3 Types of Folks Involved in Government Contracting
We’ve been writing a good bit (and talking in our podcast at Govsellingmyths.com) about relationships that you’ll need to in order to become a successful government contractor...reminding you once again, that it’s relationships that build government markets whether they be federal government contracts, state and local, or education (SLED). (Ask any government contracts consult; they'll tell you the same. If not, find someone else.)
So, who are these folks you’re trying to use to build your government contracts sales pipeline? Well, there are basically three types of government buyers – procurers, influencers, and end users.
First, the procurers - the folks often referred to as contracting officers or procurement specialists. They’re charged with managing the purchasing process, regardless of the type of government contract. They serve as filters, often gatekeepers…and some folks find them really annoying. But, these are the experts who really know how the government procures things and awards government contacts. They’re the ones in charge of the buying and government contracting…even though they may not ever see the product, and sometimes, they won’t even understand what it is.
Despite their importance, most of your efforts to accelerate your pipeline selling efforts will not be focused here. These folks can be a partner in your sale…or an absolute nightmarish obstacle. Sometimes it depends on how you approach them. Kissing up doesn’t work. It can downright annoy them. But, showing a genuine concern for helping them do their job will help.
How do you do that? First, understand their pain. They have the tough job of getting the best value for the organization while following strict rules. They have to satisfy end users, even though they may not fully understand them. Heck, they may not even know them. And, they have to deal with the fact that end-users often don’t understand contracting officers either.
Next, during your sales pipeline stages, you need to understand their procurement rules and regulations, at least have a working understanding of them. Now, these rules can be extensive…and can be overwhelming. But, generally, they’re really not that complicated (even though there may be a lot of them). And, they’re generally in plain sight. The White House has a whole office as the keeper and educator of government contracting rules. You can find them on the White House website here. (We also know plenty of lawyers and government contracting consultants who can help you understand the rules.)
Finally, remember to constantly demonstrate true value and reliability. While procurers have lots of rules, what they really want is true value. They want stuff they procure to produce success. Otherwise, they have to buy again, do twice as much work the second time and deal with agitated end users.
Now, the influencers. Influencers are the program managers and key decision-makers. Don’t let the term “influencer” mislead you. The word influencer may seem a bit light. Many carry considerable power over government contract decisions.
With this group, a first consideration is relieving the pain they’re experiencing. If you do not truly understand what it is, keep digging until you do. If you honestly can check the boxes that demonstrate you can help relieve the pain, then prove you’re easy to work with. Reinforce that you know the rules and will not cause headaches. Finally, hammer home you’re a safe bet. The more that influencers feel you won’t embarrass them down the road, the more likely you’ll get the contract. If you can’t help relieve their pain, move on!
Last, but certainly not least, the end users. These are the folks who are specialists in the job for which the government contract is being awarded (or “let” as some folks like to say). They may not have the broad strategic perspective of a program manager, but they know the details and inner workings of their world better than anyone. As you can imagine, selling messages with the end-users group to features and functions of your solution, but, I must add, only in a targeted fashion…. aimed at how these features will eliminate their pain.
Figure out where people are in the process. Understand what they need from you…and tailor your approach. The payoff: a loyal, long-term customer.