Obama’s Oath of Office and Preparation

in Preparation

You have probably seen the video of President Obama being sworn in, and the slight slip-up by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, which in turn confused Obama, causing him to have to restate the lines, and then they
subsequently repeated the entire process in private the day after.

What really bothers me is how Roberts was portrayed in this matter. On the Today Show the next morning they were calling it the "Oaf of Office." You’ve got to be kidding me.

Roberts screwed up. And I’m sure there are people laughing at him who could name past American Idol winners but who could not have previously identified John Roberts or named the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court if their life depended on it.

It’s especially maddening because Roberts was totally prepared for the oath, and did not work from notes, as most other Justices have in the past. And, Roberts is known for his level of preparation.

I’ve done a couple of articles on John Roberts, and related them to sales. I’ve combined them and will share that with you.

Prepare Like a Supreme Court Chief Justice
You don’t get to be a top sales rep by winging it.

Or, a Supreme Court Chief Justice, for that matter.

At his Senate confirmation hearings a few years ago, sitting before a mostly-adversarial group of Senators who were trying to blow holes in his background, character, and especially conservative viewpoints, John Roberts was unflappable.

Cool, calm, with answers direct, to the point, and bullet-proof. He soared through the confirmation process.

What really was impressive is that he sat at the table, looking up at his interrogators and had in front of him…NOTHING! No notes. No cards.No prompts.

I was amazed. Of course I knew that this type of performance does not occur by accident. I know that preparation makes things look easy. So I did little research on Judge Roberts.

Before he became a District Judge, John Roberts the attorney specialized primarily in arguing cases before the Supreme Court. Which would be like a baseball pitcher specializing in pitching only in the World Series.

Oh, and he won 25 of his 39 cases.

He is good, because he prepares. According to a Newsweek article, colleagues at his law firm said he would race around the firm with a white legal pad, jotting down questions he might be asked, and then answering them.

A fellow attorney said, "He’d have it with him at the office, and he’d bring it home at night."

He’d amass 300 questions and answers for a case, then stage moot-court sessions to rehearse.

His performances were a sight to behold. Another attorney said, "If we heard Roberts was going to be arguing, we’d go down to watch. He was that good. It was like if Tiger Woods was hitting balls at your club, you’d want to watch him too."

And every top sales rep I’ve ever seen does something similar in his/her profession. Do you?

Here are some areas where you can and should.

Screeners and Gatekeepers
Can you instantly provide a response to the question, "What is this in reference to?"? And I mean a good, results-oriented answer, not one that gets you screened out.

The Tough Questions
Ever hear, "I don’t believe I’m interested," at the beginning of a call? Are you able to breeze past this reflex  response–which isn’t a real objection, by the way–and engage them in conversation, moving them to a state of interest and curiosity?

Unexpected Answers to Questions
We’re all able to build sales momentum when they follow the script we’d like … answering questions with the positive, interest-filled responses that lead to our objective. But what about the ones we DON’T want? The ones that resemble a hard-drive crash, wiping away all of your memory.

Real Objections
Too many sales reps dread objections because they feel that to deal with them they must "overcome" them with a canned, argumentative answer. Those types of "rebuttals" actually throw gasoline on the fire. Instead, we must be prepared with questions.

In each of these areas, I recommend the same prescription for excellence: work and preparation.

There’s no easy way to sound smooth.

A sales rep told me at a recent training seminar,

"You make it look so easy, coming up with quick answers. How do you do it?"

Oh, it was easy, I told him. After 25 years, over 1000 sales training presentations, thousands of my own sales calls, and thousands of hours of writing, reading, and practicing, it just comes naturally.

C’mon, no one is naturally smooth.

Although almost everyone can sound that way.

But we must be un-smooth and uncomfortable first.

Before you can golf in the 80’s, you go through the 90’s.

If you want to raise yourself to the next level, go back to the basics and beyond.


ACTION STEP

Lock yourself in a room with a pad of paper. Begin by writing out difficult situations you encounter. Use the ones I mentioned above. Then, stretch, knead, and rack your mind until you create word-for-word responses and questions you’re comfortable with. (Doing this with a small group works well too.)

Then, go to the next level. Like a military strategist preparing for all possible scenarios, brainstorm for their possible responses.

Keep repeating the process.

Then practice it out loud. Role play with a partner.

Recite–don’t read–into a tape recorder.

What’s great about this is that the more you do this, the better you become, which means better results. Which
means you have more fun on calls. Which also means you’re more confident on your calls.

And people will be saying about you, "You sound so smooth! You’re a natural."

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane February 11, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Another point to make regarding preparation: it was because of Obama’s preparation that the mistake was even noticed. Because Obama had memorized and practiced the oath he was able to recognize the mistake and tried to get them back on the correct path.

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