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Sunday, March 17, 2013

The political argument defined

I spent 5 years employed in Sales & Marketing at a high tech cutting edge company. The company’s product was so advanced that the sales people needed to travel with engineers. I was one of those engineers. My job was to stay connected to the technology, first working with the engineering design staff, then traveling as an adjunct to the sales person. I would answer technical questions from customers. In this role, I learned the importance of the seating arrangement at a meeting, the importance of understanding the relationships between the customer’s managers, the importance of presentation, the importance of personal follow-up and image. I learned the difference between a factual argument and a sales argument.
My work with the engineering staff required the use of hard data, physical laws, repeatable results and mathematical predictions. These were factual arguments. My work with the sales persons required emotional appeal, attention to personal grooming, use of selective facts, and purposeful manipulation. These were sales arguments. I had excellent teachers and with practice became quite good at my Sales & Marketing assignment.
Our product started at a quarter million dollars, I was very proud of having sold Prototyping machines and services to every corporate member of the industrial DOW thirty. In the sales process, we would meet with a customer team containing professional buyers, in-house technical experts and a few hard nose senior managers. As the sales engineer I had to maintain absolute creditability, I could never make a factually false statement, the in-house technical expert would have called me out and the entire sales effort would have collapsed. This fit well with my personality and I learned that with a good product, the truth never hurt. We were dealing with professionals that knew the difference between a factual argument and a sales argument.
The sales argument is the same as a political argument or a legal argument, fact and truth are malleable. This is an emotional appeal from someone with flawless personal grooming. A large percentage of adults often fail to distinguish between a political argument and a factual argument. I know adults that scuff at a used car salesman, and then repeat some political talking point as factual. I watched a debate about climate warming between a scientist and a lawyer. The scientist never had a chance. The factual argument will lose to the political argument almost every time, for many will buy that used car. The lawyer making a political argument can use straw men, personal attack, false hoods, and junk science, while simultaneously accusing their opponent of these same tactics.
Fortunately, most adults can distinguish between a factual argument and a political argument, if they think about it. Like oil and water, they will always seperate out.

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