You’ve unquestionably heard some of the complaints out there about selling technology to the public sector. Comments like, “We were about to close the deal but the customer put it out to public bid,” or, “My main contact moved to another agency," or, better yet, "This security review just killed my deal," are common among the ranks of even the best public sector salespeople.
It's no mystery that professionals targeting this lucrative market regularly navigate a growing list of deal-stalling challenges like these. It's been that way for a long, long time... So, to ensure history doesn't continue to repeat itself in these unique sales cycles, technology companies need to shed some uncomfortable light on their gaffes from time to time. With that said, let's explore two mistakes that public sector salespeople make when working through some of the hurdles they encounter every day. By the way, these two are by no means the most atrocious mistakes ever made in the history of public sector sales. They are here to kick off a series of exploratory posts following the same theme. Here we go...
Treating the public sector like the private sector
According to a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, public sector employees are more educated, deal with more abrupt leadership turnover, and are older than their corporate counterparts. Many of them work in multiple roles simultaneously within their agencies and operate in sensitive procurement, budget, and IT security conditions. Despite these peculiarities, many technology companies stumble into public sector organizations invoking generic sales tactics and uninspiring value propositions only to learn that prospects do not respond well to them. Why? On top of the extra restrictions on time and resources, public sector buyers are constantly flooded by information from companies fighting for their cut of a massive market that spends over $200 billion per year on technology in the U.S. and over $430 billion per year globally. So, unless well-meaning companies can differentiate themselves enough to break through the noise competitors are drumming up, they will not likely earn the buyer's trust, time, or influence.
To start setting yourself apart, ensure that you can clearly communicate how your solutions address the public agency's mission and, if possible, the unique directive of the specific department you're targeting. Since these are public entities, you can access this type of information fairly easily. Here is an example of the Bureau of Reclamation's mission, for instance. How would your solutions help fulfill this agency's mission? As you carefully consider the buyer's responsibilities through the lens of their agency's mission, you can better formulate a tailored value proposition and approach that will increase your chances of winning your prospect's time, trust, and influence.
Responding blindly to RFPs
Public sector intelligence platforms are now collecting and delivering more bid opportunities to companies than ever before. As a result, many sales, capture, business development, operations, marketing, legal, and proposal professionals are overwhelmed by requests to vet and respond to more opportunities than they can realistically handle. Fortunately, the market has added a growing number of proposal automation tools to streamline response production and alleviate some of the pain resulting from sheer volume. But, despite growing access to these bid intelligence and automation tools, too many hopeful responding organizations drain hours upon hours of precious time and hard-earned cash on low probability opportunities, only to learn they shouldn’t be responding at all. Too often, companies approach RFPs like a high-stakes lottery instead of as strategic opportunities.
This happens more than it needs to.
If companies want win rates to accelerate for these bid opportunities, they need to enact a qualify-first approach and not solely focus on increasing response volume. By spending a few moments to take an honest capabilities assessment against an RFP’s requirements, companies will save hours of potentially wasted response time and only invest in opportunities that have the best winning odds. Check out Patri’s platform to assess your odds of winning new RFPs and start informing your bid/no bid process.
Stay tuned for a future post that will dive into two (more) mistakes that public sector technology salespeople make.