To many people, Mitt Romney’s constant capitulation on important political positions is shocking and newsworthy. While watching the third and final presidential debate last night, I had a sudden moment of clarity. At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. For most questions Romney just seemed to be talking without actually saying anything. Just circles of meandering talking points as if he is checking lines off a list of political Mad Libs. Then it struck me, he is solution selling!
“Solution selling” was a methodology developed in the mid-70s by Frank Watts. He then taught it in workshops to Xerox employees. It is a methodology of focusing on the customer’s pain and aligning what you have to sell with it. In other words, “whatever you are buying, I’m selling”.
This technique has been a staple of American services companies (called “solutions” for this reason) since the mid-80s. It was also the birth of the modern consulting practice. And who brags more than anyone around about their “25 years in business”?
So you see, Mitt Romney has a mission and vision. Aside from the Mormon power-grab conspiracy theories, he is simply trying to get the ultimate over-achiever trophy: become the most powerful man in the world, President of the United States. To make that vision more than just a hallucination he decided to solution sell the American electorate.
It has been well established that Romney was quite moderate in his only years in government as a Governor of Massachusetts. To win the primaries in an increasingly rabid GOP of 2012 he had to take on extreme positions most popular with that crowd. Because the Tea Party was the biggest customer in that market (and they are what’s called a passionate buyer) he had to often run away from rational positions and towards something they could fall in love with. In that case it was all the social conservative issue positions of the 1950s and bringing America to the good ‘ol days – which only really existed in their minds. The fact that his competition was the seven stooges, the primaries were a lay up.
Now in the general election, as one of Romney’s staffers accidentally identified, he shook the Etch-a-Sketch to reset his “solutions” for the expectations of the new prospective customers. This is evident in his 180 degree changes on substantive and important positions and the focus-grouped product packaging of talking points and pandering.
While everyone raved about Romney’s first debate performance (or presentation style), I think reading the transcript is far more telling. It once again demonstrates Romney’s choice to sell solutions instead of best practices. Romney is telling everyone what they want to hear. You want lower taxes? How does 20% across the board sound? You want to spend more on military, macho guy? You go it! More jobs? I’m the guy to give you the most jobs! I ran a company, you know. You don’t like health care system improvements? Well neither do my sponsors in the health insurance industry! Let’s “fix” it! And you want to do all of this while paying down the debt? Hell yeah, I can make it happen. How? Don’t worry about it, I’ll make it work! I’m your man, just vote for me and you’ll get it all.
Well guess what happens as soon as you sign the check to a solution sales person? They hand you off and go on to the next prospect, that’s what.
So when you are in the market for your next leader, look at substance and do your own math. Should I stick with someone that has delivered undeniable results despite a VERY difficult situation for the last four years or should I buy something that sounds too good to be true from a slick sales guy?