General Customer Service And Professionalism
We cannot stress enough the importance of professionalism especially when it comes to customer service.
Sales is a game of relationships.
Government employees are people just like you who want to be treated with the value and respect that you would expect from a business. Thats why sales reps who combine a professional image with quality service have better luck when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. Professional customer service helps build trust while also meeting the needs of your customers. A win-win for both.
So, there it is. Our quick-hit list of need-to-know basics before starting a career in federal sales.
Did we give you everything you need to know about selling to the government?
Definitely, not. But we hope we gave you a starting point and the ability to accept that job offer with limited fear! Keep on the lookout for future blogs from us as we dive deeper into the subjects we talked about today.
See you then!
So You Want To Sell Into Federal
There is a funny-but-too-true joke in federal software salesyou want to be the third VP of federal sales. The first VP educates the management team and builds the necessary infrastructure, the second VP educates the market and builds sales pipeline, and the third VP closes the deals and gets paid.
This joke seems to hit close to home to many successful VPs of Federal, especially those that have decades of experience. Many have seen this in a growing company theyve worked at, or theyve seen it happen with friends.
I havent been a VP of federal sales in my career, but I help Insight-backed companies enter and grow in the public sector, and I recruit and work with an outstanding group of VPs of Federal across many Insight-backed companies. Heres the top five tips Ive learned from them:
1. Federal is a Team Sport
CEOs and Chief Revenue Officers sometimes tell me that they just want to put an account executive focused on the federal market for a year and see how it goes. I tell them thats often a recipe for frustrationon both sides. Management can get frustrated with little or no revenue, and the account executive doesnt make any money. The CEO and CRO arent sure if the lack of progress is due to 1) poor performance from the account executive, 2) lack of product fit with the market, or 3) bad luck.
In summary: there must be buy-in from the whole team to provide a real chance for success in this market.
2. Recruit experienced people
5. The power of focus
Government Officials Are Resistant To Adopt New Technologies
This challenge is often a misperception about government officials. Technology is used to make the lives of citizens better. The first step when improving government operations with technology should be to develop a clear understanding of area where the technology will provide a real benefit to its user. For example, the product or service you are developing may help a city engineer or a city manager work more efficiently, which makes that employee more valuable to the government and to the public.
Today, you will find that many government agencies have technical individuals who have authority to make purchasing decisions. They will be the key personalities who are interested in learning about your solution. Approaching these people as their ally is a great way to cultivate a positive relationship with them. By providing an optimal, easy-to-understand solution for their key problems, you can win their support for your technology.
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Four Stages Of Closing The Government
SeamlessDocs saw a huge opportunity for its business to grow and thrive by selling to governments. But one of the major obstacles to getting off the ground in the B2G space was that there werent a whole lot of precedents for what they were doing. They had a lot of questions, but not many answers. The company took a big risk by focusing on government sales. They set out to sell the dream, and they got there through trial and error. What they learned redefined their business, and they were able to create a scalable, repeatable process for B2G sales that continues to drive growth for the company today.
According To Evalueserve 61% Of Companies Strongly Agree That They Have Benefited From Market Intelligence
In the B2G industry, it is even more critical than the typical industry.
Much of government business runs on knowing when contracts are available, who companies have contracted with previously, and what they’re looking for. There are many different subscription-based sources intended to help B2G businesses gather market intelligence. Both Bloomberg Government and GovWinIQ have built their business success around spotlighting opportunities for government contractors in local, state, and federal government. Having digital tools that provide crucial market intelligence will save time and provide essential information.
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Government Contracting Is Not A Secret Its Just A Process
In todays video I will introduce you the GovCon sales process and key terms such as business development and capture.
ABOUT the GovCon Chamber
This content is brought to you by the GovCon Chamber of Commerce, the only organization dedicated to the success of all small businesses in the federal space, with members from Guam to the U.S. Virgin Islands and every single state in between.
Each year, roughly $125 billion dollars is awarded to small businesses as prime contractors. Our vision is to double that number by helping small businesses truly understand the process for success.
ABOUT our Sponsor
My name is Neil McDonnell and Ive been where you are now. Ive been a small business owner for 20 years, building two successful firms selling in the federal market.
Ive built relationships with small and large firms as a subcontractor. Ive won prime contracts with defense and civilian agencies.
Ive done things right and Ive gotten things wrong. The one thing missing though, for me then and you now, is an easy-to-follow process that will lead to predictable success.
