The Federal Government is a treasure trove of opportunities for a salesperson. It is the Fortune One. According to ITDASHBOARD.GOV, Information Technology spending in the 2021 Fiscal Budget year is projected to be $90.9 Billion.
This guide will help direct a Federal Sales Team on how to navigate the Federal Market and position their pipeline to secure a lucrative portion of the government’s IT spending.
Leadership, planning and knowledge are the keys to ensure you are successful in building this market vertical.
5 Steps To Sell To The Federal Government
Step 1: Register Your Business
Before you can even begin pursuing business with the Federal Government, you need to have the proper registrations of your business. Here are a few places to register:
- Register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or tax number for your business.
- Identify your appropriate NAICS codes.
- Identify your appropriate FSC codes.
- Obtain a CAGE code.
- Register your business with SAM and get your UEI
- If applicable, register and pursue opportunities under the SBA
- Identify appropriate socioeconomic statuses. Examples include Economically Disadvantaged Woman-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB), Veteran-owned Small Business (VOSB), Alaskan Native Corporations, HUBZone small business and more.
Step 2: Develop Your Federal Sales Strategy
Poor planning leads to poor results. While there is great potential to generate revenue from a Federal Sales focus, it does not come without planning for it. A pursuit of the Federal Market begins by answering these questions of yourself and your organization:
- What does the company want to achieve with the Federal market?
- What are the company’s expectations? (Revenue, Timeframe, Commitment, Resources, etc.)
- Do you have the correct product(s) or service(s) aligned to the Federal market?
- Do you have the right people to execute your goals and objectives to be successful?
- How will this impact other investments of the business?
This journey takes time and commitment from multiple business units including Leadership, Marketing, Product, Sales, and Engineering. So you must be prepared to invest the appropriate amount of time and resources; otherwise, you won’t cultivate the returns you seek.
Once you decide to pursue the Federal Market, you need to develop your strategy. An effective Federal Sales Strategy presents a detailed understanding of the following areas:
- What problem does my solution solve?
- Which Federal agencies have a demonstrated need for this solution?
- What is the contracting process for these agencies? (i.e. what contract vehicles do they source from, what are their purchasing thresholds, etc.)
- What certifications, if any, do they require?
- What past performance aligns to these potential customers?
Additionally, for each opportunity you will need to manage the expectations of your internal stakeholders. These are the common expectations you will need to manage:
- Costs to enter the market – Can I get the company to fund the requirements?
- Time to ROI – How long will it take to recuperate the costs of building this business?
- Revenue generation: pipeline building and closing – How long will it take before we see revenue being closed?
- Personnel – Who has to be involved? How much time is involved?
- Marketing – What is the cost and time to develop strategy and collateral?
- Engineering – Does the product need enhancements for the Federal market?
- Channel – Do we have the correct partners?
Finally, this plan and the expectation manage all leads to obtaining four critical resources on your journey to securing revenue from the Federal Government:
Step 3: Find and Build Relationships
Success in the Federal Market requires finding quality leads and developing meaningful relationships to drive business. If you make it a point to know your Federal Decision Makers and Buyers, you will also start to know more of their challenges and needs so when the time comes for your solution you know how to position it in the way that helps them the most.
Two points are critical in developing meaningful relationships:
- Get in front of the right people
- Understand their unique speech and requirements
To get in front of the right people, you need to determine who is the right person. In Federal Sales, relationships with specific departments that would leverage your solution, the contracting office and the Government Purchase Card (GPC) holders can each be a valuable resource into how that particular agency and division functions and the role you can serve to support them. Once you have identified the people you need to meet, then you need to organize a meeting and start working on the relationship. Meetings can be coordinated through direct request to the office or the individual if their contact information is available online or it can happen by attending industry days or speed networking events that they may attend on behalf of their agency. You may also be able to see mutual acquaintances through LinkedIn and request an introduction from them. There are 8 methods to generate the Federal Sales leads you need:
- Show or event
- Call into company
- Marketing campaign
- Other online tool or capability
- Customer referral
Now that you have introduced yourself to the right people, you need to understand their specific problems and requirements. This includes an understanding of their unique speech. Government leverages acronyms any chance they get and understanding the acronyms is key to deciphering their problems and requirements. Their acronyms and abbreviations can be complex, below are a few resources to help explain Federal Speak:
- A to Z – US Federal Government Agencies
- DoD Dictionary of Military & Associated Terms
- GovSpeak: A Guide to U.S. Government Acronyms & Abbreviations powered by: USCSanDiego
- The United States Government Manual: Commonly Used Agency Acronyms
You also need to familiarize yourself with the following terms, ranks and ratings and their associated acronyms:
- Federal GS ratings and what they mean (GS-4, GS-6, GS-9,…)
- All the DoD ranks and what they mean (E-2, Cpl, Capt, CPT, CAPT, O-5…)
- Federally approved Contract Vehicles (SEWP, GSA, ITES, …)
- Federal Funding terms (UFR, IDIQ, FFP, COGO,…)
- Product Certification terms (FIPS, APL, NIAP, etc.)
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Step 4: Uncover Federal Sales Opportunities
Now that you have an understanding of your positioning and the time and resources needed, you can start uncovering opportunities to pursue. Federal agencies use several methods to articulate their intent to spend budgets. Examples include:
- beta.SAM.gov which lists specific contracting opportunities and impending industry days across agencies
- GSA Advantage is an online shopping and ordering service created within the GSA organization. Its mission is to provide a streamlined, efficient purchasing portal for federal agencies to acquire the goods and services needed.
- ITDASHBOARD.GOV provides visibility into Agencies Major investments.
- Specific agency websites will include the agency’s Strategic Plan which often includes spending projections and socioeconomic set-aside programs
- Agency websites may also include a preview of coming solicitations and a schedule of industry days
- Agency small business office sites may also include opportunities set aside for small businesses
- Bloomberg Government or other similar sites can also be leveraged to find opportunities that will be available for recompete
- Federal reseller partners are able to search on their “Contract Vehicle” websites for opportunities that you may pursue with their support.
Step 5: Respond With Your Solution
Now you understand the customer, how your product relates to their unique needs and upcoming opportunities that you can compete. The next step is to offer your solution by responding to the Request for Proposal (RFP) and/or Request for Quote (RFQ). Depending on the contract vehicle you may need to find the support of a reseller and collaborate with them on the proposal or you may be able to bid directly. Either way, you (or someone on your team) needs to craft compelling copy to showcase your solution as the best and most affordable solution for the Government's needs. When developing a proposal it is imperative that you:
- Fully understand the requirements and deadlines and, if you don't, you ask questions during the appropriate question period.
- Keep the narrative to the point and address each of the Government's needs clearly.
- Articulate relevant past performance for each of the problem areas that you plan to solve for with your solution.
- Provide a competitive price for your solution.
- Submit your proposal according to the specifications listed in the RFP/RFQ.
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