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This is a diary which attempts to pose a question in sales ethics to those who struggle to GOTV in November's elections.

(crossposted at Docudharma)

Now, before today, my impression of the Democratic Party "sell" for the 2010 elections was that it was composed of what I called the Elmer Fudd Theory of Electoral Victory.  Yeah, I know this is a caricature, but it runs as follows:

  1. Praise Obama's big resume
  1. Show how bad the Republicans are

So in this thread here on Eve's health care diary I have put the Fudd Theory to the test a bit: you can read and evaluate the comments below.

Potatohead's comment about sales, however, brings up a question in sales ethics which has also appeared in a course I am teaching online in "business communication."  What responsibility do sales reps have to disclose important information about their products?  Canvassers who march door-to-door soliciting votes for Democratic Party candidates can in this sense be said to "sell" the Democratic Party as a "product."

Here are some aspects of the Democratic Party which its sales reps may not (or may) wish to disclose:

  • A bank bailout that further enriched the rich and finance reform that  won't stop them from tanking the economy again
  • An out-of-control military industrial complex which continues to rain down suffering upon Afghanistan and Yemen and Somalia and Pakistan and wherever else they're fighting wars and won't tell us
  • A "health insurance reform" bill which leaves its enforcement provisions up to bankrupt states while imposing mandate penalties on those who refuse to buy
  • Obama's Catfood Commission
  • The White House's insistence on targeted assassinations, indefinite detentions, and so on
  • Arne Duncan's Race To The Top programs
  • Congress' failure to even consider abrupt climate change legislation
  • The ineffectiveness of the 2009 stimulus

So here's how the question can be framed in business ethics terms: sure, you can sell the Democratic Party in glowing terms, using the Elmer Fudd Theory of Electoral Victory.  Hope and Change won, and look at Obama's big resume!  I'm sure there's plenty to be said in that light -- The Sanders provisions of PPACA, for instance, or credit card law.  You might argue that we don't really have any problems that wouldn't be solved by putting a few more Democrats in office.  How believable will that be to the unemployed, the underemployed, those being screwed over by the insurance companies, and so on?  Or maybe you will be believable now, but your audience will feel later that your case was dishonest, and lose faith in you later?  I suppose there isn't a lot at stake in canvassing -- your audience doubtless feels that each of them will be casting only one vote, whereas in sales you are asking people for their money, which they tend to prize more highly.

Or is there a way in which you can sell Democratic Party victory in 2010 while disclosing unrecommending information about your product?  potatohead thought so, and you can read his nuanced approach and judge for yourself.  I thought the best approach would be to offer a disclaimer: "sorry, we screwed up, we'll do better next time."  This would be the "honesty" approach -- it may not make you look so good the first time around, but you do come off as not hiding anything.  Will respondents generally respond to this approach the way Whimsical says they will?  I'm not very practiced at sales -- I would prefer to give people things for free.

In the comments section, please do try to adhere to the frame of sales ethics which I've erected in the diary.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 02:35 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Ok since (5+ / 0-)

    I know a bit about sales.

    And based on your opinions of what been done or not done you should not do it.

    In the choice between changing ones mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof.

    by jsfox on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 02:46:16 PM PDT

  •  Locally, I'm selling a challenger to an (4+ / 0-)

    entrenched (24 years) GOP Congresscritter.  I don't need to talk about Obama's agenda.

  •  Avoid your list (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Cassiodorus, Lucy2009

    and talk about these.


    ◆ have never been witches.
    ◆ will keep masturbation legal.
    ◆ won't turn our prisons into hygiene schools.
    ◆ will keep lunch counters open to all.
    ◆ don't think of you as a wrecked car because you have a pre-existing condition.
    ◆ won't take your social security checks and give them to millionaires because they deserve them more than you do.

    Just stick with the basics and avoid problematic ethical issues.

  •  If the Buyers Were Going to Be Issued Cyanide (4+ / 0-)

    unless you sold them salt water to drink, it would be more ethical to sell them the salt water even though that would also kill them if they drank it for very long. You'd be leaving them with a longer life and more hypothetical chances to save themselves.

    Welcome to the United States of America.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 03:31:32 PM PDT

    •  Yes of course Gooserock. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mint julep, potatohead

      Nice to see you here -- my main question, though, is as regards the ethicality of the contents of the sales pitch rather than of the product to be sold.  If you are marketing fertilizer, sh*t is an ethical thing to sell.

