PRIVATE -SECTOR IDEAS INSIDE THE BUREACRACY
Difference between public and private-sector sales
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.contractscanada.gc.ca 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 Merx.com.
RESPONDING TO OPPORTUNITIES
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.