It's easy to get wrapped up in the complexities of government procurement and selling to government. Yes, it can be complex. But, there are tricks of the trade that will make it easier for the government to do business with you, thus easier for you to win government contracts.
Rick Wimberly and his guest discuss some of these tricks on this episode of Myths of Selling to Government. OK, they're not really tricks; they are things that you should be doing anyway.
How to make it easy for the government to buy from you
Hello, and welcome back. If you’re new to us, check out a list of the previous episodes. There’s some good stuff in there. And, please, give us a review. Folks have let us know that they like the short length of our podcast…and how we get to the point quickly. So, I guess we’d better do that.
You want the government to buy from you? Then, you’d better make it easy for them to do it.
Different government entities have different ways they like to buy…whether local, state or federal. Most have preferences for contract preferences (or purchasing vehicles). On the federal side, they often fall into categories with names like: fixed-price, cost reimbursement, indefinite delivery and quantity, time and materials. There’s a lot of info on federal government contracts on the web and consultants who specialize in them. That’s not us, but we can point you to some good ones if you like; email rick-at-govselling-dot-com.
At the state and local level, you’ll find similar arrangements…but, you’ll also find more use of credit cards, purchase orders, blanket contracts covering a variety of things…or organizations. Purchasing co-ops, and more.
Yep, it can be a maze, sometimes tough to figure out. Or, is it really that tough? I say not. It’s easy. Go to the web first and do a keyword search, “How to do Business with the City of Nashville” or wherever. Just did the search, and there it was.
This will show you the official process, but behind almost every official process, there’s an unofficial process that you also need to know about to make it easier for them to do business with you. Learning about this process is tough? Or, is it really? Just ask.
Patrick Robinson ran public sector sales for cybersecurity for ATandT for years. I was talking with Pat the other day, and the topic came up about asking about the process. He told me the story of Steve ….
Pat told me that asking such questions gives the prospect respect. Besides, without the questions, you don’t get the answer. I like Pat. We’ll have him on more.
Back to the contracts. Let’s say you’re not on the contract, and can’t get on it in time…or don’t want to go through the hassle of getting on it? You may want to find someone who is on the preferred contract and who has similar solutions to offer, and see if they’ll partner with you. Yes, they’ll take a cut…and, yes, they may have an involved process for you to create a partnership, but you may find that they would really be willing to partner with…particularly if what you’re doing compliments what they’re doing. We’ll do an episode specifically on partnerships for government sales later.
Even with the contracting vehicle figured out, you’ve still got to build relationships, establish reliability, identify pain, accomplish information objectives and present strong value. And doing all of that is going to take work. But, imagine how much easier it will be for your prospect to do business with you once you’ve done those things.
Let’s start with relationships. It sure is easier to do business with someone (or an organization) that you know. I’ve been taking my cars to the same mechanic for, oh, I don’t know…at least twenty years. (My car is a 23 year old Jeep Wrangler, which I’ve been driving every day for over twenty years.) When the Jeep is ailing, I don’t shop around, and probably don’t even ask for a price. I just go to my guy, Eddie. Not only do I trust his work…and, trust him…we have a real relationship.
Eddie likes to explain everything that he does on your car…I mean everything…in great detail…and even likes to show you the bad parts he’s taken out. At first, I thought, I don’t have time for all of this; I just want my car fixed. But, over the years, my drop-offs and pick-ups have gotten longer and longer because, well, we enjoy each other’s company. It’s easy to do business with Eddie because of our relationship. Oh, he gets lots of business from our referrals.
Not to belabor the Eddie story, but next on the list is to establish reliability. It took a few months, but it became quite clear that Eddie did exactly what he said he would do when he said he would do it. Now, I don’t always like his answers, particularly on time involved…but, I’ll be patient because I can rely on Eddie. See, easy. You’ve got to do the same thing with your prospects. Show your reliability.
Then, you’ve got to identify the true pain your prospect is trying to get rid of…by the way, much easier to do once you’ve established a relationship and reliability. Think back to Patrick Robinson’s story about Steve. I betcha that the whiteboard diagram Steve did for Pat on his process included lots of info about where they were experiencing pain.
The same can be said for all of your information objectives. Remember those? Understanding those 9 things, and any others you may come up with, will, without a doubt, help you help them do business with you. Tony Lannom of Axiom Sales Kinetics gave us good examples of information objectives in episode 23 of season 1. Reminder, they are: Find out their current state…your commonalities with your prospect…Know who’ll be the evaluators…their evaluation history…alternatives they’re thinking about…their favorite alternatives…the current approach…decision criteria…and decision stages. Knowing these things themselves will make it much easier for the government to do business with you.
We could go on and on. I guess, in one way, everything we teach is ultimately about making it easier for the government to do business with you. There’s no one secret. Anyone who puts too much emphasis over one aspect, and ignores the others, is in for an unwelcome surprise. It’s a multi-faceted campaign with lots of elements. The elements are not that complicated (heck, we figured them out), but you’ve got to put lots of pieces into play. You can do it.
There, short and sweet. Thanks for listening, your response, and for using the Myths of Selling Government podcast as a springboard to new relationships. I’ve enjoyed connecting with so many of you…like Pat Robinson, who told us the Steve story. Thanks, Pat. Looking forward to our next chat.