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IF YOU ONLY HAD FOUR MINUTES WITH THE GENERAL

Friday, April 30, 2010
Dan Callahan

What would you say? This is harder than it seems. I'm referring to condensing your message and question for the executive into a crisp, four to five minute conversation. And to have any value at all, there would need to be included a "call to action" or a request for information, as a part of that four minutes.

Getting to the general (or director, or commander, or other executive decision maker) is doable. Lets assume you've been reading this blog and perhaps others, and you have figured out how to find and engage the senior leadership of your target organization. But when that happens, what do you want to accomplish and what would success look like? For me, I often use these opportunities to determine "who, Sir, in your organization is leading the charge for _______________? The reason I ask is _______________?" I did this recently-with reasonable success, and when the executive officer (a rear admiral) mentioned the named individual on his staff, I knew that name from previous BD efforts (in fact, we had briefed his subordinate). So, I was able to acknowledge this and then I politely asked, "Sir, may I contact the staff executive and mention that we spoke?" I had no trouble getting the meeting, as a follow-up to my conversation with the admiral. I like this approach because it respects the chain of command (asking permission to tie-up his organization) and the staff executive (because I am being referred to him via the blessing of his leadership).

When I do not have the opportunity to do this in person, my e-mails must be very carefully written. I keep them as short as possible and right to the point. Recently, I had success by clearly stating who my organization is, what we do, why I am contacting the executive officer and what I hope to gain. But realize I couched this in terms that the executive war fighter could support. "Dear Sir, I am contacting you because I really, really need to make quota next year…"; This has not worked well for me! Try this: “Sir, we have specific experience that can directly support your organization's mission and goal attainment…and we'd like to engage your staff to determine if our expertise is useful to your team... "  There is no guarantee this will bear fruit but there is typically little to lose by being so direct. There is no chance of developing a relationship with the executive, but one thing you can count on: he/she wants mission accomplishment for his organization. Our job is to prove we can support this efficiently.

Any other ideas out there? What has worked for you to penetrate the DoD and IC organizations?