Cardinal Rules for Selling Change

by JenniferCobb on 10/29/2010

I was fortunate to attend an inspirational day at Fort Mason yesterday, celebrating the 10th anniversary of E2, Environmental Entrepreneurs.  E2, the independent business voice for the environment, was founded by Nicole Lederer and the remarkable Bob Epstein, a tireless and visionary change maker.

Bob was a founder of Sybase and subsequently a number of other software companies including Get Active and Britton-Lee.  After he retired from software, Bob turned his attention to another  primary passion – the environment.  The story goes that he spent a couple of years investigating the various organizations in the sector and decided that for what he was trying to do – make policy change – NRDC was the best.  So he threw himself in wholeheartedly.  For the past decade, he has worked as hard for environmental change as he did starting a major software company.  And we can be grateful for the results.  His energy and vision were key in the passing of AB 32, the “Clean Car Bill” and the “Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.”

Bob’s approach to social change is a refreshing reminder that no matter what one is seeking to accomplish, the basic rules of engagement are the same.  Clear vision, good partnerships and great sales and marketing are key.  Bob has applied the same toolkit to implementing environmental policy that he applied to building great companies.

Bob Epstein’s 2 Cardinal Sales Rules

1.        Show up

2.       All sales are emotional

This may sound simple, but if everyone truly followed these rules and acted on them for every major project, product or initiative, there would be a lot more successes.   Our current administration, which followed both of these rules so beautifully during the 2008 campaign, seems to have forgotten to follow them since they have taken office and a price will be paid.

Bob then concluded his brief remarks with a great summary of the three primary elements of any successful campaign.  (Much of Bob’s brilliance comes from the capacity to boil complexity down into very simple truths.)

The Three Elements of Every Successful Campaign

1.       A victim

2.       A villain

3.       An opportunity

This last list may not be as generally applicable as the first, which are immutably true.  But as the old adage goes, you can sell sugar or you can sell aspirin.  If you are selling aspirin, this list is as good as any I have seen.  What is the problem?  Where is the pain coming from?  What can we do to help?   Framing the campaign in terms of personal pain is a great way of excavating the stories that are so inspirational in motivating change.  Thanks for the reminder, Bob.

Leave a Comment

Next post: