You already have more to do than could possibly get done just trying to understand how government works. You’ve dusted off the high school civics book, learned the branches of government, looked up your state legislator or city councilperson and Googled government budget. You may have even reached out to Traversant Group to get some free insights on government contracts.
Now, it’s time to send your first meeting request. If you are a little nervous, you aren’t alone. Government officials don’t have a lot of time. Remember, their first priority is managing essential government programs and services. But if you do score a meeting, we have some ways to make the most of your time.
On my blog today, I outline a few of the best practices I highly recommend. I hope it helps you navigate your next one-on-one.
When you request a meeting, talk with the government official or the administrative assistant about what they would find most valuable from meeting with you. Perhaps he wants a general introduction, or perhaps he wants you to talk about how you can help him solve a specific problem plaguing his team. Perhaps they need a lot of time or maybe a short introduction will be fine. Perhaps they need a comprehensive demo or maybe just a slide deck will do. By clarifying what’s actually needed and to what level, you can save hours of time deciding what to do and getting tasks done.
To speed up your preparation process, develop a checklist of items you need to review in advance of the meeting. For example, Traversant Group uses a framework to help ensure that we know what is happening in agency programs and have our bases covered. And on a monthly basis, we use a checklist to make sure that we have submitted records requests for certain reports.
You might want a meeting checklist to make sure you have a consistent practice. This saves time and your preparation will show.
Develop a Meeting Template
Agendas can be surprisingly tricky if you are preparing one that grabs an official’s attention. It’s pretty easy to fall into the depths of an official’s inbox if your agenda simply lists: introductions, product overview, discussion of agency priorities and next steps. Does that sound familiar?
Use a checklist to better understand the agency’s goals and areas of focus. By putting yourself in the shoes of the government official and appreciating what she must report to an agency director or elected official, you can tailor your message and create an agenda that is a value-add. Now, your agenda lists: introductions, impact of FY21 budget request, overview of cloud migration strategy timeline, (company) success stories and next steps.
One of my clients who works in the technology industry impressed an agency CIO when he mapped the agency’s strategic technology goals to his company’s products and services. Everyone got clear on what we would accomplish and the official appreciated that my client had taken the time to research the agency’s priorities. This is definitely a best practice.
Make Time for a Conversation
Sometimes the most efficient way to prepare for a meeting is to find time to talk to an official outside of his or her office. In government, sales executives have the ability to attend hearings and other meetings where officials participate. Arriving a little early or staying a little late may afford you the opportunity to personally introduce yourself. Depending on what you want to cover, you can potentially save time by sharing what you’ve done verbally. For example, maybe you just want to introduce yourself as the new account rep for an established government contractor. Instead of scheduling a formal meeting, you may be able to accomplish your purpose in less time during a quick one-on-one conversation.
This strategy can also work well if you have never met the official. Many of my clients were able to break the ice when I made a personal introduction outside of the agency. This brief encounter made it much faster to communicate with the official instead of sending an email introduction.
Of course, attending hearings doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to talk to an official. However, it can definitely help you appreciate the official’s communication style and priorities.
Reuse Previous Material
Your ability to reduce time by recycling work product varies depending on your responsibilities and the project. But where you can, use the meeting template to offer a consistent approach to spending time with government officials. This strategy has also proven helpful for my clients who have to prepare and submit proposals. When you’re pressed for time, it is a lot more efficient to update only certain proposal sections. Just make sure that you cleanse the document so that you do not have another agency’s name hidden somewhere in the document.
Exactly which strategies will work best for you to prepare will vary person-by-jurisdiction and situation-by-situation. But as a government sales coach working with companies who need to put their best foot forward, I’ve found that employing even one of these five strategies can help you become polished and persuasive.