What do you do when you're coming from behind in a government sales opportunity? Face it, all of your efforts to identify and pursue a government contract early in the sales cycle are not going to be successful every time.
In this episode, host Rick Wimberly of Government Selling Solutions offers five come-from-behind tips after making the point that you can still win, even if your competition has a head start.
5 Tips to follow when you’re not first to the race for winning a government contract
We often talk about the need to be first to an opportunity. No, maybe preach is a better word. We preach it. You need to be first. Identifying an opportunity well before it goes to bid is the best way to win a government contract. Many of our episodes tout how to do that; they seem to be popular. The recent episode on using artificial intelligence to find out about a brewing opportunity quickly scored high in episode downloads. It’s episode 2-11 from June 28, 2022, Using Artificial Intelligence to Help You Get in Front of Government RFPs.
No doubt, the first one to establish relationships, identify pain and present strong value has the advantage.
But, what if you can’t be there first? Do you give up? Absolutely - positively - not. An advantage for the competition doesn’t necessarily mean a win. It’s just an advantage. Yes, you’ll take an advantage every time…but you won’t always get it. Trust me. I’ve been on both ends. One, where I was first and had a clear advantage, only to find someone came in right after me and wipe out my advantage. And, then, when I came in from behind and swooped the deal advantage from a competitor. That’s fun.
We’re going to give you five come-from-behind tactics today. But, warning, they only work if an RFP has NOT been issued. You’re not going to have access to some of the info you’ll need after it’s been published, and the RFP rules kick in. Besides, if you haven’t been there early enough to be engaged prior to the RFP being issued…even if you’re coming from behind…the chances of you winning the RFP are, well, pretty much nill.
So, you’re behind. Whatcha gonna do?
Number one. <<swoosh>>
Go in asking questions, not pitching. You’ll be tempted to automatically try to favorably compare your solution to the front-runner’s. Don’t do it. Instead, make it your mission to find out what the prospect really wants, and what pain they’re trying to relieve. You won’t likely know at this point why they like your competitor…or even whether they really do. You won’t know much about the relationship with the competitor…or even if, indeed, there really is one. They may like your competitor because they’re the only ones they’re familiar with. You just won’t know…so, don’t start assuming and selling based on assumptions that may not be correct at all. Ask questions.
That takes us to number two <<swoosh>>
Don’t lose sight of your information objectives. Even when you’re trying to come from behind…especially when you’re trying to come from behind…you still need to establish and accomplish your information objectives. Solving the riddles of these information objectives will tell you what you need to know to make a sale to the government, especially when you’re coming from behind.
Go back to the Myths of Selling Government podcast episode, 9 Pieces of Info You Need to Win Government contracts. It’s episode 23 from season one. Or go to the blog post on the govselling-dot-com website and review the 9 objectives suggested by Tony Lannom of Axiom Sales Kinetics.
Hint: you’ll want to find out: their current state…your commonalities with your prospect…who’ll be the evaluators…their evaluation history…alternatives they’re thinking about…their favorite alternatives…the current approach…decision criteria…and decision stages.
Number three <<swoosh>>
Acknowledge to the prospect that you realize they’re looking at other solutions. Tell them that you don’t know for sure if you can meet their needs, but that you have done so for similar other clients and that you’re wondering if you can for them, too. Ask them if they’d be willing to help you find out. They’ll likely say yes, and will appreciate the approach. If they say no, well, thank them…but don’t walk away. Ask them if they’ll take a look at a white paper you’ll send them that addresses how others have solved the same problem. Surely, you have such a white paper in your arsenal. If not, get one. Need some guidance? Contact us.
Number four <<swoosh>>
Be genuine and upfront, even candid. If you find you can’t meet one or some of the requirements, tell them so. Perhaps that particular requirement wasn’t so important to them after all. Maybe they’ll remove it. Or, maybe they’ll provide more insight that will help you find a way to meet the requirement. If you’ve done a good job engaging them, they may not want you to walk away anyway. And number five <<swoosh>>
Accept the fact that you’re fighting from behind, but be confident. Remember the qualities of top government sales performers we’ve talked about? Most of the qualities…or sales accelerators, as we like to call them…will help you come from behind. Top performers love to play the game…are consultative by nature…consider themselves entrepreneurs, regardless of their position in an organization. They listen well. Don’t mind disagreeing with a prospect…and are willing to tailor their approach to the prospect.
We have an informative white paper on qualities of top performers in government sales. You can get through the govselling-dot-com website. No charge. You can check out episodes 1-dash-25 and 1-dash-26 to find the 7 key qualities that make a top government salesperson. Or, check out the blog on the govselling-dot-com website.
But, remember this. You CAN come from behind, using many of the tactics you’ve learned to get in front of a deal and win it. And, let’s just say, you’re not successful coming from behind on a particular government sales opportunity. Following the 5 tips we’ve provided will give you a strong shot. (That is, if you’re still ahead of the RFP.) And, if you still don’t win, chances are good that you will have established relationships and a strong reputation that will work to your advantage down the road.
Hey, you’re going to lose here and there. Make it a loss that came after the right effort at the right time. Don’t count thost blind RFPs you responded to as a loss. That’s not a loss. That’s an effort wasted your time on in the first place. Hardly a noble loss.
Thanks for listening. Our podcast has now exceeded four-thousand downloads, and we appreciate it.