      "Always in motion is the future" -- Yoda, in Episode V

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 03:36:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a winning formula for selling......... (4+ / 0-)
    1. Listen to the prospect, and acknowlege what they have said. Let them know that you understand their concerns, and make them right for having those concerns.
    1. Handle the concern. Explain what the Dem policy is that address' that concern, or why the Dems did what they did when addressing that concern legislatively. If the prospect still doesn't budge, you can agree with them. "Yes, HCR was insufficient, and I'm angry about it too. However, if the GOP takes the Congress they may attempt to dismantle the bill we did get. Despite it's many shortcomings, it is already bringing relief to a small segment of the population and that will increase over the next few years and be in full bloom in 3 short years. I understand your anger, and/or plight, but please realize that the GOP will not fix this for you. They do not believe in HCR reform, and will do their best to whittle away at whatever small amount of help you may have now." (Have some choice quotes with you about HCR and other topics that might be helpful. For example, the quote in Joan's diary today from Huckabee about HC. That really says it all) Let them know you can't promise anything, but you can promise that the GOP will NOT try to rectify HC, or Wall Street, or education, or the environment, etc, etc.  
    1. Spend as much time as possible pointing out any good things that the Admin has done. Delineate clearly the differences between Dems and the GOP. They are there, and they are significant.
    1. Throughout all of this match the prospects tone. If they are downtrodden, then be slightly downtrodden with them. If they are spunky and upbeat, then be like that with them. Make yourself "real" to them, then they'll listen and relate to you better.

    If you can't do these things. You should probably leave the canvassing to more dedicated and hopeful Dems who will get the job done.

    But if you believe the Dems are better than the GOP, and can put hour heart into that, then go out and promote, promote, promote!!

    Selling can be a blast, if you can believe in even most of what your product represents. Think of it as a game, and the game is to win over the prospect to your side of thinking! Get yourself razzed, jazzed and happy about the good things, and put the bad off to the side. This is hump time. We either keep the Dems in office, or we don't. We all know the repercussions of both. Take your pick, and decide if you are upto the task of promoting or not.

    I made a 6 figure income selling court reporting services of all things!! I know how to sell. Hey, if I could get excited about that, you can get excited about the fact that the Dems are better than the GOP!!!

    I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

    by Lucy2009 on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 04:37:55 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for your input! (nmi) (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      potatohead, Lucy2009

      "Always in motion is the future" -- Yoda, in Episode V

      by Cassiodorus on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 04:40:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's very solid, IMHO. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus, Lucy2009

      The only thing I would alter is I would link the positive future to growth of the Progressive movement so that it can consume / transform the Democratic party into one that actually passes progressive legislation.

      I like it other wise.


      by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 07:36:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good to see you here potatohead. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I gotta say, though, that the Fuddists look pretty dominant here, and that it doesn't look good.

        "Always in motion is the future" -- Yoda, in Episode V

        by Cassiodorus on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 07:48:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Absofrigginlutely!! :) (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        potatohead, Cassiodorus

        More progressive is exactly what is needed.

        I'm not big on the Dems and Obama right now. But I'm so damn good on sales that I even got myself fired up, and believin there is hope!!   LOL   She says modestly!  LOL

        I've been recovering from a brain surgery for a couple years now, but should be back to work in the next 6-12 months. I've been wondering what I would do. Hummmmm.....maybe I'll try sales again.

        I think I could go out and canvas for the Dems after that.

        God damn, I'm full of myself right now.   :)  :)

        I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

        by Lucy2009 on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:51:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Love this diary! (5+ / 0-)

    I work with B2B PAC, and all views and opinions in this account are my own.

    by slinkerwink on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 06:57:14 PM PDT

  •  Elizabeth Warren (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    potatohead, Cassiodorus

    That's a good thing.

    Mebbe they'll get the Dream Act and DADT that they've attached to Defense Appropriations.  That's something.

    But, hey.  What's motivating me is the pathological nihilism of the Tea Party/Republican crew so much as anything.  Presumably, that might work with others, too.

    I cross paths with some conservative types from time to time.  And some of them are saying:  "I'm a conservative.  But I'm not crazy."

    They're saying it.  I think it makes sense to affirm and encourage those feelings.

    exmearden: Grab every minute of joy you can. 8/30/09

    by Land of Enchantment on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 07:56:10 PM PDT

  •  Re: Ethics (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, GeeBee, Lucy2009

    I believe it's unethical to sell something that isn't actually going to have material value for the customer.

    In other words, the value proposition must be real; otherwise, it's a nefarious or exploitative thing.

    Used car sales men come to mind.

    I've landed in technical sales and project management.  I have to sell bigger visions, and then I basically have to back them with some concrete plan to make them work.

    Some fail.  The risk factors were identified, and I've yet to have one fail where one of the identified risk factors didn't come into play.

    It's the only selling I'm capable of, because the rational part of me simply won't allow anything else.

    That idea is the basis for the comments on Dkos that you linked to.

    Basically, I actually believe the Progressives are the only ones really pulling for the people, as in people first, corporations second.  The other various factions in Washington, along with the GOP, are corporate first, true believers in free markets and trickle down.

    Given that fact, it must then be possible to differentiate progressives from other "third way" Democrats, and inform people on that basis.

    Doing so then means opening the door for a honest disclousure of the negative product elements in play, while at the same time posing a solution value proposition that means something.

    There are risk factors.  I'll not detail them now, because it would take volumes, and this is politics, so I think those are a given.

    Health care was very, very instructive to me.  The differentiation between progressives and democrats was made extremely clear.  That story of failure by the progressives is powerful because it contains the elements necessary for people to understand why they are not getting what they want from the Dems, and it contains the elements necessary to show them there is a force, movement, body politic that is working for them that needs support.

    The one missing element there is why not just hammer the bad Dems?

    That one is fairly complex, requiring somebody balance two factors, not just one, and those factors are:

    1.  Progressives can grow more easily when they are not also constrained by party issues.  If the Dems are doing well, the Progressive Dems can also do well.

    Nobody can do anything but survive when the GOP is degrading the state of things, because they are fucking brutal.  

    1.  If one buys the idea that the Progressives are a force apart from the Democrats as a whole, which I do, then the idea of them consuming the party makes a lot of sense.

    Therefore, voting a party ticket is good for people, good for Progressives.

    There are lots of ways to approach that, and I've modeled a few.

    When the "selling" is done that way, which is the only way acceptable to me, then it's honest, true, and can be spoken with real, material personal conviction, which lies at the hard of potent and effective advocacy.


    by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:07:40 PM PDT

    •  Shit, I could write on this for hours. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus, Lucy2009

      To understand whether or not the value proposion is some material benefit to the customer, one must engage in discovery about said customer.

      Otherwise, the sale is made on an assumption, and is borderline ethical, depending on the scope and complexity of what is being sold.

      It is possible to characterize people in rough ways, thus using implied discovery.  This is done all the time, and is a very grey area to me, because it can be exploited rather easily, leaving the nefarious sales person an out!

      (didn't know kind of thing, they sleep easy, keep the money, and the customer can't really bring a material complaint to the table)

      In Politics, I think that translates to having REAL conversations, not talking at one another, but to one another, seeking common ground.

      From there the call to action is genuine, and based on common elements of need or desire, known to both parties.


      by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:11:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Right -- (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        potatohead, Lucy2009

        and this is where the ethical dilemma I suggested comes in.  How are you going to sell the Democratic Party to the chronically unemployed and to those facing higher insurance premiums after a year of ballyhooed "health insurance reform"?

        "Always in motion is the future" -- Yoda, in Episode V

        by Cassiodorus on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:28:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's a nothing to lose scenario. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Basically, a vote and some support has a very low cost.

          The solution of growing Progressive support is a higher risk one, but the rewards are significant.

          Most people will evaluate ( reward / risk = cost) and if that equation is favorable to them, ie: a smart wager, they will be inclined to place their bets.

          The honest "sales person" can present that, building a common ground relationship, secure in their efforts, because no other viable alternatives exist.

          That's ethical, given that when and if some other alternative exists that presents a more favorable outcome, both parties incorporate it into the relationship, and move forward, again on the common ground basis all citizens have.

          (so I skated it a little, but that's all I got!)


          by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:32:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Essentially then, the "investment" is modest (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and as such, can be put into play with little material risk on the part of the prospect.

            Both people can agree on that, and that opens the door for conditional support to start, and if the events are favorable, more solidified support over time.


            by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:34:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, the sale!! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Well, that was implied from the other discussion, and I'll put it here.

          Doing nothing is a known bad thing.  It's a pretty easy sell to cast the GOP as the asses they are.

          This leaves the Dems.  

          On the whole, what the Dems did get done is arguably better than we saw with the GOP.  It's not pretty, and in some cases actually costly.

          Without some force working for the people, that's how it will absolutely go.  

          So then, when presented with said force, even a risky one, that's a smart wager overall.

          All of that operates under the assumption that material change is actually possible.  It might not be, but we must try, and that would be my honest answer to that.

