I’m in Miami Beach again, and this time I’m participating in an elite short course on public speaking. I have accepted several speaking invitations throughout 2023 and want to be at my best for those audiences. In order to engage an audience, I need to go beyond just delivering expertise.
My aim is to bring the audience closer to the material that I know and that they must know in order to do their best.
From my 18th-floor suite overlooking Miami Beach, I observe a group of people kiteboarding. There are several of them just to the north, about 100 yards offshore, along a break line of waves formed by a sandbar. They are flying in seemingly all directions and crisscrossing each other’s paths at very high speed.
The wind is blowing fairly strong, about 20 mph, and coming from the east, with a steady onshore breeze. It occurs to me that the direction of the wind has almost no impact on the manner in which the kiteboarders choose to cover ground. To the uninitiated, it looks like they simply make minor adjustments to their kite rig with a combination of hand, arm, and body movements.
I flashback to my times first learning to sail, then learning to sail offshore, then learning to race sailboats offshore. It was in those experiences of my youth that I came to appreciate the concept of relative motion—things moving in relation to one another or in relation to something else.
Kiteboarders and sailors know you can take advantage of any wind and move in a direction of your choosing by trimming the rig or sails. The one direction you cannot go is directly into the wind. In the kiteboarding example above, they could not sail directly into the easterly onshore wind. It doesn’t mean they can’t move eastward; they just can’t go straight east. So, they adjust the kite and zigzag across the wind, eventually moving eastward. The same concept applies to sailboats.
It turns out the same concept applies to your federal sales process too. You may not be able to steer directly into headwinds of political change, risk of recession, or reliance on a jittery supply chain. But you can trim your sails.The concept of relative motion applies to your federal sales process too. You may not be able to steer directly into headwinds of political change, risk of recession, or reliance on a jittery supply chain. But you can trim your sails. Click To Tweet
The concept of relative motion grounds my first book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales. The book is not about a circus at all, it’s about how the federal sales process unfolds with industry, agency, and Congress all performing their roles in relation to the other rings. The higher one goes in the Big Top of the circus; the better one can see and then better participate in the full process.
Variables of adjustment
The variables of adjustment within your control are endless:
- Adapting your message
- Qualifying new suppliers
- Expanding your customer contacts up, down, and out in an organization
- Hiring new staff with specific credentials
- Training your staff to new levels of performance
- Outsourcing critical expertise that your team may lack
- Adjusting your pricing or terms with your customer
- Asking for changes to terms within your supply chain
- Reevaluating exactly what ROI your trade show budget is bringing you
- Identifying excessive travel—do you know your high-expense travelers?
- Changing the location of your operations
- Eliminating less profitable offerings from your portfolio
In prior newsletters, I’ve urged caution in listening to the pundits warning of dark clouds in Congress and federal funding in preparation for FY24. I’ve gone so far as to say the sky isn’t falling and won’t fall. That doesn’t mean you just sit by and let things unfold.
You must take control of what is within your control. The list above is a useful starting point to stimulate the conversation among your leadership. A key to innovation and adaptation is the use of our imaginations; which requires self-assessment, self-reflection, and self-improvement.
How does your team stack up right now—at least in relative terms?