As some of you may know, I’m currently spending my summer interning in Washington, D.C. for a non-profit, the United Macedonian Diaspora.
UMD is the leading international non-governmental organization focused on promoting the needs and interests of Macedonian communities worldwide.
To give some backdrop, my parents emigrated from Macedonia in 1988 and I was raised speaking Macedonian, eating (delicious) Macedonian food, while always spending time with my huge Macedonian family who were immigrants themselves.
My heritage is a value that I keep very near and dear to my heart. Plus, I’m a news junkie and love everything about politics and foreign affairs. So I pretty much jumped on the opportunity of getting to experience the DC life while working to forward the Macedonian causes.
It’s been almost two months so far and I’ve learned an extensive amount of knowledge on a range of topics while sharpening crucial skills.
Also, living here is an absolute blast.
How does studying Sales benefit you in the world of politics?
One of the most interesting politicians I’ve learned about so far is current Vice-President, Joe Biden. While I was doing a little research on him, I read about his story and came across an excerpt written by Newsweek’s Howard Fineman:
“Joe Biden is not an academic, he’s not a theoretical thinker, he’s a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton—auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great gift.”
I’ll start off by saying that the skill set that best prepared me for this summer is by far Sales. Call it what you want – Persuasion, Relationship Management, or Network Building, Sales is adding value to something, anything.
That’s what we’re taught on the first day of Intro to Professional Selling. In the business world, it usually pertains to a product or service. But what we, the Sales Leadership Club, preach is that Sales is everything. You sell yourself all of the time – whether you’re in an interview or on a date. And that is why we are open to and encourage students from every major to join.
But in regards to policy-making in DC, you are selling a strategy. Ultimately, you’re convincing a decision-maker why it is a good idea to back you on something.
This obviously takes a lot of steps and the beauty of studying the subject of Professional Sales is that we get to learn the process and the techniques it takes to make it happen.
Just a couple of some essential skills I’ll include in this blog are:
Getting through the gatekeeper – Who do I need to talk to get things done?
o In Congress, you’re not just going to find or call a Senator or House Representative and ask them for a favor. Network with their staff and figure out who actually advises the member. In most cases, you want to get to a Chief of Staff or in my field, a Foreign Policy Advisor rather than a Legislative Correspondent.
o The most cliché example I’m about to use is from the Netflix series, House of Cards (no shame to use it and if you haven’t watched it yet, clear out the next 26 hours of your life to watch it): Frank Underwood mentions the sales method in the first episode by saying, “In Congress, you not only need the keys to the White House, you need the gatekeeper.”
Asking questions – the right ones.
o The key to a sale is getting the buyer to come to their own conclusion. How do you do that? Inception? Nope. Asking questions. And not only is it asking questions, it’s listening. Find out what they want and deliver. There are numerous step-by-step techniques you can use but I’ll spare you the lecture.
o One of the last steps is closing. I attended a conference where Norm Coleman, former US Senator, stated, “You lose the sale by not making the ask.” And that’s the most important question of the process.
You don’t really understand how much you actually use sales tactics in your daily life and career until you study the art of it. And once you start to grasp the basic ideas of it all, the big picture becomes much clearer.
At UC, we are very fortunate to have a department dedicated to teaching such an indispensable skill set and I encourage all of you to:
1. Figure out a why Sales can help you
2. Find out what you can do to hone your Sales skills
3. And try to apply them to your everyday life whether it be professionally or personally