In Selling, and Campaigning, Always be Last

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Some CPAs and consultants face a multiple selection process when courting a client.  Smart professionals don't get involved in these situations as they can be time consuming and costly.

Many of our peers get sucked in, however, to situations they cannot sell as they can't diagnose this trap ahead of time.

I remember a manager from a Big 5 accounting firm approaching me at a session of “The I-Hate-Selling Course” I was conducting at his office. “If I just would have known this 6 months ago, I wouldn't have wasted 200 hours of time trying to close XYZ University (one of the top schools in the country). I didn't have a chance, but I didn't know it."

However, if the selling opportunity is legitimate and it is a client you really want, you may have to suffer through a multiple choice process.

In that case, there is a certain position that will enhance your chance of winning: last.

If you want some good sales training rent "Other People's Money." The great Gregory Peck is the last heir of a company going back over a hundred years.  Located in a small town, the shareholders are citizens and former employees.  A New York shark (Danny DeVito) comes along and offers to buy the company's assets.   In the process the company will be put out of business.

Peck and DeVito face off in front of the gathered 150 or so shareholders to plead their case.  Peck goes first and talks about the company history, how generations had worked at the factory, and how it had helped the town.  Taking the shark's offer would hurt the town and end this great tradition! Many in the audience cried and yelled support.

Sleazy Danny DeVito comes on after (last). Think about it: whatever he says is going to write over what Peck said like a file overwriting another file as humans can only think of one thing at a time.  This obnoxious twerp starts talking about all the money that would be gushing from the shareholders' pockets should they take his offer.  How they will get to take the vacation they always wanted, pay off their debts, put their kids through school and get a new car.  You could see the greed take over the crowd.

A vote is taken, and DeVito wins going away.

This is a great lesson on the power of going last: whoever is last is most present in the buyer's mind (a power position).

Pay attention to politics to see marketing wins and losses on a daily basis. Recently, both parties had their quadrennial conventions.  One reason for these shindigs is to excite, persuade and inform the voters.  It is a huge sales event.

The Repos went first and put on a good show.  The buzz lasted about two days as the Dems followed the coming week.  Coming last, they dominated the news for the next two weeks, and the conversation shifted to their bash.  They were last.

This may explain why the Romney campaign is keeping its cards close this late in the presidential campaign.  Understand foremost that in the Romney campaign are some of the most successful businessmen (1%'ers) planning on making the really big sale, not just a bunch of pols trying to out-jockey the opponent.

As with any huge sales opportunity, they don't want to show their hand, explain their ideas in detail too early.  Too far out from the actual purchase date (voting), the competition will have that much more time to beat up their plans.

The Romney team knows that buyers/voters have short attention spans and whatever they say will be foremost in their minds when it comes time to pull that lever just like when DeVito beat Peck.

We will see if this strategy works or not.  The Romney team is betting all their chips on the last hand.

Allan S. Boress, CPA, FCPA is the author of 12 published books on marketing, selling and managing the business development process for CPAs.  The “I-Hate-Selling” CDs and Study Guide are available at

About Allan Boress


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