Just learned that my publisher made a “global rights deal” for The Influence Game to be published in China! Now, I’m sure you’re wondering “how could U.S. lobbying tactics apply in China?” Or you might be having some cynical thoughts that I won’t express here.
I interpret China’s interest in the book as a recognition that the strategies lobbyists use to get what they want on public policy questions can be used in any walk of life (sales, association management, personal relationships — whatever). Now whether you agree that can be done without manipulation, bribery or lying I can’t say. Personally, I know it can be done ethically and honestly because I’ve seen it and give examples throughout the book.
How does this apply to you? Let’s say you’re a business person trying to sell something. Or an Association Executive hoping to increase membership. The following strategies can help you achieve your goals:
- Know your audience well enough to know why it’s a win for them: People don’t buy things (or join things) because you want them to do so. They take action because they’ve figured out there’s an advantage for them in terms of what they want to achieve. Lobbyists learn about members of Congress by finding out what bills they’ve introduced and what the constituents of those legislators care about. They know what gets them up in the morning and keeps them up at night. If you want someone to join your organization or buy your product, be very clear on why what you’re offering makes their life easier or addresses their pressing concern (not yours).
- Know your audience well enough to know what’s the best way to approach them: There are no universal methods of communication that are always best for everyone. People want to be approached through the means that works best for them. When you’re asking them to buy something, use their preferred mode. It’s only when they’re trying to sell you something that you can feel free to ask for them to reach out in another way.
- Ask: What’s the number one reason a member of Congress doesn’t sign on to a bill? Because no one asked him or her. What’s the number one reason you don’t make a sale? Because you didn’t ask. Look through the materials you’re sending out to see if you’re just explaining why what you want them to do is so fabulous or if you’re actually asking them to take an action.
- Follow-Up: I am shocked at the number of people who walk in to a Congressional office, ask for $6 billion, don’t follow-up for a year and then are surprised when they don’t get what they want. Believe me, there are plenty of people asking more frequently for that $6 billion. Be politely persistent, while recognizing that there’s a point where you just become irritating. Don’t cross that line.
Whether in China or the U.S. (or Denmark — where a different group just bought the book), the principles behind effective persuasion remain the same. So take some time to figure out how they apply to you!
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