Of course, everyone wants to hit their government contracting forecast every time. It's not easy, perhaps impossible. Government procurement activity has strong potential to develop twists and turns that produce surprises. In fact, the biggest surprise is when there is no surprise.
In this episode of Myths of Selling to Government, we disclose the only solution we've found in our many years of selling to government that counters the unpredictability of government sales. Join host Rick Wimberly of Government Selling Solutions as he unveils the secret... (which, as it turns out, is not really a secret after all).
Want to hit your government sales forecast every time?
The title of this episode is “Want to hit your government sales forecast every time?” <<<chuckle>> <<quietly, Rick says…>> And you’re thinking, duh, what kind of question is that? Of course, I want to hit my government sales forecast every time. What silliness does this fellow have in mind? He can’t promise that.
Yeah, you’re right. I can’t promise that. No one can. But, I can give you the biggest lesson I’ve learned over years of selling to the government about hitting forecasts. The answer itself is pretty simple. The execution is a bit more involved, but certainly possible.
We’ve talked in the last couple of episodes about getting genuine prospects to come to you. We’ve besmirched cold calling and talked about ways to get them to raise their hands, and let you know that they might be a willing buyer. We’ve talked about doing the research necessary to find good prospects, the training and support you’ll need, and even introduced a new tool that can help you find good prospects through artificial intelligence.
It’s all about building your pipeline…and, therein is your answer. If you want to consistently hit your forecast, you’re going to need a substantial pipeline because, guess what, something’s going to slow down those sure bets you’ve been counting on. You’re going to need another opportunity to replace it in the forecast. And, it’s probably going to be one of those opportunities that you had expected to come in months ago. It almost always takes longer to close a government contract than you think it will.
Here’s how it works, as the successful government sales pros listening will confirm. You’ve done your work - researched to find decent prospects, figured out how to get them to come to you, built a relationship, sync’ed your offering to their problems, and have answers to all of your information objectives.
You’re at the point when you can actually forecast when a government contracting opportunity will close. You start assigning closing dates to your forecast and begin to talk with your boss about the opportunities so she can place them in her forecast.
Your client coach is updating you on the progress within the organization. It’s going out to bid, but you’re confident because of the work you’ve done, the nice fit to your offering, the relationships you’ve built…on and on.. And you know that they know that you and your company can be trusted to help.
You pretty much know how long the process will take. Yeah, you make a forecast adjustment here and there as you go along, but you’re feeling good about it. Way to go. Good work.
Then, uh oh, the time comes and passes for the RFP to be released. There’s been a delay that lingers and lingers and lingers. The opportunity is going to roll over well into the next year, if it happens at all.
Your forecast for the year is shot. <<wah wah>
Oh, you had a couple of other opportunities following a similar pattern…and they were delayed, too.
Not much comfort in this, but welcome to government sales.
You’ve done everything you were supposed to do. You had a well-researched lead. You developed relationships. You listened carefully. You understood what they wanted. They knew you understood. You had a good client coach. You accomplished your information objectives. (Yeah, I can’t help but repeat those things). And, you may close the deal, but nowhere close to when you thought you would.
I’d like to be able to give you guidance about how to avoid this, but I can’t. This stuff happens…a lot, in government sales.
It’s tough, real tough, to forecast a government sale. It has been and will continue to be.
There’s only one answer, one answer only. Build a bigger pipeline. <<tumpets>>
You’re probably thinking. So, that’s it? Afraid so. The only way to counter the unpredictability of government sales closings is to have enough in your pipeline that you can weather the storm of missing forecast on an account by having other ones replacing it.
Many years ago, I worked for a company where the VP of Sales liked to have Friday afternoon meetings where he would go around the table and challenge everyone on their forecasted accounts item by item. The meeting was long and painful. When he got to me, he would say, Wimberly, how much are you going to close next month? He didn’t challenge me on my accounts. We didn’t discuss them. He just wanted a dollar amount to add to his forecast.
He had learned over time that I always hit the number I gave him…OK, most of the time. Now, it may not have been the accounts on the forecast…but I had enough in my pipeline that when one thing fell through, something else I was working on would come through. (Building the pipeline was…and is…my specialty.)
Later, I was his boss…and the roles were reversed. I never knew precisely what he would close, but I knew he would hit his number, especially at the end of the year during Tuna Time, as he would call it. Check out the Tuna Time episode and hear the story of a fellow who closed little through the year, but he was working, working, working to make sure that when Tuna Time came…the time when the military was spending end of the year money…he would be there reeling in the deals.
Want to hit your government sales forecast? Cast a wide net and build a strong, reliable pipeline that will bail you out when you need it. Um, not to mention the fact that, in the long haul, will make you a top government sales performer.
Sounds simple, but a lot of people don’t do it. They’re working a few nice deals and devote all attention to those few things while not building the pipeline. It’s tempting and everyone does it at some point. Don’t let it be your M-O. Keep building.
Thanks. We have lots of pipeline building guidance in our podcast, our blog posts at govselling-dot-com, in the book Seven Myths of Selling to the Government, and in our consulting practice. By the way, the free one-hour session offer is still on. Reach out to Rick@govselling-dot-com or info@govserlling-dot-com and we’ll send you a calendar link for scheduling. Thanks for listening. Our downloads are constantly growing, and we appreciate it,