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Building Trust in Government Contracting

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

To be successful in government contracting, you’re going to need to give up on the belief that you

can successfully insert yourself into the government procurement process just by getting involved in the government procurement game. Yes, you need to get good at the process of government contracting, but only after you’ve gotten good at something else - building relationships in government.

Despite the bureaucracy surrounding government procurement, you might be surprised to learn that building relationships with government buyers is quite like building other relationships.

It begins with trust. Trust is the willingness to rely on someone in whom one has confidence. Simply said. Easily said; not so simple to make happen.

As you might expect, the amount of trust between two parties has a major impact on the level of relationship commitment and involvement, particularly important in local, state, and federal business development. Trust and commitment are two sides of the same coin; increase your level of relationship commitment and trust, and you’ve got yourself a long-term customer you can’t beat off with a stick.

Research by Robert Morgan and Shelby Hunt has shown there are some pretty nifty benefits to making concerted efforts at building relationship commitment and trust.

  1. Benefit #1: Greater “Acquiescence.” Acquiescence is not a pretty term as we hard-charging, independent types usually don’t like the idea of “acquiescing’ to anything. And, we have made it pretty clear in earlier posts and in our podcast, Gov Selling Myths that our approach should not be coercive in nature. However, it’s an accurate description of one of the relationship benefits. Here’s how Morgan and Hunt define the term, "Acquiescence……the degree to which a relationship partner accepts or adheres to another’s specific requests or policies".Now, acquiescence, in our case, doesn’t stem from abusive power. Acquiescence through intimidation or coercion is a hallmark of dysfunction. However, in healthy relationships, we frequently find ourselves bowing to the other party’s wishes (Umm, “Yes, dear.”). We do so because we value the relationship and desire for it to continue. This is the “right” kind of acquiescence that stems from positive relationship bonds.

  2. Benefit #2: Lower Propensity to Leave. “Propensity to leave” is not about showing up at your house to find your clothes, your collection of vinyl records and your flat-screen TV in a pile on the front yard. It is about a decision not to buy or continue a partnership. The research shows, as you might expect, buyers are less likely to seek another source, and conversely more likely to hang around and spend money, when there is a strong relationship commitment and trust. B

  3. Benefit #3: Better Cooperation. The research shows that greater relationship commitment enhances cooperation and coordination. Cooperation is needed to achieve virtually any desired result. Cooperation is really a “higher order” outcome, more than mere acquiescence. With acquiescence, only the most basic level of participation will occur—just enough interaction to get by. When a spirit of cooperation has been sown and cultivated, the fruit is a true collaborative partnership, with both of you pursuing the means to achieve a set goal.

  4. Benefit #4: More Productive Conflict. Productive conflict? Do we really want conflict from prospects, customers and channel partners? The answer is a resounding “YES!” In any relationship, there will be disagreements and differing viewpoints. The goal should not be to eliminate these divergent opinions, but instead harness and leverage them. In fact, in a study Lorin and I oversaw on traits of top performing government salespeople, we found that willingness to disagree with prospects, and say no, was a trait found among top performers. Our web site, will take you to the paper.

When there is strong relationship commitment and trust, conflict can produce ideas and innovations that would have never arisen otherwise. The benefit of working through difficult times will have lasting positive effects. In fact, the time to start worrying the most is not when conflict arises, but when no one cares enough about the relationship to raise a fuss.

All-important strategies for building relationship commitment and trust in government procurement will be covered in our next posts.

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