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When Federal Buyers Confide Pain

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This is what opportunity sounds like. Are you listening?

This just in: a real life story of how a new vendor opened the door and started on the path to winning a new Federal buyer.

My client Amy* had done her research. She wanted to build on her commercial and state government past performance into Federal opportunities. We had decided to focus on building relationships in the Federal agency that represented her best prospects -- the Department of Veterans Affairs -- in her backyard, near Rhode Island. She started making call after call, first on the Small Business Specialists, and then on the contracting officers and end users that the research had identified in the medical centers near her. Three weeks later, she wrote:

"I just called the VISN 1 VA office and got to the (service) department staff manager, Emily*!   I asked if she could point me in the right direction of who I should speak with regarding (service).  Said I would love to work with the VA.   She was very, very nice.  I asked her if a company called (competitor who we found in the data) was their current vendor and she said yes and she hates them!!  Apparently the vendor can’t get reports finished on time. 

"I have her email address.  She gave me the name of the CO, Beth*.  I told her I’d try to get a demo of the new technology in front of Beth, and asked would she liked to be included, to which she replied yes emphatically!   I have left a message with Beth stating I would love to get a demo in front of her and Emily* to show how much better we could service them with our new technology versus the competitor's platform.  Competitor services the following hospitals in MA:  Boston (Jamaica Plains), Brocton, Bedford and West Roxbury!!  They also service two hospitals in CT that we can go back and find in the data.

"Competitor's current contract ends 5/17*!!  It’s great timing to get a shim in the door." 

The Federal buyer had such great pain that she jumped at the chance to spill her frustration to the first compassionate stranger who asked. It might look like Amy got a great opportunity to build a relationship on a first call. In fact, for that one conversation to happen, look at all the things Amy did right. It took more than a singleake a polite, well-informed inquiry for all that intelligence to land in her lap. Let's unpack this.

  1. Amy did her competitive analysis, so she knew which Federal agency and which region to focus on.
  2. That meant she sounded confident, even for three weeks when she didn't reach a single buyer.
  3. She called on Small Business Specialists (SBS) that her research had identified were likely to have helpful insight.
  4. She got feedback on her Capability Statement from the Small Business Specialist, and verified her choice of contacts in the Medical Centers.
  5. She picked out the names of the contracting officers who buy services like hers from the past contract data.
  6. She pulled the names of every one of her competitors doing business in the Medical Centers nearest her from the past contract data
  7. She considered the job titles of the people who typically make decisions about buying services like hers, and
  8. Went through the personnel directories of the individual Medical Centers to look for people who might be able to point her in the right direction.
  9. She had the right questions ready for each person she spoke with.
  10. She had a methodical plan and kept making calls consistently every week.
  11. When she reached the right buyer, she introduced herself as a new vendor, and asked politely to verify how the buyer felt things were going with their current vendor information.

Amy did her homework. She showed up polite, well-informed, and compassionate. She didn't ask for business right away. She asked about how things were going in the buyer's world. That simple, compassionate query opened the floodgates of intelligence. She didn't even have to invite the buyer to chat over coffee. To be fair, not every buyer is in so much pain that they'll dish to a perfect stranger. But Amy's experience is more common than you think. And it could happen to you. If you know what to do, what to say, and what to ask.

The Federal Sales Game gives all that to you. Put that together with a solid competitive analysis and focused Federal Sales Action Plan, and you could be a lot further down your path to...conversations that matter, and that open the door to understanding and trust. Amy's next opportunity with this buyer might be over a year away. But maybe not. By being patient, she's setting herself up to be top of mind for a small job, a tough job, or even to just be the go-to person who always knows where her buyer can find something, even if it's not something Amy does.

And you could be having this kind of success now. Isn't it time you did?

This is part of our ongoing series on A Matter of Trust: The Foundation of Federal Business.

* Names have been changed to protect people's privacy. "Amy" did the Summit Insight Lightning Launch service in January of 2016. If you'd like to talk with Amy, she's happy to share her experiences with you. Just contact Judy and ask for a referral introduction.

Judy Bradt, CEO of Summit Insight, gives Federal contractors the focus, skills and tools you need to transform your Federal business and achieve the sales and partnerships you've always wanted. It's easier than you ever imagined. Call her at (703) 627-1074 or visit www.summitinsight.com and find out more today!

Tue, 03/01/2016 - 6:20pm

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