To be Successful in Government Contract Pursuits, You Need to Map the Pain
Surely we've convinced you by now that one of the most important things you can do to win a government contract is understand the pain!
Government folks are like us all; they like shiny, new things that help them do their work. Yet, unlike those of us in the private sector, they can't sneak in a shiny-new-thing purchase just because they want it. It's not their money, and no one in government can make a purchase without someone else signing off. No one! Plus, money is usually pretty tight in the government with lots of people wanting to spend the same dollars.
Let's face it. Government usually doesn't buy anything unless some thing or some body is hurting (and then often, they still don't buy). Some type of pain usually has to exist to get the government moving on a purchase.
One of the good things about selling to government is that the govies usually are pretty open about sharing their pain. They have lots of meetings about their problems, many open to the public. They know their job is to fix things, and in order to do that, they've got to win support both internally and often externally before they can buy things to help. They know that there's often a public process they need to follow. So, they talk openly about the types of things they want, strike that, need to buy. That's good for you. It helps you gather intelligence about their pain.
We think the best way to truly understand the pain and how you can position yourself to help solve is by Pain Mapping. Our ideas about Pain Mapping are inspired by Keith Eades who wrote a book called The New Solution Selling. He talks a lot about what he calls a "pain chain". That's a way of identifying the people, up and down the stream, and their pain points. Since no one in government can make a buy by themselves, the government purchasing stream is full of twists and turns, and sometimes has dangerous waters.
To navigate these waters (and create your Pain Map), you first have to build, what Eades calls, a "key players list". It's what it sounds like it is - a list of people who have significant influence over a purchase. It could be anyone, not necessarily just the people with the largest offices. Since you've done the other things we coach, you have sufficient relationships and skills to be able to ask around to find out who those key players are and their roles in this particular opportunity.
With the basic info in place, you'll need to dig deeper. Find out why the individual key players are experiencing pain, what worries them about this particular painful problem, and why might they be afraid if the pain doesn't go away. In other words, what really motivates them? (Do not underestimate the power of motivators in the government space.)
Here's the fun part: start connecting the dots between the pain being felt by the individual members of your key players list. One may be experiencing the pain for one reason, and another may be experiencing pain because of something else. You can usually count on that. You know how to make the connections because you've been exploring the key players' motivations, right?
Truly understanding how problems and pain are interrelated will give you excellent insight into how to approach the sale, and complete the final step in your Pain Mapping: developing your Key Player Strategy. It's what it sounds like it is. Because of your Pain Map, you can create your strategy with a good understanding of how to approach your key players. You'll know who they are, what motivates them, and how to push their hot buttons. You're well on your way to make a sale, assuming you genuinely have a good product or service that will help relieve the pain.
See, that wasn't all that painful.
We did a Myths of Selling to Government podcast episode, called Mapping Pain to Win Government Contracts in mid-2021. It could be a good refresher for you. In fact, you may want to browse our other episode titles to get other nifty tips on selling to government.