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Proximity to Power

It’s a myth that proximity to power will change your federal sales outcomes. I’ve seen the empirical proof over many years. I’m speaking of physical closeness, such as selecting office space locations or traveling excessively to support meetings.

It’s a myth that places near the White House, Congress, the Pentagon, or a storefront outside a base are better for your customer relationships.  There may be some convenience factors for a very limited few, but they are the exception to the rule.  90% of your customer connection can be virtual and still be successful. Accept this.

Evidence That Speaks For Itself

The pandemic response proves something that some knew well before the pandemic. Remote work can be highly effective, even when working with federal customers. Today’s reality is that many of the people in your customer constellation across the 3-Rings® of Influence (Industry, Agency and Congress) work from home – and will continue to do so for many months, if not permanently.

After 9/11, access to federal buildings and bases changed dramatically. The need for escorts, updated ID cards, bag inspections, and magnetometers all came into our lives in fuller force. We adapted but still clung to the perceived need for face-to-face contact with our beloved customer.

Jumping on a plane on short notice to see a customer was the norm.  We accept as standard paying airline ticket fees as a business expense that you would never spend if it were a personal ticket. I contend many were clinging to the wrong normal.

It is not uncommon for those less familiar with the Washington, DC processes to perceive physical proximity to power as relevant.

It is not uncommon for those less familiar with the Washington, DC processes to perceive physical proximity to power as relevant. Click here to learn more Click To Tweet

International firms often look to establish a U.S. presence and place a premium on the ability to overlook a particular Washington landmark such as the White House, the Capitol, or the Pentagon. The iconic buildings can make terrific backdrops for photos seen by those back home. However, the value to the customer connection and sales outcome is far less sure.

My Experience

My entire time in private practice in consulting and lobbying, servicing clients of all sizes across the defense industry, has been done remotely and significantly.

I am based 1000 miles from my clients’ customer constellations, and it doesn’t matter to the client or their customers. Pre-pandemic, I would travel to a tightly orchestrated schedule for special meetings at certain times of the year.

Those meetings were worth the travel because there was a specific expectation for a live discussion. That said, the expectation had never seriously been subject to challenge by me or my audience.  I’ve gone from averaging 60 days on the road to nearly zero with no loss of continuity. I bet you have as well. Or have you?

Don’t just take my word for it. Look at the empirical evidence all around us. Many large companies are conducting work remotely through the end of the year. Most defense department employees are not working from their offices.

Proximity To Power Is Relative

Congress is operating behind miles of barricade fencing. Members of Congress are participating in hearings and even voting remotely. Congressional staff is mostly working from home. And guess what? Agencies are still announcing contracts every day, with federal funds continuing to flow to contracts. 

The fundamental processes continue unabated. DoD averaged nearly $20 billion a week in contract announcements throughout 2020.

Proximity to power is relative. If you accept that physical presence is not the crown jewel of customer engagement some previously imagined, are you instantiating long-term plans to adjust your methods?

What has not changed, and what will not change, is your need to communicate with those with decision-making power over your issues of interest. Have you stepped back and looked end-to-end at how you communicate with your customer constellation

Have you seriously considered the perceived effect of your pre-pandemic methods? Will you adapt? Stop chasing the elusive normal – it’s here today.

Need help engaging with the federal government for a policy or funding your product? Schedule a call with Gene.

To get a copy of Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring® Circus of Federal Sales, or information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.

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