Dif­fer­ence be­tween pub­lic and pri­vate-sec­tor sales

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Front Page - WRIT­TEN BY KEITH PARKER

Land­ing the fed­eral govern­ment as a client is worth more than just the value of the con­tract. It can be a pow­er­ful ref­er­ence, sig­nalling to po­ten­tial cus­tomers that your prod­uct or ser­vice can solve the chal­lenges of, and suc­cess­fully work within, a large and com­plex environment.

There are two key stages in­volved in sell­ing to govern­ment, and each re­lies on a dif­fer­ent ap­proach and skill set.


The same sales tech­niques that work in the pri­vate sec­tor, such as con­nect­ing and build­ing good re­la­tion­ships, can also gen­er­ate leads in the pub­lic sec­tor. The chal­lenge is once you have con­vinced your client to move for­ward, they need to fig­ure out how to make it hap­pen.

One of the best ways to pre­pare for this stage is to learn how the govern­ment buys your prod­ucts or ser­vices. Con­sult the pro­cure­ment al­lo­ca­tion di­rec­tory at pad.con­ to find the buyer for your spe­cific com­mod­ity type. Ask about ex­ist­ing con­tract ve­hi­cles, source lists, cur­rent or up­com­ing con­tracts, and gen­er­ally how a client might pro­ceed to pur­chase your good or ser­vice. You can use this in­for­ma­tion to help your govern­ment client work with their pro­cure­ment depart­ment to move for­ward. Also be pre­pared to pro­vide your client with de­tailed in­for­ma­tion, such as spec­i­fi­ca­tions and com­pany in­for­ma­tion, as a part of the pre-re­quest-for-pro­pos­als process.

You can also find other pub­lic-sec­tor op­por­tu­ni­ties at


The ma­jor dif­fer­ence when sell­ing to the pub­lic sec­tor is the for­mal so­lic­i­ta­tion process used to close the sale. In the pri­vate sec­tor, any num­ber of clos­ing tech­niques can be ef­fec­tive. In the pub­lic sec­tor, there is usu­ally only one way of clos­ing the sale: sub­mit­ting a com­pli­ant and highly rated pro­posal.

Suc­cess of­ten boils down to fol­low­ing the RFP in­struc­tions closely. An­swers to the RFP re­quire­ments must be di­rect, con­cise, on topic and re­spond to what is be­ing asked. Sim­i­lar ques­tions can be asked dozens of dif­fer­ent ways, each ne­ces­si­tat­ing a dif­fer­ent an­swer.

To help eval­u­a­tors re­view your bid, pre­pare a ta­ble con­tain­ing, at min­i­mum, a col­umn list­ing each re­quire­ment and a cor­re­spond­ing col­umn con­tain­ing a cross-ref­er­ence to the an­swer in the bid. With the grid set up, de­velop a strat­egy for com­ply­ing with or max­i­miz­ing points on each re­quire­ment.

For tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions, de­scribe how your prod­uct or ser­vice meets each re­quire­ment in a de­tailed and highly de­scrip­tive man­ner. To prove your ca­pa­bil­ity, in­clude a brochure, web print­out or screen­shot that re­in­forces your state­ments.

Fol­low the same model for per­son­nel or com­pany re­quire­ments, with a re­sumé or project ref­er­ences serv­ing as the typ­i­cal proof. Be sure to tai­lor re­sumés and write­ups by us­ing ter­mi­nol­ogy from the RFP, and un­der­score how the ex­pe­ri­ence cited to is rel­e­vant to the pro­posed project.

In your ap­proach or plan, give your client the con­fi­dence your plan will re­sult in a suc­cess­ful out­come and will ad­dress the full scope of the project by pay­ing close at­ten­tion to the state­ment of work and the spec­i­fi­ca­tions. While you should de­scribe your method­olo­gies, you will need to fit your stan­dard ap­proach into the ap­proach out­lined in the RFP.

Even in an era of pub­lic-sec­tor belt-tight­en­ing, pa­tience and a healthy re­spect for the process can lead busi­nesses to suc­cess in win­ning govern­ment con­tracts.

Keith Parker is man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of The­P­ro­posal Cen­tre.

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