The Political Dilemma Of Personal Attendance

One for followers of British politics. Early 2016, the global steel price tanked.

Vast Chinese over-supply as their internal demand slowed led them to dump steel across the planet. At less than cost.

As a result one major global manufacturer, Indian conglomerate Tata, decided it had no choice but to unload now unprofitable steel production.

One such plant was the massive complex in South Wales. Losing an unsustainable million pounds a day.

Tata’s plans were widely known.

On the day they were confirmed (29 March), the UK Minister whose brief this impacted, the Business Secretary, was on a jolly in Australia. Speaking at a conference. With his daughter in tow.

Thousands of aggrieved steel workers wondered why.

This week, another Tata Board Meeting in Mumbai. It seeks to ratify which prospective buyer can buy the Welsh business. From seven bidders that believe they can turn fortunes around.

The Business Secretary this time is in town.

Whatever his capabilities and supposed behind-the-scenes efforts, he lost the PR war. Massively.

I confess to having a tiny bit of sympathy for the man.

There was surely no point whatsoever of him being in India at the first meeting.

The decision was already done. No amount of postering by the two representatives (and staunch political opponents) that did go would have changed it. They themselves had their Bombay jolly from what was a worthless exercise. Totally without merit. Apart from on the PR front.

Their trip was mistakenly seen as them trying alone. However fruitless, however much money down the drain, however doomed before embarcation.

Contrast with the Minister. Forced to scurry to the Valleys from Heathrow. Even when there was little point. You can see though, why he was savaged in the media.

So this week, in India, he wants to be seen as brokering the deal. One which will ‘save’ jobs. For a while at least, some of them.

He was even accompanied by the head of the Welsh Assembly. Tacit acceptance that presence can excuse performance? It is all a little unnecessary.

Problems, mistrust and frustrations borne from not being on top of the situation.

His stock perhaps irreparably damaged.

How he must now wish he’d have been in Mumbai for that first event. Indeed, I read since he says precisely that he should have been there. As he know must realise, perception is reality.

What a parallel with solution selling.

There is great pressure on salespeople today to chop away non-selling time. Particularly travelling hours. Yet there are too many who I feel are subbing in a phone (or even video) call for prep or progress forums when you can only affect what is happening in person.

Walking along the corridors of your prospect. Bumping into people in their kitchen. Calling in an extra opinion for ten minutes when whiteboarding in their meeting wing. Hearing the whispers, seeing the folded arms, sensing the excitement (or lack of it).

You must of course, pursue any buttonholing with care. But understand that it is something that, politically, pretty much every solution selling year will feature at least once.

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