By Constance Campanella, President and CEO
Lobbying and Selling. I’ve always seen them as nearly identical processes. While the “product” is different, the basics are the same. For example:
1. You know what you are selling.
2. You know your buyer.
3. You develop messaging to emphasize your strengths.
4. You know your competition, and
5. You know when a deal is done.
We could talk for hours about the similarities. So, then, why are corporate government relations professionals and the public sector sales professionals so often at loggerheads? In fact, sometimes it is more than just loggerheads; it is out and out war with arguments over turf, propriety, ownership of relationships, respect and credit for accomplishments. I have heard the same anecdotes attached to different companies and people for years. For example:
“The sales people are wearing out our political capital and not following up. So, we use chits and they don’t follow up.”
“The government affairs team is keeping us away from people who could help us. We need to talk to the Governor.”
“The sales people are using “consultants” who are really lobbyists but are not registered. We do not want to end up with a compliance problem. “
“The government affairs team took credit for that contract. They only opened a door, but we walked through it.”
“The sales people want us to make demands on electeds that are either not appropriate or not realistic. They do not think long term.”
“The government affairs team does not understand that we get compensated based on quarterly results. We need to push in order to close in time.”
Over the past 20-plus years, I’ve had many opportunities to help companies bridge the gap between their corporate sales and government affairs programs. Recently, I benchmarked several corporate state government relations programs for a client. One of our objectives was to learn about the relationship between the issue management and sales forces. While I cannot reveal the identities of the companies, I can describe the most significant theme that they all share: An appreciation that corporate government relations and public sector sales professionals are teammates, not competitors. Each teammate has its defined role, but together, they comprise a force that helps the company grow.
I know that there are many more examples and I believe that adopting the “teammate” model is the predominant trend. And, while it is not yet the dominant structure in place, I predict that will occur over time as the success of collaboration models overwhelms the old silo systems. Pushing to close the gap between these corporate units (who can help one another a great deal) is a goal worth adopting.