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In the run-in to our national elections, it’s been fascinating to see how our leading politicians have gone about selling themselves, their parties and their ideologies. Whilst we’d like to think those who get elected are the individuals and parties who might best lead our nation out of the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s more likely it will be those that sell themselves the best.

Make no mistake – the leading politicians are generally the best salespeople!

We might think it’s a sad indictment that we might be assessing (and electing!) our politicians based more on their ability to sell themselves and their ideas, than on the policies they espouse, but it’s the reality of the world we live in.

When we sell products and services, top salespeople understand the process customers go through, behaviourally and psychologically, to make their purchase decision (often called the buyer’s journey). And they certainly understand the concept of the old adage of WIIFM – what’s in it for me? The best politicians have taken that to another level – whilst they may have no background or training in sales, they intuitively understand how to sell themselves and their ideas using not WIIFM, but WIIFT (‘what’s in it for them’).

The ‘them’ of course is us – the voters. What messages will we want to hear that will make us choose one candidate or party over another? Or maybe, it’s more about how those messages are delivered that have more influence.

Think about it. As we’re inundated with messaging from a raft of political parties and candidates, which ones have the greatest cut-through? The ones that detail the policies that resonate most with us – or those that deliver the sound-bites that grab our attention, engage us and create some degree of impact and/or memorability?

As someone whose career has been built on the ability to engage others and communicate with clarity and impact, I’m always impressed by those who do this well. Given I’m very aware of how those skills can sometimes mask a lack of substance, I’d like to think I don’t get too swayed by those talents. However, I have to admit that I’ve been taken in by some of the powerful rhetoric that’s come from some of our leading politicians, and have had to remind myself to look beyond the message delivery and assess the content for what it is – not for how powerfully it is articulated (i.e. how well the message are being sold).

Of course, this is nothing new. History shows a plethora of politicians and leaders world-wide with a great ability to inspire and sell their ideology powerfully. Think Winston Churchill (his stirring “we shall fight them on the beaches …” speech is legendary), Martin Luther King Jr (“I have a dream”) and dare I say, Adolf Hitler.

Powerful rhetoric can be compelling and plays a massive role in influencing how we as voters determine who we feel might be best to lead our country. But, as you cast your vote this week, try to keep in mind the content of the messages (the policies) that best resonate with you, and not just who has sold themselves to you better than others.