Viewing Primaries as a Sale

It’s an interesting primary season in the USA. There’s nothing unique about it if you have a decent education in our history, or world history. But people want their own lives to be momentous and unique, and they will cling to that illusion in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary. That’s the problem with logic. It doesn’t provide as much adrenaline as emotion does. Trade, the process of buying and selling, is what emotionally engages most people.

I’m an odd duck, by my nature, training, and experience. When I complete an exam and end up with superior diagnostic views of a difficult patient, the doctor and I trade “high fives”. I get the same rush as if my home team won the Super Bowl. But before and during the actual exam, I’m in a logical headspace, calculating radiation dosage, distance, part thickness, tissue composition and photographic factors needed to produce the best images. Because I’m hyper-focused on the math and science, things like a wounded patient’s cries, or the wiggliness of a five year old with pneumonia don’t distract me. I do the job. It’s a kind of meditation exercise.

I tend to employ similar methods when I vote. I do research, read and watch interviews, carefully go over candidate web sites, trying to extract facts from the sales pitches. I’m not immune to appeals to my emotions, but they had better be smart, backed by facts, and honest. When candidates employ half-truths, I hold the behavior against them, like a grudge. I don’t like feeling like I got “sold” a candidate. I want it to be my unfettered choice to support or oppose them. But I think I’m atypical. I believe most people enjoy it when candidates give them attention. And it affects their vote choices.

Political campaigns are not run like scientific professions. They try to employ some science, internal polling, demographic strategies and such, but most of the money and effort go into persuasion, marketing, branding and affirmations of allegiance – all ways to appeal to emotion. In sales, this is the IQPC Model: Intro, Qualify, Pitch and Close. These are “Four Steps to a Sale” practiced by millions each day. There are other versions of this concept, but this is the one I learned working in retail sales many years ago:

1.) INTRO – You manage and control the first impression, greet the customer (voter) warmly with a word or two about yourself, establishing your desire to be helpful while inviting them to engage further.

2.) QUALIFY – Through questions, you (the seller) gain a quick understanding of the customer’s (voter’s) desires, needs and their budget. This allows the seller to separate those most likely to buy from “looky-loos” (uncommitted browsers).

3.) PITCH – The seller presents the product in a way that most closely matches the goals of the prospective buyer (determined by the qualifying questions).

4.) CLOSE – The seller asks the prospective customer to commit to the sale. Closing is the most important step, and there are different styles and methods for closes.

There are lots of ways to derail a successful sale. The seller may offer a poor INTRO, after which all efforts will be more difficult. The QUALIFY may be mismanaged by asking questions that do not provide enough information about what the customer needs, wants, and if they are willing and able to buy. The PITCH will not be persuasive if it ignores the customer’s goals, or can’t fulfill them. More sellers fail when CLOSING than at any other point in the process, because asking for the sale is harder than chatting and getting to know each other.

There are lots of ways to analyze political candidates. You can view them through the IQPC lens too, since voting is a type of transaction, a sale. Here are my short performance reviews of some recent and current presidential candidates, according to the Four Steps model:

Carly Fiorina, businessperson, former candidate for Senate

INTRO = 50/50. Good backstory that was partly deceptive.

QUALIFY = Poor. Failure to judge customer needs.

PITCH = Poor. Misjudged voters interests based on poor Q.

CLOSE = Could not close after two previous missteps


Ben Carson, retired Neurosurgeon

INTRO = 70/30 Excellent backstory marred by probable deception.

QUALIFY = Poor estimation of customer goals and desires

PITCH = Worst of entire field of candidates

CLOSE = Unable to close due to previous mistakes


Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey

I = Poor. Entered transaction with reputation as a bully/RINO

Q = 50/50 Misjudgment of customer interest in aggressive policy approach

P = 50/50 Adept in debates but off-putting behavior soured the sale

C = Passed customer off to another salesperson


Ted Cruz, Senator from Texas

I = 70/30 Good resume impacted by co-worker dislike

Q = 70/30 Good rapport, but over-focus on select clientele

P = 70/30 Good pitch for target clients, bad for general custom

C = Making the sale is possible, but not probable

Donald Trump, Real Estate tycoon, TV performer

I = 50/50 A mix of obvious virtues and obvious flaws

Q = 70/30 Good customer evaluation, mistreatment of browsers

P = 50/50 Oversimplification, only convincing to some

C = Best closer of any GOP candidate. Sale (nomination) likely.

Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont

I = Good intro. Consistent

Q = Good qualifying questions

P = 70/30 Overly narrow focus on some customer needs, not all

C = Possible sale, if able to broaden appeal of product.


Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, former Senator

I = 50/50 Lots of positives and negatives (see Trump).

Q = Encyclopedic understanding of customer needs and desires

P = 80/20 Tendency to oversell, diminishing effectiveness of message

C = Probable sale, definite if able to refine pitch

These are my perceptions, but my readers are “above average”. I know you don’t see everything exactly as I do, and I celebrate those differences. Nothing would please me more than if you offer your own opinions of how these or other candidates have done, according to the Four Steps model. (That was a quick pitch and close.)



Filed under Communications, Emotions, Ethics and Morality, Television, Thinking about thinking, Uncategorized

8 responses to “Viewing Primaries as a Sale

  1. If people weren’t so tired of being logical and just reached the point of wanting a cheerleader type leader, which is emotional, and there is historical precedence for it, I agree logic would be the better choice in choosing a candidate.

    However, I’m also of the belief that it’s the younger gens (I’m retired) that Have to do the changing and most are really angry (low paying jobs, student loans, lack of transportation and cost). So I’m not too sure if logic is going to work in this and subsequent elections. sighhh But They Have to become engaged in the decisions…it’s Their future.

    • Congratulation on your retirement. I’ll be there too next month. And that’s a good point. When I was first able to vote (McGovern vs Nixon), I ran more on emotional fuel too. Thanks for reading and contributing! Here’s a coupon toward your next visit 😉

  2. Deb

    fascinating analysis. I would estimate logic voters to be in the minority, but this method of evaluation turns out to be very consistent with polling. Turns out that sales acumen is a better predictor than any specific platform or test of sanity. 🙂
    Thanks for posting this Mikey.

    • I expect you’re right about logical voters. The Four Steps is one model. Marshall McLuhan asserted it’s always whoever comes across better on TV, and what they say doesn’t matter!

      People and behavior are so complex, I expect no model can nail every outcome. We use these kinds of formulas to simplify our process of educated guesses. Thanks for weighing in!

  3. Great post.

    I’d be interested in seeing your four step for Rand Paul. I think his failure, coming off his fathers recent campaigns is fascinating. He has a strong brand name amongst libertarians, and, on paper, should have broader GOP appeal than his father ever had and yet it was a total non-event of a campaign. I’m putting that down to a complete failure in qualify and pitch.

    Qualify: Failed to figure this cycle there were gains to be made by candidates angling themselves as an outsider.

    Pitch: Failure to differentiate. Cruz more appealing to southern evangelicals, Trump more appealing to blue collar GOP members looking for anti-establishment, suspect even Sanders may have take some college age voters that in previous cycles would have been susceptible to his father’s rhetoric (even though ideologically there’s little overlap with Bernie’s social democratic views and Paul senior’s libertarianism, there is perhaps an emotional one for a certain subgroup of voters).

    Oh, BTW, I just started following on the WordPress reader (which I’ve never really made much use if before). You’ve always been on the rss feed I use – just don’t want you to think I’ve only just started formally following the blog now when you get the WordPress notification. 😉

    • I agree! You’ve understood the model perfectly. Rand’s problem was definitely Q & P. Rand, unlike Ron, kept compromising his message (pitch) in mistaken attempts at broader appeal, and it made him look fake. Ron is an ideological purist by comparison. It’s kind of like poor Frank Sinatra Jr. Always sounded kinda-sorta like Dad, but the audience knew he wasn’t and never could be.

      Anthony, you can follow me by software or impulse. Unlike authors who write for hits, it’s all the same to me. I’m happy to have anyone read.

  4. Very interesting! It’ll be intriguing to see which of the two will go up against each other in the general election, and how their strengths and weaknesses will play out. I do agree that Bernie needs to broaden the appeal of his product.

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