When’s the last time you heard a president of the United States attempt to sell his ideas as “not crazy…not socialism” and not a sign of “the imperial presidency.” In the video below, President Obama does just that, on the banks of the Potomac yesterday in front of a friendly audience of staffers, supporters and media (forgive the redundancy).
Watching this brief clip convinced me that when President Obama leaves office sometime in the next decade or two, he can make a smooth transition to giving sales-training seminars.
I’ve studied the video, and culled from it…
Barack Obama’s 3 Secrets of Successful Selling
Background: The president wants to make up a budget shortfall in the highway trust fund by hiking taxes on gas companies. Here’s how a master salesman goes about it.
1. Deal with Objections: You often have to deal with the prospect’s legitimate objections — and sometimes with his irrational, emotional objections. Apparently the president felt that Americans need assurance that the highway bill is sane, capitalist and democratic. By echoing what their conscience tells them about him, Obama offers affirmation, while subtly suggesting that he might not be what their experience shows that he is.
By the way, in a one-on-one setting, the president would have used the “feel-felt-found” formula to defuse the situation, like so…
I can understand how you feel this is a socialist, imperialist plan to punish producers and reward my union cronies. In fact, others have felt that way too. In the beginning, even I felt that way. But as I studied the talking points prepared by my staff in cooperation with the AFL-CIO and Sierra Club, I found that it’s not crazy, not socialism and not the imperial presidency.
2. Never slam the competition: Denigrating your competition typically reflects more poorly on you than on them. You look small, bitter, paranoid — lacking confidence in your product and your abilities. That’s why in his speech, just after the video clip, the president makes it clear that Republicans didn’t cause the problem.
No, seriously. I mean, they’re not doing anything.
— President Obama
See, if Republicans “are not doing anything,” then they certainly aren’t doing anything bad. The prospect will respect the salesman for extending this olive branch to the competition. It shows that he’s not threatened by them.
And while the cynics may allege that Obama uses the terms “crazy,” “socialism” and “imperial presidency” to rehearse the tropes of his unhinged opponents on the far right and thus elicit laughter, I’ve found that cynics are pathetically negative people who get perverse thrills from criticizing others to compensate for their utter lack of personal accomplishment. In other words, cynics don’t do anything. (See, I’m learning to be gracious from Mr. Obama.)
3. Know your customer: While the president gave his remarks on the banks of the Potomac to a friendly audience, he knew that others, who perhaps are not yet supportive, would be watching at home. He had to address both groups. If not for the TV cameras and radio microphones, the president could have plainly said: “This is a wacky socialist exercise of my unchecked power to nail big business and thus pay off my union buddies for getting me elected.” This proclamation would have been greeted by nodding heads and appreciative applause, if not adulatory cheers. However, by stating it in the negative, he manages to comfort his prospects, while issuing a dog whistle to his loyal customers.