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  • rickwimberly1

Understanding Relationships Is The Key In Selling To Government

The fact is that relationships drive government procurement decisions. Rare is the time when you’ll have an existing relationship with someone who influences a government buy on something you can provide. So, it's essential to build those relationships.

Government procurement influencers look for trust, first and foremost. They can’t afford to take a risk on someone (individual or company) who hasn’t proven their trustworthiness.

As you might expect, the amount of trust between two parties has a major impact on the level of relationship commitment and involvement. Trust is central to commitment, but it’s also a concept that stands on its own. 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.

What Focusing on Commitment and Involvement Yields

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. Your approach cannot be coercive. Acquiescence, in our case, doesn’t stem from abusive power. 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 want it to continue. This is the “right” kind of acquiescence that stems from positive relationship bonds.

Benefit #2: Lower Propensity to Leave. In this case, “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 in the front yard. It is about a decision not to buy or continue a partnership. As you might expect, research shows buyers are less likely to seek another source, and conversely more likely to hang around and spend money, when there is a strong relationship with commitment and trust. Nowhere is this more true than in government.

Benefit #3: Better Cooperation: Research also shows that greater relationship commitment enhances cooperation and coordination. Cooperation is needed to achieve virtually any desired result. When a spirit of cooperation has been sown and cultivated, the fruit is a true collaborative partnership, with both parties pursuing the means to achieve a set goal.

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 a study Government Selling Solutions conducted on traits of top performing government salespeople, we found that willingness to disagree with prospects, and say no, was a common trait found among top performers. (Reach out to me at and I’ll send you a copy of the white paper on the study.)

When there is strong relationship commitment and trust between parties, 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. Besides, you’ll find that many government decision-makers are crusty types. They appreciate candor, even disagreements, more than “suck up sales types”.

There's much more to be said on this topic, which you'll find in our podcast "Myths of Selling to Government" and our book, "Seven Myths of Selling to Government", available from Amazon.

If you'd like to talk about relationships in government sales, or any other government selling topic, schedule some time on my calendar at here.

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