Trust is big in my industry. I approach the follow up process from a place of service. If I don’t close a sale, I still offer to be a resource to the person and offer. I offer to add the person to my email list, make strategic intros, share helpful info, and check-in with them periodically. I’ve never had someone tell me no, they don’t want help! Successful follow ups build relationships and keep the conversation alive.
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Domonique James.
Domonique is the founder of Politics with Purpose, a company that trains, elects, and empowers purpose-driven leaders, causes, and brands.She helps clients raise money, strategic communications, and creates strategies that lead to effective political and social change. Domonique is recognized as a Top 40 under 40 Consultant by the American Association of Political Consultants. She was raised in Denver and currently resides in Washington, D.C. Domonique is a graduate of Spelman College.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
Shortly after the 2016 election, I volunteered at a middle school for career day. I brought a few souvenirs from the White House thinking it would inspire the students, instead they inspired me! I asked the students for the first words that came to mind when they thought of politics and they had nothing but negative things to say. It was crushing as someone who works in the industry and believes in the power of public service. In an effort to save the conversation, I asked the students what they would change in their communities. The answers were simple yet profound. They wanted things like clean playgrounds, healthier food in the cafeteria, and for their neighborhoods to have the same resources and opportunities as others — all decisions made by elected leaders. If middle schoolers recognize the disparities in our society and feel that our system is broken, then it’s no wonder that they grow up thinking “my vote doesn’t count,” or “politicians don’t care about me.” I decided to use my skills and expertise to elect and empower purpose-driven leaders — the people who care about the playgrounds, cafeterias, and communities. The leaders who are working to create positive social change.
I got my start in politics as a field organizer on President Obama’s re-election campaign and eventually served as Deputy White House Liaison to the Environmental Protection Agency. Politics and advocacy are the perfect industries for me because I love helping people.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
You get to experience many once-in-a-lifetime moments working in my industry, but as we navigate the fallout of COVID-19, one memory jumps to the top of my mind. On the eve of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in North Carolina, a major thunderstorm forced the party to change venues from a 75,000-person outdoor football stadium, to a 20,000-person indoor arena, with little notice. Needless to say, it threw a big wrench in everyone’s plans. There were financial, political, and social ramifications as well. Never-the-less, our team rallied together and persevered to make the most out of a literal rainy day. The lesson was: Life will always throw you curve balls. You have to adapt to your circumstances and keep pushing forward. Never give up!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
2020 is an election year so my priority is ensuring my clients have the money, message, and strategy to win in November.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
So many people have contributed to my growth and success. I couldn’t begin to name everyone.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
My company specializes in fundraising, communications, and political strategy for campaigns, causes, and brands. Everything I do is sales — you need to be able to sell to a potential donor or voter on why they should support your vision of the future. I’ve consulted for companies like Buzzfeed and worked on well over 200 races from President to Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
The most powerful thing we can do for each other right now is be compassionate. Lives have been turned upside down due to the health, economic, and social impacts of COVID-19. This is the time to show the best of who we are. I’ve advised my clients to do one of four things:
- Empathize: Give those who may need it the space to grieve and let people know that they are not alone. COVID-19 took more than lives, it stole dreams, security, and hope from so many people.
- Highlight: The problems that existed prior to COVID19 are on full display and it’s leaving some people even further behind. What stories, challenges, or triumphs can you highlight right now?
- Inform: A big source of anxiety has been misinformation. We all have a responsibility to share credible and reliable information.
- Connect: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it best, “socially distanced but spiritually connected.” We should continue to connect and reconnect with loved ones. Despite the circumstances, I’m inspired by the new bonds and communities that have formed during this crisis.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
If I had a list of things I should’ve learned in college, sales would be near the top! I think that our education system still follows a model that trains the population to serve very specific functions. We don’t necessarily live in that world anymore. Everything is interconnected. Sales is the lifeblood of every organization. It impacts almost every job function. If you master the art of sales you will always be in demand.
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?
Yes, unfortunately, I agree the stereotype of a salesperson is a brash individual who is out to get-one-over on someone else. It positions the seller as the aggressor and the buyer as the victim. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sales is about communicating how your product, service, or idea is a solution to a problem or pain that exists. You can motivate people to buy but no manipulation is involved.
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
As the saying goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail.” I excel at being prepared and knowing the exact issues that my clients are experiencing, even before I meet them. For example, in fundraising, candidates feel stuck because they are not organized, don’t have a solid plan, don’t know who to talk to, what to say, are unsure of how much money to ask for, or simply they are afraid of doing it alone. It may manifest in different ways, but I fully understand my target audience, their problems, goals, and transformation that I offer when we work together. Preparation leads to an easy close.
My secret sauce is definitely my sincerity. I genuinely want success for my clients because the stakes couldn’t be higher. Politics and policy impact every area of our lives. Their success could mean the difference between a neighborhood getting a grocery store or a child going to bed hungry because they live in a community that is a food desert. In the case of COVID-19, legislators determined who was eligible for the stimulus programs and how much financial support one received. Many candidates who have the potential to win, don’t, simply because they never get organized, don’t know how to effectively communicate their message, or they don’t have the money to run their best race. The work I do is ultimately about empowering people to save their communities and I think it comes across when I speak with people.
Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously, every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
My industry is unique because everyone who wants to run for office has to formally file so I can periodically check Board of Elections or Secretary of State’s website for information. I would encourage your readers to think about the databases or sources where data ultimately ends up.
I’ve found the best leads, however, from networking, monitoring industry news, and joining online and offline communities where my potential clients congregate.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
I think objection is code for confusion. Perhaps there is confusion about the extent of the customer’s problem, confusion about the value of the offer, or confusion about the new reality once the problem is solved. Eric Worre has an amazing technique called “Feel, Felt, Found,” which helps people overcome objections in an authentic and empathetic way. I also encourage the clients to work with to remember that “No” doesn’t always mean never. Sometimes, it means “not right now.” Timing is critical to a successful sale.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
- Make it Convenient — People lead busy lives and have short attention spans. You have to make it easy for people to do business with you.
- Be Courteous — You don’t know what people are going through, especially after COVID-19. Respect every “Yes” and “No”.
- Countdown Clock — Loss of time is a great way to create a sense of urgency. Political campaigns are on giant countdown clock so my clients can use a calendar to their advantage.
- Keep the Conversation Going — Sales is about relationships. Ask for permission to add someone to your email list or check in with them periodically. You never know how someone’s circumstances will change.
- Grant Cardone — He has a great book called The Closer’s Survival Guide. It contains over 100 ways to close a sale. It’s a must read.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?
A successful follow up first starts with gratitude. In my industry, the donor or voter choses to make an investment in their community through a candidate or cause. Trust is big in my industry. I approach the follow up process from a place of service. If I don’t close a sale, I still offer to be a resource to the person and offer. I offer to add the person to my email list, make strategic intros, share helpful info, and check-in with them periodically. I’ve never had someone tell me no, they don’t want help! Successful follow ups build relationships and keep the conversation alive.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
As a communications professional, I caution my clients against chasing the new shiny object or communications tactic. The best piece of advice I can give is to study your audience and use what they prefer. For example, if your audience prefers to communicate via email but you keep sending text messages, you are hurting your sales process. In my sales process, I always ask for the preferred mode of communication.
Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m already doing what I love — helping people harness the power of politics to create positive social change!
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m @msdomojames on all social platforms. You can also visit my website www.politicswithpurpose.com.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!