Monday, July 14, 2008

Soliciting Commitment

[The Caller ID said Dayton, Oh]

“This is Kevin,” said the youthful voice on the phone. It was about 7:30. The perfect time for an unsolicited call: not smack in the middle of supper and not in the middle of most people’s favorite shows.
“I’m calling from Barack Obama’s headquarters in Dayton.” [geography
lesson: about 50 miles north of where I work Cincinnati and 25 miles north of
where I live] “On behalf of the campaign, I want to thank you for your help in

It should be noted that my help in March consisted of voting in the Ohio primary. Although my precinct uses Diebold machines, I’m pretty confident the campaign is not privy to my actual ballot. I try to be conscious of other people’s time and job requirements so, figuring he had dozens of calls to make before the end of his shift, I tried to cut him off.

“Thanks for the call, Kevin,” I said. “I can save you some time. I don’t donate
money over the phone, but if you want to send me something in the mail

“No,” he retook control of the conversation sounding genuinely
embarrassed. “I’m sorry. I should have been more clear. We’re not raising money,
just looking for advice from some of our friends in the community.”

This is key: He didn’t insult me by calling me Senator Obama’s friend. Earlier he thanked me on behalf of the campaign, not the senator. What rational person would believe that in the middle of a presidential campaign, the presumptive nominee had singled me out for special recognition?

Back to the play-by-play:
“… We’re not raising money, just looking for advice from some of our friends in
the community.”

Advice? The Obama campaign wants MY advice? Okay, I’ll listen.
“We’re opening a new office in Butler County [where I live] and were wondering
where you thought we should open first. We were thinking about Hamilton,
Middletown, or West Chester. Not all of use are familiar with the area so we
thought we’d ask some of our friends what they would recommend.”

They actually want my advice! Still, this is where I became a difficult caller.

“Kevin,” I interrupted again [I do that], “I work in the agency business

“Oh, cool,”
he responds. [I think he would have said that if I
had told him I bite the heads of live bats for a living. This kid was THAT good.
Still, this is where I became a difficult caller.]

“I have to tell you, this is the best patter I’ve heard in a long time. Is this a script you’ve been using all spring?”

“I actually just got here after finals. They told me to call some of our friends
in your area and ask for their advice since none of us on the staff right now
are very familiar with your neighborhood. Some canvassers gave us your

This was not a script. This was genuine outreach. And what did it get them for the cost of the call and pittance they must be paying this motivated college student? Well, for starters it got them the next 45 minutes of my time. We talked about retail locations, major employers, cultural issues …

I don’t talk to my only sister for 45 minutes.

What they got was commitment. What are the odds any [even less analytical] voter would change his/her mind after being so flattered?

It’s nice to be asked.

Did they take my advice? Not a clue. But just by asking for that advice they did something more important: they solicited commitment. When I see them taking my advice – whether they heard the same thing from a dozen or a hundred or thousand others – I get credit. I get to TAKE credit.


The Obama campaign excels at soliciting commitment.

So, what are you doing to solicit commitment from your customers/audiences/whatever?

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