          I will personally try, because the alternative is grim enough to warrant the effort.


          by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:36:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  There is another case in play here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Some products are fairly self-contained, lower risk things.  The consumer or customer doesn't have to make big personal or financial investments of any kind to make use of them, and get the value proposed at the time of sale.


    Now, some solutions do require those things!  The ethical sale involves insuring the customer is aware, and qualified to even buy into the product.  Some deals of this kind must be turned away because even though the buyer wants to purchase, the sales person sees very high risk factors and cannot in good conscience make the sale, for known almost certain failure.

    The diemma of the Dems is like this.  The idea I proposed is contingent on people doing the "we" part in "Yes WE CAN!", and the solution sold; namely, growth of Progressives to reform Democratic party, actually depends on progressives and their supporters doing the work to realize it.


    by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:21:21 PM PDT

    •  So then... Being perfectly honest about the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      state of things, as I modeled is very, very important!

      If there is failure, the person taking my path can run the analysis, understand what happened, and go right back to the prospects with another solution and set of risk factors, confident that their sale was valid, and that risk just came to pass.

      For products, this is difficult.

      For Politics, I believe it's mandatory, or one becomes a partisan hack, or marginalized rather quickly.


      by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:23:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Finally then... (and I had to think this through) (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        That's the other primary risk factor in the solution!

        It may be that the progressives do not form their center of mass, that core of support does not grow, and despite the work of the progressives and their supporters, who bought in, there is failure.

        Could easily happen, which is why I've diaried on progressive growth strategy so damn many times.

        In a real sense, that significantly diminishes the value proposition, because it's divided by risk, which is high, making the close difficult with out lies, distortions and personal endorsements, all of which are seen in constant use by the GOP.

        There is a reason for that, which should now be clear.


        by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:26:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  crap... The personal endorsement is particularly (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          prone to abuse because it's seen as a strength, and is convincing.

          ...but in politics, those often can be spun away, meaning there is little real accountability, particularly when they are done by proxy, also a GOP hallmark.

          We progressives must not do this.  Down that path leads corruption and madness..


          by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 08:29:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  hey, just got spiffed up on the Fuddist idea..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In re-reading the more thought.

    Personally, I don't think you need to worry about the ethics of canvassing in terms of selling the Dem Party. This is a product that the public knows about. They are either already on board and going to vote Dem........or they are all too familiar with the shortcomings of the Party, or what they perceive to be the shortcomings of the Party. Don't deny a shortcoming, or lie about it, but no need to promote it either! The whole point of canvassing is to sell the Dem Party. You won't sell someone by pointing out the shortcomings of the product!

    I would never sell a product that I didn't think was worthwhile. I am a big believer in ethics in general, and in selling specifically. I hate being taken for a ride, and refuse to do that to others.

    The canvasser doesn't have to worry about that. What are the odds that they will run into someone who doesn't know anything about the Dems?   :)  However, it is important to be honest in an upbeat fashion about any shortcomings.

    I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

    by Lucy2009 on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 09:25:14 PM PDT

    •  When you have a moment, what do you think (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus, GeeBee

      about the Progressives as a product apart from the Democrats?

      I know that's divisive, but it's also a path to deal with the shortcomings.  


      by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 09:34:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Meteor Blades told me it's long term policy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        on the DKos to not talk about 3rd Parties. So I'm gonna steer clear of that one.

        One thing I did recently do to help in my aspirations for a more progressive Dem Party was donate money.

        I'd never done that b4. I donated to 4 different people who have solid liberal creds and are in danger this election.

        We need publicly financed elections. I think that will go a long ways to cleaning out the corruption in Congress, and in our judiciary....which is also being undermined by political donations. This is a very dangerous thing happening in our country. That is going to be my new mantra for just about everything that comes up. We need publicly financed elections!

        I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

        by Lucy2009 on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 10:07:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Understood. I didn't mean as a third party (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cassiodorus, Lucy2009

          I'm not there anyway.

          Non productive given the current state of our politics.

          However, progressives as a distinct movement within the democratic party is viable, and something we can grow.  That's really where I was headed with that one.


          by potatohead on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 10:10:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Cool. :) (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I like the idea of a progressive movement within the Party.

            There is the Progressive Caucus, but to be honest, I'm not sure what they do, or exactly what that means.

            Maybe that could be looked into, or built on???

            I have really liberal folks her in So Cal. I could send them a letter and see what they suggest.

            What ideas do you have?

            I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

            by Lucy2009 on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 10:31:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  It (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 11:02:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's not that you can't discuss... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cassiodorus, aoeu, Lucy2009

          ...third parties. But you can't advocate for them.

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat Sep 18, 2010 at 11:04:06 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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