Now that we’ve entered the federal fourth quarter, government contractors often ask about the possibilities of capturing any potential end-of-year dollars. There may be an opportunity for 2022 dollars to be allocated in 2021 or there may be unspent budgets that must be spent before the fiscal year has concluded.
Before you focus your attention on end-of-year capture, refresh yourself on the federal sales cycle.
Federal marketers and business development professionals understand that selling to the government is not a short sales cycle. Selling to the government is an educational process, and the preparation often starts 12 to 18 months ahead of time. While you should always be front of mind, you also must plan to be there with exactly what they are looking for at the exact time they are looking for it.
However, there is still a possibility to win fourth quarter business at the last minute. If you are marketing in the fourth quarter with an expectation for a short sale, consider the following tips below.
IS YOUR COMPANY PREPARED FOR A TURNKEY SALE?
Early Birds Still Get Worms: First and foremost, the earlier you start, the better. If you wait until after Labor Day to start your end-of-year efforts, you’re too late. Instead of waiting until the last minute, July/August is the time to work with your sales, business development (BD) and marketing teams to touch base with current customers, prospect agencies or potential partners. Assess your government customer priorities both for this fiscal year, but also next to determine where procurement officers may allocate their end-of-year spending in order to develop your fourth quarter marketing and BD efforts.
Drive Your Vehicles: Lead your marketing with language stating which vehicles you are on upfront to make it easier for your customer.
At a Government Marketing University IDEATION call, one chief procurement officer stated, “If [an agency program office is] coming at me in the last quarter of the year especially because you have an unfunded requirement, or even an emergency buy, I’m going to lean towards existing contract vehicles. I’m going to look to things like the government-wide contracts, our strategically sourced contracts, or the GSA schedules, or other vehicles that make it easy for me to get it done quickly.” This means having your sales teams, contract shops and legal departments ready to go and on the same page.
Be Ready for 20 Questions: Ensure your marketing materials address last-minute needs and answer last-minute questions.
For a quick turnaround purchase, focus on their needs at the end of the buying process. The Content Marketing Review tells us that Q4 is not the time to educate your customers with lengthy white papers. Focus your efforts and resources on product demos and trials. Have your subject matter experts (SMEs) available and on-hand to answer any queries about your products and services and work with your sales team to create readily accessible FAQs in both public-facing and internal locations to answer immediate questions and keep the messaging consistent across your team.
Set-Asides Might Be on Your Side: Don’t assume end-of-year procurements can only be met by large, well-known vendors. Identify your status in marketing to both primes and agencies alike.
During end-of-year procurement, there is often a need for small business awards. Know if there is a portion carved out for small, woman-owned, or minority-owned businesses. Your status may be enticing to an agency or a prime contractor needing to fulfill requirements. As such, your marketing should quickly identify your status as an SBA, 8a, WOSB, minority-owned, or other, as appropriate. Highlight your niches and expertise that can help fulfill unmet needs and how you may differentiate from your competitors.
While it may be daunting to market specifically for those last-minute unspent requirements, it can provide both short- and long-term value. Plan accordingly, understand end-of-year procurement priorities, provide content that speaks specifically to their needs, highlight your status and ensure you have the right vehicles for easy acquisition.
Don’t forget, it’s also important for contractors to take time in this quarter to strategize and plan for the next fiscal year. Review contracts that may be coming up in the next 12-24 months to create your strategy for educating agencies on how your products and services can address their specific challenges. Gauge how current incumbents are performing and the level of customer satisfaction. Finally, keep a close eye on how end-of-year dollars are spent now to understand priorities for the next fiscal year.