More reasons than ever -- and ideas to match -- to make the most of the final few weeks.
Most years, everyone marketing to the federal government has quite enough motivation to market to close the business before September 30th. Fiscal year-end always drives a surge of purchasing as the feds try to spend their budgets.
Two more forces are motivating federal buyers right now: legislators might well not pass the FY2013 budget until after the new Congress is sworn in. And around that same time, sequestration could well slash their budgets ten percent or more.
Okay, so now what? Here are three ideas that could make the difference between fail and sale.
1. Ask For The Business -- New and Reorder
One company I know has received a reorder each winter for the last several years for thousands of dollars worth of a mission critical product. This year, spring came and went. Nobody thought to do anything when the usual order didn't arrive. Now, with just weeks to go in the fiscal year, they're scrambling to find anyone who knows anything about their product, who orders it, and if there's even money in the budget for a reorder. It didn't have to be that way!
- Even if your federal buyer purchases just once a year, stay in touch all year long. People change assignments, move, and retire, but you need to keep the orders flowing.
- Always ask how they're doing with your product or service. Even if they don't need more, check in with them on customer satisfaction. What could you be doing better? Find out about and address concerns before they become problems…or barriers to reorder.
- Ask for the business -- find out if their use rate has changed and verify their forecast reorder date. When is a good time to get back in touch?
- Call on your marginal accounts -- the ones who don't buy that often. Often the company that gets the order is simply the one who called.
- Drive sales with year-end offers to your government customers through telemarketing or emails. Got a GSA Schedule? Be sure to check the provisions of the Price Reductions Clause to make sure you don't accidentally trigger system-wide discounts you didn't expect.
2. Ask for Referrals
Your best federal customers not only want to help you stay in business to serve them…they also want to help their buddies. Asking for referrals lets them do both. Afraid of sounding like you're begging? Here are some examples of easy ways to ask for their help. If your customer likes you as much as you think, they'll probably offer to make the introduction:
- Who do you know who would value the kind of outstanding service we've provided you?
- Who else do you know who would really value our products?
- Who do you know in (specify another department within your target agency) who might need what we do?
3. Refresh Your Online Profiles
Get found! While people do business with people they know and like, this is also the time of year when buyers with money will do a fast search for sources. Make sure people find the most current information about your products and services, NAICS Codes (a critical search criterion) set-asides, contract vehicles, and pricing! Outdated information leaves you vulnerable to competitors.
Review and update all your online profiles to ensure that your published data is consistent across portals including:
- Federal government (including GSA Advantage, System for Acquisition Management (SAM), Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification, and federal agency supplier portals)
- Small Business Administration's Dynamic Small Business Search: To do this, first complete your SAM registration . If you are classified as a small business under the SBA’s size standards, you'll be offered a link to the SBA’s Supplemental page. There, you may enter details about your company that will appear in SBA's Dynamic Small Business Search.
- Private sector small and minority certifications like Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and National Minority Suppliers' Development Council (NMSDC)
- Prime contractor portals
- Social media (especially LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook)
- Industry association member profiles
© 2012 — Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.