Almost all sales gurus teach it. Go to the top! Think again if you think that strategy works when trying to build your government sales pipeline. Man, I could tell some stories. (In fact, I do in my podcast Myths of Selling to Government.)
I could tell a story about sitting across the desk from a senior official in the White House. (No, not quite that senior.)
I could tell about sitting on a couch with the head of the second largest Army in the world (drinking some kind of green concoction.)
I could tell about sitting at a Cabinet Secretary’s desk and writing him a handwritten note. (OK, I do a lot of sitting.)
But, what I can’t tell you is how those sit-downs won government contracts for me.
Think about this way: the person at the top just wants a problem solved. People don’t get to the top if they fret details that someone else should be worrying about. If someone down the line can come up with a different approach, product, or vendor, the boss will forget about that “great” meeting they had with you. (I’ll bet you used the word “great” when you told your boss about the meeting, a pet peeve for another time). After all, the government boss just wanted the problem solved.
Don’t get me wrong. Talking with the government boss can help. It’s a great way to find out what problems she wants solved. Don’t waste your time practicing the best presentation you’ve ever given, knowing you’ll be dazzling and invincible. You’ll be neither. She doesn’t want to hear a long pitch. She may listen, but it will be off to the next thing as soon as she quickly exits. Instead, practice instead how you’re going to turn the meeting into a fact-finding session for yourself, after you've made a few succinct points and ask the practiced questions. The boss will appreciate it.
Use the information from your boss meeting to get in front of others in the organization and convince them that you can help the organization solve a problem the boss wants solved. Of course, tell your boss and your colleagues about the meeting, but remind them it's only a start; you and your "team" have much more to do to win the government contract. (To learn about building your "team", which probably includes your boss, check out the episode of the podcast, "Accelerate Winning Government Contracts by Building Your Own Team")