3 lessons from the Victorian election about winning again

If you have an important contract you can’t afford to lose, don't bury your head in the sand. Incumbency is no guarantee of victory, and winning again is too important to leave to chance.

In Victoria, our State government has changed hands after a single three-year term – a phenomenon last seen in 1955.

My own electorate, Bentleigh, was the most marginal seat in this election, and it was said that whoever won Bentleigh would win government. We were bombarded with political messages over the week prior to polling day – everything from flyers, letters, and annoying recorded phone calls to a flying visit from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Every school fence in the district was plastered with pictures of the sitting member’s face.

It seems this was all to no avail. At time of writing, there was a swing of 2.1% against the government in this pivotal seat, indicating a probably loss to the opposition (along with the rest of the State, where the opposition has convincingly claimed victory).

My mother-in-law, a softly spoken former hospital pharmacist not normally given to violent outbursts of opinion, is very vocal in her dislike of our local MP. Several times, she tried to meet with her to raise concerns about the local hospital. Each time, she was fobbed off by a junior staffer until she was eventually told "(The member) doesn't meet with constituents".

It doesn't take much to lose an election. A swing of a few percentage points. A local issue that trumps a national one. A member who just isn't present enough to the concerns of the electorate.

During the election night coverage, political commentator Peter Costello - a representative of the outgoing party - said: "This (result) shows that there can be one-term governments." Political journalist Laurie Oakes added: "The idea that (incumbent) governments always get a second chance has gone out the window."

It's the same when we bid to retain business. To win again, you need to be the next big thing. Incumbency is no guarantee of victory, and assumption is a dangerous strategy.

Robyn's new book Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers can be purchased from http://www.winningwords.com.au/winning-again/