It's bound to happen. A new boss or owner joins your company and doesn't really understand selling into local, state and federal government markets. They've been told the sales cycles are long, but when it comes down to it, they have a hard time grasping just how long and unpredictable they are. What do you do?
In this episode of Myths of Selling to Government, Rick Wimberly of Government Selling Solutions tells the story of a change at the top of one of his clients from someone who was patient and understood that government sales is different to one who didn't. In this episode, you'll get specific advice about what to do when you find yourself in this situation.
When Your Boss Doesn’t Understand Government Sales
Here’s the story of one of our government sales clients. Several years ago, It hadn’t been going well for them. So, they hired us and we revamped their approach, based on some of the lessons and techniques we talk about in our podcast, blog posts, social media and our book. We told them that they would need to spend money, but to expect no new sales…not a one…in the first year and beyond.
Lo and behold, almost exactly a year later hiring us, the first large order came in from our efforts. Yes, there was a bit of luck involved. It often doesn’t happen so fast. (And, yes, a year is fast in the gov space). But, it sure got us off to a good start (and made me look good).
The President was delighted. He came from an industry where sales cycles are short, but he knew government is different and that he needed help from folks who really know the how’s and why’s of the government marketplace. He gave us plenty of space and support and, over the years, the numbers have been good…very good, so much so that he pitched our services to his counterparts elsewhere in the country.
Then, the President retired. Enter, new guy. He came from the same industry as the first, and had been much more of a hands-on sales and general manager. He was accustomed to watching sales numbers on an almost daily basis, and when he didn’t see quick progress, he started looking around to see what needed to be done. (I hear he was very good at it.)
Now, in this new job, a good bit of his revenue was to come from the ever-slow government space, where he had no real experience. Yeah, the outgoing President put in a good word for us, and coached the new guy on the snail’s pace of sales he was about to experience. We both warned him against relying too heavily on daily or weekly sales pipeline reports. In fact, I told him he wouldn’t get them.
We talked about getting government prospects to come to us…explained how important listening is in the government space…told him thanks for talking to the governor at a fundraiser, but that it probably wouldn’t move any of our prospects to the next stage. We talked about our information objectives…and lots of other stuff…like pricing, although he still came to us several times and suggested we give a prospect a lower price than quoted to get them to close. He was thinking that he had just given us the key to the kingdom. He hadn’t. You know that if you’ve done job right, and shown your prospect how you can relieve their pain, they’re just as anxious to close as you are. A price slash is not going to move them any faster. In fact, it could slow them down…and put you in hot water.
No, boss, sorry.
You may think you know where this story is going. But, you might be surprised.
Despite us frustrating him and him frustrating us, we haven’t been fired and haven’t quit. He hasn’t either. I sat in on his Board meeting a few weeks ago…and, it’s clear his Board is quite pleased with his work. Ours, too.
Now, the new President doesn’t always understand exactly how we do it…not yet…but in his two years on the job, he’s become more and more supportive and helpful every day. We have a great relationship.
How did we go from his unbridled desire to manage us closely to where we are today? It’s simple. We’ve been very candid with him about expectations…and he with us. We’ve listened to him. He’s listened to us. We’re both learning, in fact he listens to the podcast to get a better idea of how government works and how we think.
But, here’s the clincher: With our help, he’s hitting his numbers and his Board is pleased. In fact, he’s already made his number for the year, with still, almost half a year to go.
Luck? I say not.
If you haven’t already, you’ll likely work for someone who doesn’t understand government sales. When you do, make it your mission to build your pipeline, using what you know about government sales, including our pipeline lessons. Have enough in your pipeline so that when one thing falls off…and, trust me, it will, you’ll have other things to take its place.
And, give the folks who don’t understand it yet a break. Government sales different in many ways…but, so much alike in others, like the need to use integrity at every turn, build relationships, establish credibility, understand pain, listen very carefully, ask questions. Then, use that information to build a strong, well-articulated value proposition. And, if you want your boss and your colleagues to understand government sales better, why not suggest they listen to the podcast. We won’t embarrass you…often.
Meantime, thank you for listening. We’re headed toward 5,000 downloads at a rapid clip. and please, pass along your questions or comments to me to rick-at-govselling-dot-com.