Although it’s been over ten years since Maggie and I launched The American Small Business Coalition, we frequently receive calls, emails and snail mail based on the premise we sell to government agencies. We just had one the other day from a company trying to sell us ‘market intelligence to help us win more contracts with federal agencies.’ Mind you, it’s not like either of us is in Witness Protection and I don’t believe anything on our website, LinkedIn or Twitter profiles suggests we have ever been or are currently interested in selling to Uncle Sam, yet they still come.
To this day, one of my pet peeves is someone trying to sell me when they don’t know me or my company, and have very obviously not made any effort to do so.
I mean seriously, how hard can it be for a sales rep to ‘Google’ me or look me up on LinkedIn? Having been a telemarketer long before the advent of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a host of similar web-based resources, I don’t see any excuse for companies not being prepared by having a basic process for mining and leveraging that information to better qualify their marketing and sales activities. The volume of freely available and organized information floating around the Internet is astounding. Additionally, it’s not difficult to find pockets of information specific to your demographic(s) to aide in targeting prospects and vetting opportunities. Think of the number and diversity of groups on LinkedIn for example. Want a reason that goes to the bottom line of a company’s reputation and revenues? Agitating prospects with unqualified touches and wasting their time (and yours) costs you opportunities, time and money.
Compared to many other marketplaces, federal contractors have fewer excuses for not being able to make smart decisions, as information about their prospects is even more abundant. Unfortunately, instead of being used to enhance decision-making and create efficiencies for identifying, pursuing or not pursuing direct and indirect opportunities, this plethora of information is little understood and a lot underutilized. While noting the obvious exceptions (agencies whose missions exempt them from public reporting requirements) most civilian and defense federal agencies produce massive amounts of fairly detailed and freely accessible information. With very little effort you can digitally or traditionally peruse information about an agency’s:
- goals (organizational and program/project-level);
- organizational structure;
- risk (programs at risk and mitigation);
- vendors and much more.
Now, assuming this information is, as I say, easily accessible and free, why not use it? Or, to approach it from a different angle, why reach out to a prospect without capturing and exploiting this information so you are more informed about an organization, its people and activities? Why make a bad first impression, take yourself out of contention and make it easier for your competition?
I can’t get my head around the number of companies who choose to operate in the dark, or at least with blinders on. For small federal contractors, much of the stigma perceived and espoused by some within the agencies and prime contractor organizations is due to a basic lack of preparation. That’s part of the uphill battle many small companies face when trying to achieve traction. I wish Jason Miller could find a copy of the Government Leader article ‘Vendor, Vidi, Vici: How to make pitches from industry work for you‘ that he penned back in 2006. It really drove home the point about being prepared and not wasting opportunities when trying to engage decision-makers and influencers at federal agencies.
During a recent Principals, Owners and Chief Executives (POCx) Business Over Breakfast™ (moderated by our friend Matt Ramsey of Excivity), we discussed information related to cultivating and capturing opportunities, and the processes and tools for managing that information. We also discussed obstacles to that process and it turns out actual and perceived ‘complexity’ is a primary anchor that keeps the S.S. Let’s Get Stuff Done from ever reaching port! One example of actual complexity is companies who adopt the systems learned by a principal or key employee in their previous life with a large civilian or defense contractor. These sophisticated but very effective processes for minimizing risk and maximizing profit are geared to a longer development and capture cycle than can often be sustained by the average small federal contractor. Essentially, those processes don’t scale (not well at least) and these companies spend more time managing the steps to make the process work for them versus leveraging it to grow their business.
I say have a process but keep it simple. Leverage friends, colleagues and advisors to recommend the right resources to get this part of your house in order. There are lots of great individual professionals and organizations in the government contracting community that can train, implement and even manage a solid business development and capture program for your company. Even if you’re more ‘down the road’ in doing business with Uncle Sam, better targeting can save you time and money.
The time gained from realized efficiencies could lead to more customers, more partners and more viable opportunities!
Guy Timberlake, The Chief Visionary