The Sales Pendulum, Barack Obama, and Your CPA Firm: How to Make the Sale and Keep It

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Some of the best sales training in the world is waiting for you to see on CNN, Fox or on the Net. Why not learn from the successes and mistakes others make and apply to your own practice?

Part 1: Making the Sale – 2 Lessons from TeamObama

Every marketer knows that people are driven primarily by their emotions. Selling into those emotions is Madison Avenue 101. That’s what the Obama team did a great job of during the campaign: Find the pain and sell into it.

They realized:

  • Voters really wanted to change the way things were going in Washington
  • The economy stunk
  • People were exceptionally frightened about the future
  • Wanted a president they could respect and look up to. Having an ineloquent president, who could not explain his ideas or even speak very well, was annoying and damaging to our national self-esteem

So TeamObama sold into it. Obama’s competing against someone even older than President Bush, less lucid, and less charismatic made the sale a slam dunk.

What also worked was a strategy of “Not talking yourself out of the sale.” Mr. Obama was very cautious in his details, and only spoke of ideas agreeable to the vast majority of people: tax cuts for 95% of all Americans, for example. He did not delve into details of plans he knew the public would probably not embrace, like taxing carbons emissions for everyone. His message was simple, well thought out and repeated over and over until it finally sank into the national psyche and people could see him as president.

Conversely, Team McCain didn’t even know his target market was against any form of cap-and-trade. When he announced his own such plan around July, 2008, we were solidly in the middle of an oil shortage and gas prices were double a year earlier. D’Oh!

Folks, ya’ gotta know your audience, their pain, and what will move them to action in your favor. If this were common sense, why do I still see CPA presentations and marketing that appears to be directed to the seller’s interest, not the buyer’s? Most CPAs cannot even tell you their competitors – or their comparative strengths and weaknesses.

Part 2: Keeping the Client – More Lessons from Team Obama

On the back end of making the sale is keeping the client delighted so they don’t leave. Unfortunately, most CPAs look at securing new clients the way many men look at romance and marriage: whatever they did to secure the client often goes away afterwards (many women complain “the romance went out of our marriage”).

Also applies to voters and clients.

What many marketers, salespeople, CPAs and politicians don’t get is that the buyer’s emotions are never stagnant, never stable; they always fluctuate.

Emotions are like a little kid on a playground swing: they go so far, and they swing back (see The “I-Hate-Selling” Book for a full discussion on the topic). It’s just like last weekend: You were not looking forward to seeing your husband’s choice of movie, Public Enemies, but fell in love with the Johnny Depp character and wound up loving it. Negative emotions swing to positive emotions – and vice versa. The restaurant you were referred to before the movie came highly recommended, but you had to wait an hour and the service was slow. A positive to negative swing

The positive emotions that got Obama elected were in jeopardy once he took office.

People were either going to like (keep emotional swing positive) or not like his ideas and actions (his ratings decline).

It takes a lot of work to keep that kid at the top of the playground swing, and it is almost not possible. However, Obama and his advisors did a good job initially sending him around the world, doing what he does best: speaking and looking presidential.

As the economy continued to sink, and his promise of the stimulus package failed, his ratings declined: the pendulum swung back. Now it is picking up momentum going the other way and his ratings are even worse than Jimmy Carter’s at the same time in his presidency.

Just like many CPAs, the president and his handlers are ignoring the customer: they are proceeding to implement actions that most Americans do not want. Most of us are happy getting an MRI within a few days, not having to travel an hour and a half to see a doctor, not waiting 8 months for cancer treatment. Obama and his buddies are not paying attention, or hoping all these bad feelings will go away over time (they might as the pendulum could swing back to positive as the economy improves).

What’s this got to do with CPA firm marketing?

The same concepts that surround the emotional swing that are affecting the president’s ratings, apply to you as well.

Once you get the client, you have to work really, really hard to keep that positive feeling going – to keep the swing positive. There are always going to be issues that the client may object to (unexplained fees, tardiness, lack of responsiveness, change in team members, etc) that will cause the emotional swing to go negative, just as it has for President Obama with his healthcare proposal.

Here’s the good news: People have short memories. Help the pendulum along and prod it positive. Give the client ideas about their taxes or their business. Take the client to lunch and discuss their concerns and their marketplace. Send them articles, show them the value you provide, invite them to seminars, inquire and remember their family – these are amongst the many proven ways to keep the client swing in positive territory.

Swing Prediction for ObamaM

The timing of Obama’s various proposals (health care, cap and trade, raising taxes, nationalizing various businesses) are quite superb as they are early in his presidency and 14 months before the next election. Plenty of time to get these proposals into law and romance the electorate with his eloquence and media attention to get voters positive again. Watch how he does it and learn!

By Allan Boress, CPA, CVA – co-author of Best Practices of Personal Marketing” , available at

By Allan Boress, CPA, CVAHow do you get your competitors market for you and create cheerleaders in the community or niche?


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