4 Stages of Closing a Government Contract
As you probably already know, selling to the government is harder than selling to end users. They have processes and procedures to follow before committing a single dime of the taxpayers' money.
On your end, that process involves a multi-stage approach; start with...
1. Define your buyer persona
Just like in any enterprise sale, you'll want to first define the buyer persona. There are a few caveats when we're talking about someone from the government, though. You should answer the following questions:
- Who is my buyer? Is he a male/female in his 40s? Or how old he/she is?
- Is he/she a politician or a professional who will stay in his/her position after the government changes? (after elections)
- Which points from your offering will make him look good in the eyes of the public?
- If he/she is a politician, which points from your offering will help him/her advance in his/her party?
- What are his/her other interests you can tap into to make a sale?
- Is the buyer an expert so you need to prepare tech materials for him/her or a "numbers guy/gal" and would rather appreciate the spreadsheet?
By answering these questions, you will be able to define the person you need to speak to in order to push your agenda forward, and ultimately make a sale.
Or you may need to speak with more than one individual — which is all based on the solution you're selling and the way the local government is structured.
2. Phone calls work better than emails
This doesn't mean you shouldn't use email, it's just that you won't be able to rely solely on electronic communication. Have your spreadsheets, animations, graphics, documents and other files ready — and send some of them. You must, however, follow-up with a phone call.
Many local politicians are swamped with emails from both citizens and other companies looking to sell something to the city. In your phone call, you can remind them about that email and sum things up for them. Then, ask for a personal meeting where you can present your plan, using the previously prepared PowerPoint and other presentation material like videos to impress the potential client.
3. First talk about the problem
You got your meeting, now what?
You'll want to first highlight the problem the city has and, if possible, have some numbers to back your claims. These could also be things that are not necessarily problematic but could be improved with the product you're offering.
Then, talk about your solution to the problem and some estimates if you can provide them. Technical details should come last and in most cases - they should be presented on demand. You can use some fancy tech features but, again, make sure to focus on benefits.
Keep in mind that a majority of local government employees are not that tech-savvy, so fine-tune your vocabulary and use only the terms they will understand — if we're talking about a tech-based solution.
And, as we've noted above, make sure your PowerPoint rocks.
4. Mind the gap but stay on top of it
There could be a (legal) gap between the government saying "yes" to your proposal and eventually making the procurement. You'll have to mind that gap but you will also want to stay on top of it.
Procurement is complicated and takes time. In many cities, there are all sorts of different checks and balances that regulate the procurement process, and they differ from government to government. You need to find out the specific procurement process for the government or agency you're dealing with, and follow it to the letter each time. The more you know, the more control you have over the entire sales process.
Nevertheless, you will also want to check in with your contact(s) how things are progressing and if there is anything you could do to help them out to speed things up. Try not to be too pushy, but helpful.
Governments are, by nature, skeptical of new solutions and entities. Many of them don't like to be first to anything. Sell them on benefits and efficiencies your solution will bring. Use social proof in your sales process to help alleviate their concerns. Show them how others benefited and how they can do the same. And ultimately, try being patient — these things take time.
The problem, however, could be in another question - what to sell. And that's what Sustainable Avenue is all about, offering hundred (or so) projects that have been tested or fully implemented in municipalities all around the world. If you could just copy one of those projects, you could make a big splash. So make sure to sign-up for Sustainable Avenue and start scoring those government contracts — with neatly highlighted action points on the site helping you along the way.