Your message when communicating with your customer constellation only needs to hit four points. The four points align precisely to the format of a Congressional white paper.
I’ve written before that your customer constellation lives in each of the three rings of influence – Industry, Agency, and Congress.
However, only in Congress do your customer contacts speak from a standard single sheet of paper known as the white paper. Regardless, using the same construct in all federal conversations can serve you well and keep your message aligned.
The white paper’s four simple elements are the issue, the background, the discussion, and the recommendation. Staying focused on these four points assures that your message is understandable.
What is the problem or condition you are identifying for the customer? Can you say it in just a couple of sentences? Can you say it in one sentence?
For example, it might be something quite simple: “Airmen are flying today with outdated widgets that cause unnecessary personnel and mechanical risk to airmen and aircraft.” The issue needs to grab the audience with why it’s essential.
You have to understand some of the histories that have led to the issue. The issue did not just appear. When you can demonstrate not only that you know that there is a problem, but you understand the root cause(s), you convey credibility.
Coming into a customer discussion without doing some homework will derail your conversation and instantly destroy your credibility. It is worth spending time doing discovery work to make sure you understand the environment and factors that contributed to “the issue.”Coming into a customer discussion without doing some homework will derail your conversation and instantly destroy your credibility. Click To Tweet
The discussion is where you begin to help the customer see an alternative future or another way to approach the tasks that have led to the issue. Your conversation might include outlining various options that have been considered and dismissed.
Option A might be too costly; Option B might require excessive capital investment; Option C might require a completely different training format.
You might start and finish the discussion phase with your option, Option D. Opening and closing this phase of the conversation with your preferred solution in mind helps the audience comprehend where you’re going.
By taking the audience through options that you dismiss, you strengthen your case and begin reframing how the audience views the issue.
It looks a lot like “the ask,” of which I have written often. The ask and the recommendation are synonymous. The recommendation is your logical way to get the customer to a better place and use your solution or offering.
When you find yourself in an unexpected opportunity with someone in your customer constellation, think of the four points of the white paper.
Many business developers and salespeople slip off the track of a logical discussion flow because they don’t have a clear outline in mind. They get caught up in the moment and blurt out their shiny object solution too soon.
The white paper is an outline for your conversation. It’s easy to remember in the heat of the moment when time with your customer is short.
Like with any form of planning and preparing, it’s often the exercise and discipline of planning that forces you to consider options before attempting something.
The same applies to the white paper. The discipline required to focus only on the four points, and confine the message to one page, will help you think through your customer conversations in advance. Focused customer conversations lead to better outcomes for everyone.
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.