3 Sales Lessons from the Massachusetts Senate Race

Now I am not a Republican nor a Democrat, and I do not live in Massachusetts. However, it seems that no matter who we are or where we live, those of us in the United States were watching the Senate special election on January 19, 2010. I know I was watching and learning.

For me, there are some stark sales lessons that can be learned from the experience.

1. Don’t take your current clients for granted

This is really Sales 101. Your current clients are your best revenue source. If you aren’t visiting with them your competition is. It is critically important for a salesperson (a.k.a. candidate) to ensure they are visiting with their current clients.

Remember, your current clients want to know that you value their business. They don’t want to feel that you have moved on to greener pastures now that you have captured their business. Martha Coakley thought she was secure with her current clients (a.k.a. Democrats) so she didn’t get in front of them enough.

2. Listen and respond

Wow! Here’s a huge lesson to learn. Why did the voters in Massachusetts vote for Scott Brown instead of Martha Coakley? Because the voters felt that Martha – possibly as a representative of the Democrat party – was trying to ‘sell’ them something they didn’t want. She wasn’t listening to them. Many of her current clients (a.k.a. voters) left her and went to the competition (a.k.a. Republican candidate) because she wasn’t selling them what they wanted. She was selling them what SHE wanted to sell them. Never a good idea.

Remember, your prospects want to buy what they want to buy, not necessarily what you want to sell them. So, listen and then respond to what they tell you. Don’t think you know better than your prospect what he needs.

According to a Washington Post article on January 23, 2010, “Nearly two-thirds of Brown’s voters said their vote was intended at least in part to express opposition to the Democratic agenda in Washington, . . .”

3. Loyalty is earned

No one owes you business (a.k.a. votes). You have to earn business every day and all day; not only from prospects but from current clients. It seemed like Martha Coakley thought she had the loyalty of the Democrat voters simply because they were all in the same club together. But that’s not how it works in sales. Simply being a member of a group – networking, chamber, business association – is not a reason for people to do business with you.

Remember, people do business with people they know, like and trust. No one is going to trust you until you’ve behaved in a way that deserves that trust. Loyalty is a manifestation of trust and consistency. Once you’ve earned a client’s trust you have to continue to deliver in order to earn that client’s loyalty.

Overall, when we look at what happened in Massachusetts we see a vendor (a.k.a. candidate) take her clients and her prospect base for granted. How many times leading up to the election did we hear that Martha hadn’t been out visiting with consumers (a.k.a. constituents)? She didn’t listen to them, appeared to think she and her company (a.k.a. the Democrat party) knew better than her customers in regards to what they needed and wanted, and expected loyalty without earning it.

In contrast we had a vendor (a.k.a. Scott Brown) who visited with as many prospects as possible and listened to them. Then he responded to what they had to say. It seems like he had already keyed into their discontent with their incumbent vendor (a.k.a. the Democrat party) so when he spoke he was in step. That behavior helped him earn the opportunity to get the business (a.k.a. get elected). Now he will have to follow through with what he said he would do – which is what the prospects said they wanted. If he does that he will earn their loyalty and they will continue to do business with him (a.k.a. re-elect him).

As we continue to set this event into a sales scenario, the current vendor should not be surprised when her clients leave her. So, learn the lessons and make sure you are visiting regularly with your current clients, listening to their needs – and responding to those needs. This strategy will help you continue to earn the loyalty of your clients, and will help you gain more clients over time.


Diane Helbig Diane Helbig is a Professional Coach and the president of Seize This Day. Diane is a Contributing Editor on COSE Mindspring, a resource website for small business owners, as well as a member of the Top Sales World Experts Panel at Top Sales World.

15 Reactions
  1. I recommend you to listen to “Lessons on Scott Brown’s election for both parties” with Kiplinger’s Joan Pryde and Jim Blasingame.


  2. Great post about how the Massachusetts Senate Race came down to selling. I was told you are always selling yourself. Never forgot that.

  3. Great information. It’s interesting to see how we can learn from Senate races, especially how we can adopt some athletic traits into our own entrepreneurial habits.

  4. Good piece Diane. I’m continually surprised that people don’t understand how often we are in a “sales” situation. As an example, even those within the back office of a non-profit organization are “selling” when they lobby their boss to create a new policy or procedure that would be more efficient. A sales situation involves the marketing of ideas as well as currency.

  5. Scott Brown most definitely listened and he understood that small business owners were a perfect audience of prospective “clients”. Portfolio.com published the following breakdown of political affiliations of US small business owners:

    * 45% identify themselves as Republican
    * 25% identify themselves as Independent
    * Only 22% identify themselves as Democrat

  6. Diane,

    Nice job on this post. Good way to relate politics and sales.

    (Or is it politics and spin)

    Anyway, when it comes down to it, it’s about going out, looking people in the eyes, and shaking hands.

    The Franchise King

  7. Thanks for the great comments. Martin, I just listened that podcast of Jim Blasingame. Very interesting. I have to say that I watched that election intently. It seemed so obvious to me but so many people miss the boat – and the lesson.

    Sales is less about what you want to sell and all about what people want or need to buy. And what a great example that election truly was! You can’t ask for a better real life scenario than that.

    And yes, we are always selling – no matter what we do, where we work, or what position we hold. You are ON all the time.

  8. Diane: Thanks for your input. I think both sales and purchasing should be considered in the exchange of goods and services. It should be a two way street between buyer and seller based on the trader principle.

    John Joyce: I identify myself as a Radical Capitalist with a philosophical foundation. My new site Ego Sole Trader will provide small business owners, entrepreneurs and business minded individuals with intellectual fuel, moral support and practical tips for your worklife.

  9. Diane,

    Great comparison of politics to sales, but at times I wonder if politicians lose their way trying to constantly chase “what the people want.” I believe there are times when what is right may be unpopular.

  10. Diane- Great post. You made a very effective case for listening to your customers and clients. The upset by Scott Brown will go down in the record books as epic. Hopefully we can all listen well and build great companies. Well done.

  11. Martin – I love the way you describe yourself. I, myself, am a capitalist.

    Robert B. – While what is right may at times be unpopular we live in a country with ‘representative government.’ Last time I checked that meant their job is to represent the constituents, not their agendas. I also think that when they open themselves up to listen to their constituents we can all learn things and better governance will happen because people will be communicating. My mother used to say, there’s your side, my side, and the right side. And the right side is usually somewhere in the middle. Maybe that’s why more and more people are becoming independents.

  12. great post, miss. The post that you comparison of politic, is great. The point at this post is simple to know by people

  13. Diane: I am glad to hear that you are a kindred spirit regarding ideas. For great intellectual fuel, I recommend you to check out “Principles Of A Free Society” site.