Have you ever had your Member of Congress come by your plant or facility? If you haven’t, you might want to think about it. It’s an excellent way for you to either build a relationship or strengthen a relationship with somebody important in your life. If you’re selling to the federal government, we all know that funding passes through Congress at some point. Whether or not your Member is on committees that are relevant to your business doesn’t matter. They might still be able to be helpful. They need to know that you’re in the district and what you do. Not only does your product or service matter to them, they care about having opportunities to interact with your employees, prospective voters. I have participated in hundreds of such meetings as a uniformed escort, Congressional staff member, corporate host, and facilitator for clients. In every case, they are a positive experience for the company. I cannot recall a single visit where the relationship did not improve as a result.
The single key to the visit’s success is to schedule it when you don’t need anything and when it aligns best with the schedule of the Member of Congress. Forcing a visit at an awkward time, such as an impending election, a legislative markup, or in response to a negative public relations issue, will assure a sub-optimal meeting and should be avoided.
Reach Out to the District Director or the Scheduler
You can initiate a visit by reaching out to the District Director or the scheduler. You can do it by email or by phone call. You’ll find a mutually compatible date and make yourself available for about 30 minutes. A visit could go longer than that, but 30 minutes is a sweet spot. It’s not too much of a burden on them. It’s not too much of a burden on you.
Your Member of Congress will usually bring at least one staff person with them, maybe somebody with expertise, or it might be the District Director who is an expert set of eyes in the field. They’ll arrive at the appointed time, and you’ll introduce them to your leadership team, whether that’s one person or five people. This portion of the visit might be a quick cup of coffee and introductions.Have you ever had your Member of Congress come by your plant or facility? If you haven't, you might want to think about it. It's an excellent way for you to either build or strengthen a relationship with somebody important in your life. Click To Tweet
Show The Member of Congress What You Do
Then you want to show them what you have or show them what you do. Show the Member the stuff. Don’t kill them with a lengthy PowerPoint presentation. You don’t want to give them a briefing; you should brief them on the move. You’re just giving them an introduction to your company, not telling them everything you know. It should be a walkabout. If there’s an opportunity for the Member of Congress to address your entire workforce, they will love that. Your workforce represents voters. That matters. It’s also a chance for your people to get to see government at a very local level. Members of Congress like to do this. They want to make themselves available.
Some of your employees may be a little uncomfortable with the visit because they just haven’t had much exposure to politics or only know about the Member through what they’ve seen on television. The sooner you get this kind of relationship in place, the more helpful it can be when you need it. Along those lines, the friendly visit is not the time to take out your list of requests. There’s a time and a place for that. The courtesy visit should be just that, a friendly get-to-know-each-other visit.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Don’t wait until a policy problem or some issue is affecting your business, and you now feel like you need to call on your Member of Congress. That’s the wrong time to get to know someone. Take control of the relationship now, the easy way, by inviting them in. Take the initiative, make the call, send the email, schedule a time. Make it an easy program on the day it happens. It’s a 30-minute event. And it will pay big dividends for you. I guarantee it.
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