In this episode of Myths of Selling to Government, we share three of our favorite secrets for winning government contracts. They overarch every lesson we've taught in our year-plus of producing the podcast, hosted by Rick Wimberly of Government Selling Solutions, a government contracting consultancy.
If you’ve been listening to other episodes of the Myths of Selling Government podcast, you know they’re chock-full of guidance and techniques on winning government contracts. We try to make them clear and…candid. Some of our recommendations require lots of work. Others not so much. Some may be new to you. Others may not.
Today, we give you three overarching secrets for success for winning government sales where others fail. These secrets support and extend virtually everything we’ve been talking about in our the podcast episodes over the last year or so. Here they are:
Secret #1 - Solve the problem. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We talk about this one often. You might think it’s obvious, but even though we know this to be true, so many times we are guilty of pushing features and functions that we think will give us a competitive advantage instead of presenting real solutions to real needs. It’s a hard one, particularly when you know there are limits to your solution and your company has invested lots of time, effort and other things in producing the solution.
You’ve got to find ways to get prospects to open up and reveal their true pain. This means being there first (before the RFP is issued), and it means establishing good rapport and strong credibility. It also means discovering pain at different levels of the organization. We provide tips for, what we call, pain mapping in Episode 18 of Season One - Mapping Pain to Win Government Contracts. Another good episode on identifying pain, and lots of other things, is 9 Pieces of Info You Need to Win Government Contracts, which is episode 23 in Season 1.
All of this culminates in a value portfolio that provides insight into what it will take to win a deal.
Once the problem is well understood, the solution offered must clearly and obviously provide a legitimate fix. “Smoke and mirrors” may win you the occasional deal, but real solutions create a long-term business. If you can’t solve the problem, move on.
Secret #2 - Follow the rules. Rules and regulations are foundational to government contracting. You’ve got to be pretty dang good at following them. The best way to do this, read and ask. Read the documentation surrounding the procurement very carefully. And, ask a lot of questions. Ask your prospect. If an RFP has already been issued, ask the person listed on the RFP as the designated contact. (More about this in a bit.) Ask your colleagues. Ask us. Sometimes, you may need to ask your attorney.
It’s really not as complicated as it might seem. You don’t need to become an expert on the rules and regulations. Just read carefully and ask questions. Eventually, your reading and question-asking will become easier.
But, But…But, Do what you’re asked to do how you’re asked to do it, and don’t do what you’re asked not to do. Like when they issue an RFP and it says that your contact going forward must be a certain procurement person you don’t even know. Don’t think you can go back to the people you do know within the prospect organization and ask them a question, or try to make one more point with them. Just don’t do it. If they’ve said that’s against the rules, and they probably will, just follow the rule. It’s an important one. As an aside, if you haven’t been working with others within the organization before the RFP is issued, you have to ask yourself a question: Should you be spending resources responding to the RFP in the first place. We cover this topic in a lot of our earliest episodes. You may want to check out RFPs Don’t Drive Government Sales, which is Episode 2 of Season 1.
Secret #3 - In every thing you do, make it easier than the next guy. “Ease” builds value in the government market (in all markets really). Even if your product solves the technical problem, and even if you’ve followed all the rules, your solution still may not make the cut if another vendor demonstrates they are easier to work with. From the moment of the first communication (which should be early in the process), ask yourself what you’re doing to help your prospect’s effort to solve a problem easier. Put yourself in their place. What would help you, if you were buying? Don’t be self-serving. Be trustworthy. Do what you say you’re going to do…and more.
These three concepts may seem elementary, but brilliant game plans will not win games if blocking and tackling is poor. Keep these three fundamental secrets in mind and eradicate the selling myths holding you back and we believe you’ll end up with the selling odds in your favor.