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The Closest Star in Your Federal Sales Customer Constellation

What’s the closest star in your federal sales customer constellation?

We learn in school that Senators represent land and Representatives represent people. It’s a simplification, but true. Regardless of the size of the state, each state has two United States Senators. Rhode Island and California have entirely different concerns, from the economy to weather to demographics. However, they are represented equally in the Senate.

Your Federal Sales Customer Constellation


The Congressional district in which you reside is defined, for the most part, by its population. Each Representative in Congress represents roughly 750,000 constituents. In highly populated states, that means there are many more Congressional districts. New York and Florida each have 27 Congressional districts, for example. With a population of less than 750,000, Wyoming only has one “at-large” Congressional district. Congresswoman Cheney of Wyoming might have to drive several hours from one part of her district to another. While moving across New York City or Miami takes a matter of minutes.

The national census takes place every 10 years, and the movements of the population are subject to review. The population shifts cause the calculus of numeric representation to change. Migration of people can cause some states to lose a district, while others gain a district to maintain an equal degree of representation (750,000:1).

Does Gerrymandering Matter?


In school, we also learn the concept of “gerrymandering.” This concept dates to Eldridge Gerry, a Massachusetts politician circa 1812 who proposed carving out a politically advantageous district. He did so by redrawing the lines in the shape of a salamander. The maneuver achieved his political objective and gained favor across the country. Gerry would go on to become a Vice President of the United States.

In the news, we see many states continuing the practice of redrawing districts with political favorability in mind. Legal limits to the determination of such favorability are routinely subject to test. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits tactics such as “cracking” (splitting minority populations) and “packing” (grouping minority populations).

The Supreme Court recently ruled not to interfere in a redrawing of Congressional districts in Alabama. The court’s rationale was not that the proposed new lines might not conform to the Voting Rights Act, but because the timing of the case is too close to the mid-term elections. Courts try not to take actions that could change an election outcome within an election season. The definition of an election season is loose. Still, in this case, the Supreme Court majority opinion expressed specific concern of a federal court ruling in the year of a mid-term election.

Knowing who your Representative is in Congress is an essential first step in a federal sales engagement. Click To Tweet

According to Haven Insights, only 37% of citizens can name their representatives in Congress. Further, over 50% have a neutral opinion of their Representative. Like much of the political discourse of spending, budgets, resolutions, and policy, the actions of Congress often appear abstract to citizens. Gerrymandering is such an example. Does it matter to me? It should.

Those who sell to the federal government know better or should know better. Every dollar that ultimately ends up on a federal contract is subject to Congressional approval before the contract award. Knowing who your Representative is in Congress is an essential first step in a federal sales engagement. Too many companies miss this connection. If you sell to the government, it’s your business.

The Make Your Move podcast is a multi-season series devoted to the lessons learned of military members in their post-active duty lives. I hope you enjoy the stories of the men and women brave enough to share their transition stories so publicly. Listen to the latest episode here.

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