9 Things You Must Know to Win Government Contracts
Winning government contracts can be tricky business. You can think you are progressing quite nicely in your government sales efforts, only to lose, then be surprised that you missed an important piece of information. That's why we say you need Information Objectives.
Tony Lannom of Axiom Sales Kinetics helped me understand this when he was in charge of commercial sales, me government sales, for a communications company. He likes to say, “It’s often not what we don’t know that hurts us, but what we don’t know that we don’t know.” I had to think about that for a moment the first time I heard it, but he's absolutely right. That's particularly true in government markets where the sales cycles are sooooooo long.
Current State: What's the current state, what do they want to happen and why?
Commonalities: People like to buy from like minded people, and organizations like to buy from other organizations with common cultures and missions. We're not talking about trying to establish a relationship with someone by talking about what you see in their office. Ya know, the "ice breaker" technique. Let others do that. Instead, Tony says go in with a mindset of being a true consultant who will help them make the best decision, close gaps in their organization and have a meaningful impact on the organization. Then, you can build long-standing relationships.
Evaluators: Who's going to make the decision? In government, it's rare, perhaps never, that a buying decision will be made by one person. So, who are folks who will really influence the decision?
Evaluator Decision History: You need to know how they've evaluated your type of product and service before.
Alternatives: What else are the Evaluators considering? The answer is not only your competitors, but what are other projects that may compete for time and resources.
Favorite Alternative: There is always one.
Current Approach: Find out what they're doing today, using which products and services. Do they like their support? What are they paying? Why do they want to change?
Decision Criteria: What standards are the various Evaluators using to make their decisions? The answer can vary from Evaluator-to-Evaluator.
Decision Stages: At what point are events to occur that will influence their decisions? This is a big one, and note that the answers to the sales pipeline stages question can change throughout the process. It comes down to really understanding the process they'll use. I say you really need to understand it better than they do.
This is a lot to know. Tony says that's why you need a template to regularly check what you know against what you need to know. Use these for yourself, or if you're supervising and training government sales people, make sure your team knows these things. Asking these questions, in my opinion, is more important for sales management than asking how many calls they made.
With a long sales cycle, you must stay on top of things. Otherwise, unpleasant surprises are ahead. A template with help you avoid the surprises.
Now, you'll want to fine tune these 9 objectives for winning government contracts...but, don't stray too far. These work!