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Barack ObamaI think President Obama may be making a very simple sales mistake in his self presentation of late.

This came to me as I was listening to him give a speech last week. He was talking about Afghanistan. I found myself getting annoyed and couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t the content, which, on this occasion, I generally agreed with. It was something else.

As always it was a pleasure to hear the sonorous, rhythmic, euphonious incantations of this charismatic man. The phrasing was, as always, elegant and graceful.  But as I listened I realized what was bothering me. It seemed like every word was “I”, “me”, “mine”, “my administration”, or some other self-referential pronoun. This is not good salesmanship.

For me, good salesmanship cannot reflect such self-absorption. Eloquence and presentation can certainly dazzle initially. But a self focus eventually can result in a long term impression of solipsism or even jejune narcissism.

When selling a product or service what works is focusing on “the other”. What works is focusing on the “you”, “your need”, “your anxiety”, “your ROI“, a focus on how you can help your client (or your nation) to achieve.

This process requires a practical humility, a concentration on service, not celebrity. Most of the successful business entrepreneurs I know have this practical quality. This does not mean they are without enormous self-esteem. As CEO of my own company, Corporate Rain, I have always found the most selfish way to be is to be “unselfish”, to focus on the other.

For all his many gifts and attractive qualities, I think President Obama may ultimately prove a poor salesman for his agenda, if he doesn’t get the center of attention off himself.

Merry Christmas to all.

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