You only have until midnight on September 30th each year to close your Federal Sales opportunities. After October 1, you will have to wait until the new budget is passed and money begins flowing down to your customer, regardless of where you were in your sales process only a day earlier. This is the biggest frustration of Federal Sales, you are always working against the clock. So how do you ensure your Federal Sales Cycle stays on track and meets the September 30th deadline and you get paid? We have outlined 4 practices to help you better understand your customer, their requirements and ultimately close more deals each fiscal year (FY).
4 Practices To Keep Your Federal Sales Cycle In Line With The Fiscal Year
1. Seek First To Understand
Stephen Covey's 5th Habit of Highly Successful People is to "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." This habit is also true for highly successful Federal salespeople. Understanding what your customer is saying and asking for is paramount to close your opportunities. If the customer is asking for a specific feature to help them solve their problem and you do not understand either, you are at a major disadvantage either your competition will win the business because they do understand the requirement and can fulfill it or you will find out later in the sales cycle that you need to make changes and won't be able to hit your September 30th deadline. Either way, you have wasted your time and company resources tracking an opportunity that will never come to fruition.
When it comes to Federal Sales, it is imperative that you listen to understand your customer's:
To best develop your understanding of the customer's needs and requirements, you should ensure you understand:
- The meaning of all of the acronyms they use
- Where the requirements for this need were developed (Market Research, RFI, etc)
- What certifications they require
- What vehicles they can purchase from
- Is this a funded or unfunded request
If you gain an in-depth understanding of these things in your earliest conversations with the Federal customer, then you will be able to move most efficiently throughout the other phases of the Federal sales cycle and stay on track with your timeline.
2. Set The Right Expectations
While you need to understand your customer's needs and requirements you also need to clearly articulate how your solution uniquely meets their needs as well as your pricing model and implementation process. Your customer needs to translate this information to their contracting office to obtain funding and begin the acquisition process (RFI, RFQ, RFP). If your customer cannot articulate your value proposition and unique differentiators that information will not be relayed to contracting which means it could be left out of the RFQ or RFP and you are no longer at an advantage for submitting a bid against your competition. A Federal customer that does not advocate for your unique offerings can lead to increased competition and failure to win business you were qualified to earn. Unclear expectations can also lead to a lot of last minute work under the September 30th deadline to provide sole source justification, pricing negotiations and more to get your solution approved before funding vanishes.
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3. Follow The Government's Rules
Your Federal customer's contracting office may request:
- Specific information within a Statement of Work (SOW)
- Price quotes in a particular format
- Proof of certification or past performance
Whatever is requested, provide it exactly how it was requested. This could mean your SOW and quote need to be enclosed in a 1" binder and delivered by hand to the contracting office (this was an actual requirement I have seen before). While you may find the requirement outdated or redundant, it is still a requirement and an easy way for you to lose business simply by not following it.
4. Be Prepared For The Win
You may not have a lot of time from being notified of the win to providing necessary documents such as purchase orders, insurance proof, credit limits, etc. You may also need to provide all of this prior to the September 30th deadline as well, so ensuring you have your ducks in a row leading up to an award announcement will keep you on track with your Federal sales cycle.
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