How Trump Sold America!
What would have been unfathomable only a few days ago is now a part of history: Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States!
With such a surprising – yet decisive – win, both parties will most likely be heading back to their respective drawing boards in search of explanations for what happened last night! Donald Trump defied almost all expectations. Like what happened in the days leading up to the Brexit vote; the mainstream media and political pundits misread the people, choosing rather to assume that the bubble they live in represented the feelings of the average American voter. As a result, they were again caught off guard, as what they deemed improbable became history.
During the live election coverage on The Daily Wire (a conservative news and opinion website), conservative talk show host Ben Shaprio said something caught my attention. I do not have the transcript of the evening’s conversation, so I will have to paraphrase. He said something along the lines of:
“When Donald Trump says ‘Make America Great Again’, I don’t think he knows what that means… To me, that means going back to the Constitution and the founding principles, whereas to him, it’s something to do with building towers…”
What I found curious about that statement was that while Ben Shapiro holds a proper conservative point of view on what ‘making America great again’ means, Americans – conservative, independent, and Democrat – have a different opinion tonight, and that is Trump’s version of ‘Make America Great Again’.
I have a lot of respect for Shapiro, and agree with him about the greatness of American being in its founding philosophy and its founding documents. However, I find that often in business, sports, and politics, there is a difficulty in seeing the world outside of the “bubble” one might find themselves in, in their day to day lives. It’s a sort of group mentality that forms when one is usually surrounded by like-minded individuals, and like-minded ideas.
I’ve seen it in the business world where the people that make up a company start to confuse their (the company’s) interests with the interests of their customers. You’ll notice it when you hear sales people talking about how stupid a customer is for not wanting to buy the ‘great deal’ the salesperson offered, without stopping to research whether the offer was even a ‘good deal’ compared with competitors’ offers. You see it in the political world, when political commentators confuse their opinions with the opinions of the public. It is evident in the calls of racism, and sexism, towards anyone who doesn’t unequivocally agree with them on talking points, or in how “no one with a brain would ever vote for Donald Trump”.
There is a concept you learn in the world of sales, and that is the concept of listening to your customer. The idea of keeping a finger on the pulse of what keeps you as a business – or as a politician – alive! It’s listening to and understanding what your customers, in this case, voters, are looking for; and it’s something that both conservatives and “liberals” certainly seemed to overlook in this election cycle. It’s a simple principle that we learn in the world of sales, and that is to listen to what your customer wants – not what you want them to want – and what they feel will improve their life! As a business owner, your job is to know what the market and your customers are looking for, and to do whatever it takes to provide them with the solution. The better you are at understanding your customers and your business, the better you will do, and the more your customers will love and buy into your brand.
Once they’ve bought into and trust your brand, then you can start to introduce ideas that they may not even know they want; because you’ve shown time and again that you listen to them that your goal is to provide them with what ultimately is their goal as well. When you look from a business perspective, it’s easy to see Donald Trump using the same tactics and psychology in the election.
So often there is this assumption that we know what our customer base or voters want. As a company, or a political party, we narcissistically assume that they want what our company has to offer, exactly as we designed it, because we are in that bubble and know what’s “best,” without really listening. Many conservatives assume (often rightly) that American voters want the core values of the Republican Party, and Democrats think the same about their voter base (again, rightly) but nothing speaks to an individual as much as an offer that effects their daily lives!
I think that is what the voters showed on November 8, 2016!
They showed that their jobs, their livelihoods, food on the table and gas in the tank of their car, were more important than political niceties and party values. So while Republicans fumed at Trump’s vulgar behavior, and Democrats hissed about the racism and sexism that were the only obvious answer to why someone would vote against Hillary Clinton, the Trump train picked up speed. He seemed to know from day one what Americans were looking for, what Americans thought would make their lives better, and he basically showed those same Americans that he was the man to provide them with the solution.
I don’t know how much of Trump’s success was devious planning and how much was dumb luck, and the fact that he was running against the only person in America that was more hated than he was. But think of how he turned the usually blue states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, by speaking to what they really wanted: to have jobs and factories back in the ‘rustbelt’, to have the economic boom of the 1940s and 1950s again, and to have a chance at regaining their ‘middle class’ lifestyle.
Were Trump’s promises of economic recovery just part of his core values that coincidentally aligned with the desires and values of so many millions in those states? Or was this a shrewd play by Trump’s campaign? Either way, he sold them their dream, and they bought it happily.
I think had Hillary Clinton appealed more strongly to the very popular Bernie Sanders crowd, and had the emails showing the Democratic National Committee’s tampering not come to light, she would have had a very different result on election night! Had she backed away from the Affordable Care Act, at a time when premiums skyrocketed for average Americans, she would have had a different result in the election. Had the mainstream media and Democratic elites kept their hands on the pulse of the American people, they might have toned down their absolute vicious attacks on all who don’t hold their values verbatim. Had the charges of sexism and racism not been thrown about so freely in an attempt to shut down debate on important issues, we might have seen a very different result.
The Republican establishment has to answer the same question: are they in tune with what Americans truly want? Or are they so busy in their bubble in Washington, DC, that they don’t remember what it is that matters the most to the individual?
What appealed to so many about Donald Trump? Almost nothing! And yet, he managed to defy all predictions and accepted logic to win; and win bigly!
Why? Because he appealed to what the average person believed: that by having him as President there would be a direct effect on their lives. Traditionally blue states voted for Trump because he told them he would bring back jobs, he appealed to independents because he was not backed by Wall Street, lobbyists, or the establishment of either party. He appealed to the anti-war libertarian crowd by implying that he would stay out of unnecessary wars overseas, and focus on making the country itself great again.
Barack Obama accomplished this in 2008 by not just selling people on his plan, but actually speaking to the desires and addressing the needs that many voters held; and Trump did the exact same thing.
For many, though, he was a roll of the dice; a chance to give a big middle finger to the elites and the status quo, with the hope that there was a small chance of him being better than Hillary Clinton.
See, everyone hates a salesman, in the same way that everyone hates a politician: you know they are only saying what they need to say to make the “sale”. At the same time, though, every once in a while you encounter a salesman who doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear, but gives you the confidence that he knows exactly what you’ve been looking for, and he can deliver it. We’ve all had that experience where we left the store or car lot, excited at our purchase and barely able to contain our joy with how satisfied we felt. The salesman who left you with that feeling after your purchase, actually found what you wanted more than anything, and then fulfilled your dream.
That’s the feeling many have tonight: the feeling that they’ve just made a great purchase! Though there are still doubts in the back of our collective minds, we are hoping that we’ve made the right choice – a good purchase – one that we won’t regret for the next four years, before we go shopping once again. He is a great salesman, so let’s see if he can be an equally great president!