Thats my commitment to you Ill provide the process. If you accept responsibility and dont blame others, youll find you have the control to change your future.
SALES RESPONSE TYPES
When selling to the federal government, there are two response types: Bids and Proposals.
Ptacs Across The Country Were Surveyed As To Their Top Tips For Selling To State And Local Governments Here Is What Their Procurement Experts Recommend:
Do your research. Determine to which agency or agencies you want to sell, visit their website and find out how they do their purchasing. Do they have a purchasing department, or can each department do its own purchasing? Are there certifications or preference designations you should pursue ? Do they use DUNS numbers, NAICS or NIGP codes? There is a huge variance in purchasing practices among states, and even among counties or cities within the same state. Learn how your target market operates.
Create a one page Capability Statement which lists your capabilities, tailored to match the mission of the agency you are targeting. It should also include information such as your DUNS number, CAGE code, NAICS codes and any certifications your business holds if your target agency uses such data, as well as the size of your business and a few pictures of what you do. Keep the language simple and straightforward and be specific about what you do. NEVER show too many capabilities. Make a separate capability statement for each of your specialties. If you provide both plumbing and carpentry services, then have one capability statement for each of those. Keep it simple and to the point.
More about Procurement Technical Assistance Centers
Assistance topics include :
- Determining Suitability for Contracting
- Securing Necessary Registrations
- SDB, 8, HUBzone and other certifications
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Are You Interested In Selling To The Government Through A Gsa Schedule
Now that you have reviewed the appropriate steps to do business with the government, you have a better understanding of how you can get involved in government contracting. We understand that while this blog may have helped you envision your plan for selling to the government, you may still be left with several questions like: whats the process to get a GSA Schedule? How long does it take to get a GSA Schedule? What are my other options to sell to the government?
We are here to help you answer all those questions and any other concerns you may have about becoming a government contractor. If you have general questions about next steps, or need help with getting on a GSA Schedule, please feel free to reach out to one of our consultants today.
About Bradley Wyatt
Bradley Wyatt is a Lead Account Manager for Winvales Public Sector Partner Program where he currently manages a diverse portfolio of Information Technology, Hardware, Software, and Services Channel Distribution Partner Accounts to accelerate their sales within the Public Sector. Bradley is a native of Fredericksburg, Virginia and a graduate from James Madison University with his Bachelors of Science in Public Policy and Administration.
3951 Westerre Parkway, Suite 250Richmond, VA 23233
Scaling Your Sales Pipeline Up
Sometimes customers won’t come out and tell you “Hey, I’m price insensitive, please charge me 20 times as much.” They can often demonstrate it through behavior, though. For example, let’s say you hypothetically wanted to get people to talk to you about their auditing requirements. You could put Call Us copy on your pricing page. Many of your customers will correctly read that to mean “We have Enterprise service available and it is, as you would expect, expensive.” Where else can you collect that lead, without requring ongoing involvement from the founding team?
Have you considered asking for it in your application? For example, just drop a setting in the Account Settings menu. “Auditing: turn on”. If someone clicks it, display a message saying “Your plan level doesn’t include auditing but we’ll be in touch. Click here if you don’t want to hear from us.” If they don’t click that link, fire yourself an email saying “Bob Smith was interested in: Auditing.” Then follow up with Bob personally. You just turned 5 minutes of engineer time into the start of a repeatable pipeline for getting six-figure deals. Good on you.
Still another method: You’ve got a dashboard with everyone who signed up in the last day on it, right? If someone with an email address ending with e.g. boeing.com signs up, make sure they get a hand-written letter from the founder or project manager offering to talk about their concerns.
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Understanding How The Federal Culture Works And Operates
In order to fully understand the federal culture, you need to understand how the government works. We recommend taking a quick look back at Government 101. You may remember, the Government is a system of checks and balances, made up of three branches, and designed to ensure that no single entity has too much power.
A VERY quick review:
The Executive Branch, headed by the President, is responsible for enforcing the laws written by Congress.
The Legislative Branch, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate , has the power to make laws.
The Judicial Branch is made up of the Supreme Court, and many other smaller courts their job is to interpret the laws.
Simple enough, right?
The Fallacy Of Certainty
One customer once commented that if we cant estimate correctly, we are apparently not good enough at our job. He said this in a room with four highly skilled developers, two senior analysts, and one business developer that all tried to make the case from their experience that accurate estimates are impossible for complex work. This customer had zero experience with software development.
