Lobbying is Selling But to a Different Audience

We’re always selling. Whether in our professional lives or personal ones, the act of selling is simply a part of life.

It is also a bit of an art form. It requires us to adapt to various circumstances. It depends upon to whom we want to sell, what we are trying to sell them, and what outcome we are trying to achieve. All these factors play a role in how and when we “sell.”

In the business world, we are accustomed to business sales, which entail seeking opportunities, developing strategies, crafting proposals, formulating the sales pitch, and then going for it. At the end of the day, you hope your proposal carries the day and you land the business.

In the political world, this type of sales is commonly referred to as “lobbying.” The roots of that term stem back to the age of President Ulysses S. Grant. The commander in chief, after a long day, would saunter down to The Willard Hotel a few blocks from the White House. He would have a few beverages at the bar before retiring back to 1600 Pennsylvania. This routine became so well known that industry folks would wait outside the bar in the lobby of The Willard and wait for Grant to head out.

They were hoping to grab his ear for a few minutes to discuss — or sell — their pending legislative or government matters with him. The folks engaging in this practice soon were referred to as “lobbyists” for their constant loitering in the hotel lobby waiting for their chance to talk to the president. Leave it to the politicos in D.C. to take an ordinary term and use it to describe something it’s not.

One of the main missions of ACRA is to lobby on behalf of the industry. However, this entails more than just hanging out in a hotel lobby these days. It just happens to sell (or lobby) to a slightly different consumer base (government officials) and in an environment (the legislative process) where the best business case doesn’t always carry the day. But many of the steps for which you would prepare a traditional business pitch go into preparing for a policy pitch to elected officials.

Those steps are the following:

• Identify the policy objective you are seeking to achieve.

• Strategize and determine the steps necessary to achieve that objective.

• Organize the industry and develop the policy pitch to elected and other government officials.

• Identify which elected and government officials to pursue.

• Then go for it and start selling (lobbying).

• Hopefully, at the end, you are celebrating a policy victory!

In this process, you are also selling yourself. Personal credibility is just as important in the political and lobbying world as it is in the business world. Key to all this, as in the business world, is developing relationships so you can be selling or lobbying someone with whom you may already have established an acquaintance.

This involves getting to know your elected and other government officials at the local, state, and federal level. Think about it — in the business world, do you sell better to folks you already know or to folks you’ve never met? Same holds true for the political world. Warm calls generally beat cold calls any day.

Please consider joining the ACRA sales force and contributing to the ACRA PAC (political action committee). And consider joining us this September by attending the ACRA D.C. fly-in. There you will see first-hand how the pitch is made. We can’t guarantee that you will see immediate results, but it will be a tremendous opportunity to show off your sales skills!

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