How to “Sell” to Your Elected Officials
July 16, 2020 | Kim Grzywacz
We live in a great country. The First Amendment to our Constitution allows "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances". As an elementary teacher, I had never taken advantage of this right. As part of the motorcoach industry, I have participated in three fly-ins in Washington D.C. To walk the halls so many have walked before me and sit with my elected officials to petition for my industry was an honor and a privilege. Through these most recent times, I have found this right to not just be a privilege, but a necessity.
I am in sales. Therefore, for my industry, I created a five-part blog series on how to sell to your elected officials. I have found success in looking at the process this way. This article will summarize all five of those blogs into one. Links are provided to the original posts.
Article 1: Time to "Sell" to Your Elected Officials
Your story, your brand, is part of the sell. In my second letter to my elected officials, I opened with these lines:
″Believe me,” said Horton, “I tell you sincerely, my ears are quite keen and I heard him quite clearly. I *know* there’s a person down there. And, what’s more, quite likely there’s two. Even three. Even four.”
Why do I start with a quote from “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss? Because, I am a Who. I belong to the motorcoach industry and I feel the need to shout, “We are here, we are here, we are here!”
Would this opening work for you? Maybe not. I was an elementary school teacher for 18 years. It works for me because it is my voice, my story to tell. While the form letters carefully crafted by my associations were wonderful, I found it time to really let my voice be heard. This was how I needed to do it. How will you tell your story?
What were the results of my letters? I had TWO calls with 5/6 of our elected officials. Two officials signed a Dear Colleague letter supporting my industry. (7% of those that signed were from Iowa, and we are a state with under 10 motorcoach companies.) Two officials tweeted out support. One official did an interview with a local Iowa paper where support was quoted. (Your competitors become your allies when you are speaking to D.C. Work together.) That was 4/6 support. 67% of documented support in D.C. How is your closing ratio? I don’t know about yours, but in my industry 40% is great. This went beyond my expectations.
One of my favorite books is “People Buy You” by Jeb Blount. People need to feel connected to you before they can become loyal. I need to connect with my elected officials. To do so, I followed 10 tips from Blount’s book.
1. Be likeable. Smile when you are communicating—even over the phone. Be polite, respectful, use your manners.
2. Use please. Use it twice. Don’t people get further with you when they use their manners? My kids do with me.
3. Provide full information about yourself/your company.
- Company history—but tell the story, do not just give facts.
- Give your revenues.
- Talk about your employees.
- Discuss the impact of what is happening and why you need their support.
4. Be honest. Strip away any facades. Vulnerability is not a negative trait.
5. Be confident. This does not contradict #4. You cannot be courageous without fear. You may need to fake it until you make it. So, fake it.
6. Ask questions. What is their position? How can we help them?
7. Listen. Do not just hear their answers. There is a difference.
8. Listen for how we can help them solve their problems. We are looking for a partner. Partners help each other.
9. Be empathetic. We are not the only constituent reaching out. They have more than just our issue on their plate. Sometimes to receive empathy, you must give it.
10. Close the sale. Make the ask. Articulate what you want. Follow up. Many times, the close doesn’t happen until you follow up and show them you really care.
This sale could be vital to your business. Make your connections, follow up and close this sale.
Sometimes it is hard to speak for yourself. Especially when you have made several outreach efforts. In my 4th letter, I let the industry and my clients speak for me.
1. Use industry statistics. If you have been in the news, send those links. Show them the importance goes beyond your individual company.
2. Be vulnerable. Remember #4 from above? Share your feelings. Use statistics from your business. During the pandemic, I used the following:
- % employee reduction
- % loss of revenue
- % of loss of bookings compared to one year ago
- $$ of cancellations
- HOPE of what our final revenue may be for 2020 and how that compares to 2019
3. Ask for impact statements from your clients. Your clients are your best endorsers. Seek different segments of your client pool to create a diversified look at your company.
4. Thank them for their time.
5. Ask for an action item. (#10 from above.) My 4th letter action item was asking when we could speak again. This is when I received my 2nd round of calls. SUCCESS!
Article 4: On the Call – Sell to Your Elected Officials
Congratulations! You sold yourself and achieved the “sale” of a call with your elected official. Here are my six steps to a successful call.
1. Gather statistics. These may be the same ones from Article 3 above. They may be new. Be sure you include the statistics of your company.
- How long have you been in business?
- How many employees do you have?
- Who are your clients?
- What is your annual revenue?
- What impact has COVID-19 had on the above?
2. Make a cheat sheet. Remember, making one often means you won’t need it, but if you DO, then at least you have it.
- Write down important statistics.
- Write down your key points.
- Write down your ask.
3. Remember your manners. We have become a society of familiarization. Now is a time to be formal. Use their title and last name (Congressman/Congresswoman Smith or Senator Smith). Please and thank you are impressive. Do not use colorful language that would have your grandmother shaking her finger at you.
4. Ask questions. A good conversation is not one-sided.
- What information do you need from me?
- What can I do to further this cause?
- What is Congress/the Senate doing to assist businesses like mine?
- What are you hearing from your other constituents?
5. Stay on track. On one call, I had received crushing news just before it began. My mind was not focused. I found myself rambling. I admitted it (showed vulnerability), apologized and went back to my cheat sheet.
6. Remember your manners. (Are you seeing a common theme in some of my points?) Wrap up the call highlighting the most important points from both of you. Ask your ask. Thank them for their time.
This may be the final impression they will have of you. Make it a positive, lasting one.
Article 5: Twitter Sells to Your Elected Official? YES
I know I said the call may be the final impression, but there is always more. When you are building a relationship, meet the other party on their terms. Elected officials are on Twitter. I am in no way, shape or form a Twitter expert. I am faking it. But, what I have discovered is all of our elected officials tweet. And, they will tweet support for you. I have followed all of them personally and professionally. I have tagged them in tweets about the industry. I tweet photos. If the news publishes something relevant, I retweet it, tagging them. I can keep them informed on this platform.
Remember, know your customer. Know where they are. Know how they communicate. Meet them where they are. This is how you sell “you”. Stay in the forefront of their mind. Be memorable and close the sale!