Trading Your Political Opinions for Business Insights

A few months ago, I wrote a newsletter in which I dared to mention President Trump, along with a disclaimer that the point I was making was not political. Three readers emailed me to tell me that I am an ultra-liberal Leftist and that they would stop reading my work. Four others accused me of being a right-wing, Trump supporter. Naturally, they also swore off my work.

Yesterday, I referenced politics in an email about building insights and being truly consultative, noting again that my argument was about business, not politics. This time, one reader insisted that choosing to write about a political decision at all was expressing my opinion, even though I made no comment on that decision or the players involved.

Not Everything is Political

In B2B sales, there are more useful reasons to pay attention to politics than the chance to yell at people on social media. Political decisions can—and often do—change business. That means you need to be able to look at politics without being political, something that’s increasingly difficult in our divisive and polarized political climate.

Let me give you an example. On September 15, 2020, CNBC interviewed Jared Kushner, a member of the Trump Administration. The hosts of Squawk Box challenged him over the new prescription drug initiative that causes drug companies to give the United States “most favored nation” status, something that would cause them to massively reduce prices in the United States.

The host pointed out that by reducing prices, the drug companies will lose the revenue they need to innovate. Kushner pushed back, suggesting that the drug companies will need to raise prices on the countries with socialized medicine, that the United States shouldn’t have to pay for all the innovation by itself, and that the other countries need to pay more.

What I wrote in those two paragraphs is closer to journalism than just about anything you’ll find online: it is a recitation of the facts, without my opinion. In fact, I haven’t read or studied this decision enough to express a useful opinion. But I bring up the story because it is a perfect example of the kind of thing that you might capture, to build the insights you need to better serve your clients.

Acquiring Insights

The CNBC segment covered a change, in this case a political one, that is going to impact an industry that many of us serve— forcing the players to change something or suffer potentially negative consequences. As I’ve said before, being consultative and creating greater value for your clients and prospects starts with knowing more than your contacts do—as well as understanding what is going on in their world and its likely impact on their business.

In a conversation with a drug company, for instance, you might use this story as one insight to explain why your client might need to reduce costs, since this policy may reduce their profits. You could also point out that your initiative can help them continue to create innovative drugs and treatments. As any salesperson knows, a big part of selling is convincing prospective clients to take action. To do that—and to demonstrate the value of your advice—you need to know what should already be compelling them to change.

You also need to know how to structure that conversation, so that your recommendations are in the context of what’s going on in their world and what they should do about it. There are a number of frameworks that provide you with a way to monitor your client’s world. One worth looking at is PESTLE, an acronym for Political, Economic, Scientific, Technological, Legal, and Environmental. Politics touches the other five areas because it touches everything.

Half Your Clients Hate Your Politics

Half of your clients share your politics. The others have very different political beliefs. The point of following politics is not to “win hearts and minds” among your prospects or clients. Instead, recognize politics as one factor (among many) that can create challenges and opportunities for your clients. Your role as a trusted advisor requires you to be a subject-matter expert in the results you produce, including recognizing those factors. In short, you make yourself more valuable by trading your political opinions for business insights.

Remember, no part of acquiring insights that serve your clients requires that you share your personal political views with them, unless perhaps you work in politics. It does, however, require you to build expertise, so you can have an informed opinion about the challenges your clients are going to face and how they can overcome them. When those insights provide opportunities, your job is to help your clients take advantage of them.

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