How can you look into the future and know what you need to have in place to succeed? Looking ahead does not require supernatural powers; it requires forethought and planning. There is a difference.
When I was young, I raced sailboats offshore. One of my jobs on the sailboat was to manage what was known as the foredeck, the part of the boat forward of the mast.
Multiple sails can come up and down at different points in a sailboat race. Knowing how to organize the deck, the lines, the fittings are keys to success on the foredeck.
What was going to be the next sail? What would be the timing for a sail change? That requires an ability to put oneself at a future point in time, such that as you came around a mark, things are ready to go, and that quick sail change occurs flawlessly.
If I were to have missed something or failed at that ability to see and plan, it would be readily apparent as we rounded a mark and something went wrong with the sail change.
Planning In The Navy
When I graduated to ships in the Navy, I spent much of my time as an operations officer or working in an operations environment.
Often, operating is about planning, thinking outside the lifelines to a future point in time of what must be in place for things to unfold smoothly.Often, operating is about planning, thinking outside the lifelines to a future point in time of what must be in place for things to unfold smoothly. Read more: Click To Tweet
It’s an awful lot of what command of a ship is about – the ability to see into the future. Not to predict what might happen, but to plan for multiple eventualities. I often found that it was the ability to plan that is a hallmark of superb execution.
When you see somebody struggling to execute, you can usually make a connection to either a bad plan or a poorly thought-out plan.
How This Applies to Federal Sales
The same applies to federal sales and how you work with your customer. You can work the three rings of influence and work your customer constellation, but working them to a plan.
It’s about understanding what they will be expecting—or understanding what will be due from you at a particular place in time. It is pretty predictable.
The budget moves at a certain pace, and budget decisions get made at a predictable rate and at a relative time. Specific inputs are due at different points in time: inputs to a budget and inputs to a piece of legislation.
Those inputs are required for the process to prepare outputs. When you understand and appreciate how to think ahead, pre-position, and maybe intercept a process, or go around a part of a process, or help accelerate a function, then you’re playing the game at the varsity level.
It’s not that difficult to do, but you have to have some fundamental understanding of the process as it’s supposed to be, in an academic sense.
When you understand the process from the book sense, you can start applying it in the real world – in the operational world.
You can be that Ops officer or a sailor, and you can use the concept of seeing yourself at a future point in time and know what’s needed to make the sale successful.
My Question For You
Think about it. How scripted are you? How scripted is your team in your day-to-day execution? Are you working on the here and now? Do you have a longer-term plan? Do you have a six-month plan, an 18-month plan?
You don’t need a grand strategy, per se, but you have to anticipate what the government needs and what the process needs to execute a sale on time and track.
Does your planning align with the government process? If the answer is no, it’s easy to fix. If the answer is that you don’t know, it’s easy to learn.
Don’t let the process drive you. Drive the process with a good plan. See your success in the future. Suddenly you’ll notice success repeating in close order.
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