll-tracking 538 Blog,

Our models have been on the move toward Trump for roughly six weeks. But with dozens of polls coming out over the past few days, he’s no longer much of an underdog at all. Hillary Clinton leads narrowly — by 1.5 percentage points — in our projection of the popular vote. But polling weakness in states that Clinton probably needs to win, particularly Colorado andPennsylvania, makes the Electoral College almost even.

The debate began at 9pm Eastern Time on September 26. 90 minutes later, the momentum had shifted from Trump to Clinton, and has stayed that way since.

The difference? Preparation.

Clinton and her team created a plan, and rehearsed that plan to a fault. Trump, according to multiple reports, decided to wing it.

Here is a snippet from one post-first-debate review, typical of many:

It was a commanding performance from the Democratic nominee. Clinton delivered a series of detailed answers on subjects ranging from race to the Middle East to tax policy…The Republican, on the other hand, was erratic, vague, and frequently appeared rude.

A “buying committee” of 80 million Americans was watching that night. It was Trump’s best chance to convince them that he was qualified to be President of the United States — to move them closer to buying his plan instead of his opponent’s.

He blew it.

Trump’s campaign went into a spiral that night, and has not recovered since. While there have certainly been several other unfortunate events for him, we can look back at September 26 as the night Donald Trump turned potential victory into probable defeat.

Barring a huge surprise in the next three weeks, the odds are overwhelming that Hillary Clinton is going to earn the business.

The Sales Lesson
You’ve Gotta Rehearse

Public speaking coach Michael Port, author of Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for All the Performances in Your Life, contends that rehearsing your material actually allows you to be more spontaneous:

When you prepare for a pitch, meeting, speech, or negotiation, the goal is to know your material so well that you are free to be in the moment. This is an important condition for listening because it’s hard to allow yourself to improvise if you don’t know your material right down to the core.

Rehearsing gives you the confidence to respond to the events and reactions of the moment, knowing you can come back to where you want to go with your planned content.”

  • You need to say every single word of your presentation out loud. It will sound different coming out of your mouth than it does in your head. Once you hear how it sounds out loud, you can make adjustments, long before your client hears anything.
  • You need to know your material well enough that if the client challenges any of the points you’re making, you can back them up.

For major presentations, role-play with your managers or peers, running through potential questions, objections, and holes in your arguments.

I know, I know. You hate to role-play. So do I.

Do it anyway.

The military role-plays constantly, performing hundreds of drills so that soldiers know how to cope with unexpected situations.

NFL teams role-play all week long before games. They practice all sorts of scenarios so that the quarterback has some experience with a game situation in which his first and second passing options don’t work out.

You should be role-playing, too. If it’s good enough for the New England Patriots and the United States Army, it’s good enough for you.

No Preparation = No Sale

The nation got a terrific sales lesson over the course of three Presidential debates this year.

For the biggest sales presentation of their lives, one candidate did the research, established her plan, and role-played for weeks, making adjustments along the way.

The other one…didn’t.

We’ll see the result on November 8.


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2 thoughts on “How To Blow The Sale: Lack of Rehearsal May Cost Trump the Presidency

  1. Haven’t you and I run into The Donald many times. Or at least people who behaved like The Donald. They never pay and you should not waste your time with them.

    • That’s a separate issue — I’m judging Trump as the salesperson here.

      But yes, I’ve had a customer or two like him over the years. I think it was St. Louis Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog who once said, “Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make.”