No doubt about it, you're at an advantage if you are first in the race to win a government contract. You're positioned to explore, identify needs, create a strong value proposition and build relationships. Of course, this assume that you can solve their problem.
But, what if you can’t be there first? Do you give up? No! An advantage for your competition for a government contract doesn't necessarily mean a win for "them". It’s just an advantage. Yes, you’ll take an advantage every time…but you won’t always get it.
I've seen it work both ways. One, when I had to fight from behind, and won. Two, when I thought I had a government contract sewed up, only to have a competitor swoop in and win the contract. Fortunately, I've seen situation "one" more often.
Here are five come-from-behind tactics. Warning, they only work if an government request for proposal has NOT been issued. You’re not going to have access to some of the info you’ll need to catch up after it’s been published, and the RFP procurement rules kick in.
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'll need to find out 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.
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 to the Myths of Selling Government podcast episode, "9 Pieces of Info You Need to Win Government Contracts". Follow the link or search for it on your favorite podcast platform.
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.
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.
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. They don’t mind disagreeing with a prospect…and are willing to tailor their approach to the prospect. You can get the white paper on qualities of top performers in winning government contracts. You can get through the govselling-dot-com website under the Resources tab.
You CAN come from behind, using many of the tactics you’ve learned to get in front of a deal and win it. Following the 5 tips we’ve provided will give you an extra strong shot at winning a good government contract.