This is a prime example of optimism bias, or more precisely the Dunnig-Kruger effect, that I wrote about recently. This effect has been frequently replicated in research and states that the less experienced people are at something, the more likely they are to overestimate their ability to have an informed opinion about it. Or more succinctly the less you know, the more certain you are.
Most people and this includes developers believe on some level that software development is fundamentally predictable. If you would spend enough time nailing down the details upfront, no changes will occur during the process as all scope and their technical implementations are known. Think about it. Only if software development is predictable, can you actually accurately predict the budget, schedule, and scope of what will be delivered.
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Subcontracting: Getting Your Foot In The Door
Teaming and subcontracting can be effective methods for getting started as a government contractor and gaining experience in the government market.
Teaming allows your company to join forces with a company that offers complementary products and services, to offer government buyers a more attractive, robust solution. Subcontracting allows your company to build experience by working for Prime Contractors that have done the leg work in establishing the contract and agency relationships.
Just as government agencies are encouraged to meet annual set-aside goals for contracting to various types of small businesses, large contractors that hold a GSA Schedule Contract are also required to develop a subcontracting plan that establishes goals for working with small businesses. GSA maintains a Subcontracting Directory, , to assist small businesses in finding subcontracting opportunities with large GSA Schedule Contract holders. This directory lists companies and industries by location, as well as the subcontracting point of contact and company specific subcontracting goals.
GSAs eLibrary site can also be used to identify potential teaming and subcontracting partners. Once you identify the appropriate GSA Schedule categories and Special Item Numbers that best fits your offerings, you can view a list of companies that already offer those products or services under the SIN.
How Local Governments Buy Software From Startups
In total, I gathered proposals or action items from the board meeting notes of eight transit agencies in the US. One thing is clear: selling to local government is filled with nuances. Below are some observations from the different Remix contract proposals and board notes:
Is the length of sales cycle really shortening? To purchase software, transit agencies use either informal , formal or sole-source procurements. Formal procurements are dependent on the maximum small purchase thresholds set by state or local law.
In Remixs case, transit agencies are awarding sole source or non-competitive procurements. Typically, the public sector awards sole source procurements when only one known supplier can fulfill agency requirements or business needs and these deals are typically rationalized by a sense of urgency to get the software up and running. Such procurements are allowed only in certain circumstances: at one agency, sole source procurement expenditures totaled just 8.6% of all procurements.While sole source contracts are said to be faster in nature, the proposals offer some hints as to what the sales cycle really looks like for startups. A look at the Rochester Public Transit action item breaks the process down something like this:
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Advice : Just Do It Show By Example
Although the above might help to explain to a customer why an Agile approach is the best approach to software development, it might not convince them as first-hand experience will do. Just doing some sprints with a customer as the product owner will hopefully show them where the complexities of software development really lie, and that change is always going to happen.
Supply Digital Services Through The Digital Marketplace
The Digital Marketplace lets you provide people, technology and user research services for digital projects in the public sector.
You can apply to provide different services through different framework agreements. Framework agreements usually last for a maximum of 4 years.
If your applications successful, you can sell goods and services on the Digital Marketplace.
You may be invited to put yourself forward for public sector work, but theres no guarantee youll get work.
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Know What Youre Selling
Of course, in order to sell something, you must understand your product. Learn as much as you can about the technical aspects.
If youre not technologically minded, thats okay! Most likely, you will also have access to software engineers within your company. These are the really smart people that understand how your technology really works from the inside out and they also have a vested interest in helping you sell their technology.
These folks will often help you with the technical sale with the end user.
You should also understand your technology from a licensing perspective. This ensures youre selling to the customer the proper configuration enabling them to be successful. Know the difference between Perpetual Licenses and Subscription Licenses and the different types of users associated with licensing.
Selling To Thensw Government
Resources to help your small business acquire the knowledge and skills to tender for NSW Government contracts and local government opportunities
Selling goods and services to the NSW Government and councils can be an important growth opportunity for small businesses. The NSW Government spends about $40 billion each year on the procurement of goods, services and construction.
It can be challenging, however, for a business to qualify as a government supplier, identify suitable tender opportunities and navigate the procurement process.
Becoming a supplier to government was the making of building and construction company, BYGroup
The NSW Government wants to source more of the goods and services it purchases each year from NSW small businesses and has introduced new policies to achieve this. The Governments Small and Medium Enterprise and Regional Procurement Policy, for example, allows Government agencies to directly procure goods and services from an SME or regional business up to the value of $150,000.
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