For some reason several new books have recently been published about the man many historians consider to be one of the most charismatic people of all time, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR). Of course his strategy and politics are open to healthy debate, but hardly anyone disagrees that his personality and will were extraordinary. Even Winston Churchill described FDR as “the greatest man I ever met.”
So what does this have to do with the art and science of selling through relationships? Let’s focus for a minute on one attribute that does indeed apply to our ongoing theme . . . his ability to lift others’ spirits.
Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Japanese established tremendous momentum and virtually swept across Southeast Asia either unopposed or by defeating traditional colonial powers in their wake. In the meantime, Hitler had rolled through Europe and was threatening a struggling UK and a Russia that was short on supplies. Night after night FDR would hold meetings with his key political and military advisors who brought in a stream of discouraging data . . . pretty much everybody was afraid at that point in the evolution of the situation. That is, everybody except FDR, because FDR had already faced a personal crisis that was about as bad as it can get.
He went to bed one night a young, strong robust man, and woke up the next morning paralyzed with Polio from the waist down. He spent several years trying to regain both his legs and his spirit, which had been racked with fear and depression. He then rose above it, moved on and, of course, was elected President in one of the most challenging periods in our history.
Anyway, during those dark moments in the early stages of the war, many of his advisors, who were later interviewed, said that they had to come to FDR with bad news, and that the meetings could be dark, and yet FDR had a way of calming everyone down and convincing people that things were going to work out in the long run. He believed passionately that, from a pure production perspective, once America cranked up as a democratic-based economy and production war machine, it would overwhelm the competition, and it did. At around 6PM, he would pour a round of cocktails (he personally mixed them) and had everybody settle down a little bit, injecting his powerful dose of optimism, determination and even levity to the discussions.
Here is the key. Each of these advisors said that they would leave the meetings feeling better than when they came in. They felt a little more refreshed, more confident, more committed to the long term strategy even in the face of shorter term uncertainty. Their moods had been lifted and they continued to “buy” into the plan.
There is an adage in sales that says . . . “raise the mood and make the sale.”
FDR’s ability to raise peoples’ moods, whether on the radio during the great depression, or with his advisors during the war, was nothing short of genius. He would raise peoples’ moods, and then sell them his strategy.
This is a wonderful lesson for any of us who want to understand the interplay between connecting both emotionally and intellectually with our prospects and clients.