Government Charge Card is pleased to publish the following guest post by Eileen Kent. Eileen is the founder and President of Custom Keynotes, LLC, an organization focused on delivering “under the radar” sales opportunities for clients looking to do work with the government.

In the article below Eileen shares five action steps designed to help businesses increase federal sales performance.

 

 

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As we’ve seen so far in 2012, top federal contracting companies have taken a conservative approach on selling to the feds. This approach is demonstrated by companies laying off large parts of their sales teams, while seeking to keep proposal writers on staff. Ultimately, companies are adopting this approach with the expectation that sales will automatically generate from established contracting vehicles such as GSA schedules, IDIQs, BPAs and more.

Unfortunately, what many companies fail to see with this approach is that such actions will result in broken relationships and a decline in federal customer loyalty – which means that sales numbers will fall off. And when this happens, these companies will be back to square one.

New businesses looking to sell to the federal government have a great opportunity however, as this market shift creates a great opportunity to take advantage of unique sales opportunities that other companies are missing out on.

Below are five action steps such companies can easily implement to generate positive results.

Action #1 – Perform a competitive analysis:

The first step of developing a federal action plan is to see what competitors are up to in terms of federal contracts. Businesses must also get to know the “under the radar” winners out there. The government has some free websites to perform these searches.

Action #2 – Focus sales efforts on agencies:

Based on the intelligence uncovered on competitors, businesses can easily frame out where contracts are won. Businesses can also use this information to get in front of the right prospects to show them the best values and solutions to their challenges.

Action #3 – Become embedded at the agency level:

While contracting officers handle the procurement process, it’s the end user Program and Project managers who have to live with the results of the project. Therefore, they are very risk adverse in terms of using a new vendor.

In order to offset this, it becomes extremely important to get in front of these end users to gain trust at events such as trade shows, trade associations, training and webinar programs as a subject matter expert, and more.

This practical approach on exchanges with the industry is encouraged by the government under the FAR 15.201.

Another point to mention is that businesses need to focus their selling efforts to the government in their own back yard where competition is much smaller. Only 20% of the budget is spent in Washington D.C. – and the rest is spent in the field. Bases and agencies are politically motivated to buy from local vendors first, which clears a path for companies looking to do business with the government to sell in terms of speed and location.

#4 – Understand the preferred method of buying products/services:

In order to avoid the public bidding process, contracting officers typically use contracting vehicles such as GSA schedules, BPAs, IDIQs and other mechanisms to limit competition. For a new company looking to sell to the government, find out the preferred methods of contracting in the area. If a business doesn’t have a contracting vehicle, then find out who is on a particular contract and consider partnering with those companies as a subcontractor. In the government, they call these “compe-ti-mates.”

#5 – Follow the rules and make them look good:

No one wants to do business with a “hammerhead.” Hammerheads are business executives who want to beat up the contracting team for not choosing them as the winner. Instead, be a “helping hand” to express a desire to follow the rules whether a business wins or loses. This approach will pay off in the long run as government agencies will ask for business over and over again.