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Four Steps To An OutSTANDing Federal New Year

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It’s October 1st — so happy Federal Fiscal New Year!

Here are the four steps I hope you’ll take to make this a truly outstanding year for you, your Federal team…and your Federal clients, too!

Step One — Stand Up!

Judy Bradt, Happy Federal New Year

Today, Celebrate! 

I’m serious. There’s research (link below)!

My sad secret: I find it hard to party. For years, I was always “GO GO GO GO, okay a win, done, what’s next?”

But no matter what I accomplished, I was feeling more and more drained. Nothing ever seemed to fill up the tank.

Then I discovered why. I’d missed a step!

Research shows that celebration gives us RESILIENCE for the tough days! We can — and must — celebrate what went well.

Celebration isn’t frivolous; it’s ESSENTIAL.

For all my skeptics and non-party-based life forms, the link to the research is here (and below this video)

Have some tough days in the Federal fiscal year that just finished? 

You’re not alone. In the past 12 months, we all faced incredible difficulties, and learned a ton.

What if you could turn back the clock to this time last year, and fill up your tank of resilience for the who-knew-what that lay ahead?

GovCon is a relationship game… and Federal sales is a team sport.

So, let’s get our team together and carve out time this week to celebrate two things: first, what you learned; THEN, what you earned, in the Federal fiscal year that just wrapped up.

Wanna bet that our new Federal year will dish up surprises and challenges you don’t expect?


After the year we just finished, the one thing we can know for sure that resilience is priceless… and comes in handy.

There are three other things I’m going to suggest for success, but right now, get ready to raise a glass of your favorite bubbly. And cheers!

Step Two — Stand Down

The Hot Wash

Your SECOND step to a great Federal new year is your “after-action review” or “hot wash.” (The first step is to CELEBRATE — see more about what on earth I’m talking about, and why, HERE)

What’s a hot wash?

One definition of a “hot wash” is a quick after-action rinse of a military weapon after firing, to remove grit and dirt. If it malfunctioned, figure out why, and get it ready for action at the next opportunity.

Another is an after-action review, especially of crisis management, emergency response, or other intense, high-stakes, activity: again, see what worked well and what needs attention for the next engagement, and capture the lessons learned to improve processes and outcomes.

So you can see why we want to do the same thing with your federal marketing and business development operations!

Who should do a federal hot wash?

Any company owner who’s facing (or looking for) big changes! That might include you, if you…

  • Want to grow, but have plateaued
  • Are growing fast, hitting a new curve, or a new trajectory of growing your company.
  • Face a make-or-break year, when you need to make something big happen.
  • Are approaching a critical transition, like graduating from 8(a), or outgrowing one or more of your size standards.
  • Have a new (or troubled) GSA Schedule or another contract vehicle where you need to drive task orders and wins.
  • Are starting or renewing a partnership, teaming arrangement or joint venture.

Why Should You Do A Hot Wash?

Well, how much did you spend developing federal sales in the last 12 months? A rough, rough estimate, combination of cash and sweat equity?

When I did a brief informal survey of companies in the federal market, and asked CEO’s what they spent on federal sales and business development  in 2019-2020, many said easily $100,000; others, $30,000; $40,000; $50,000. And that’s on top of what you paid people. That’s very typical. On average, GovCons spend anywhere from 30,000 to $233,000 in a 12 month period on sales and BD.

Now, what if, for just a moment, you were to consider your outlay on Federal sales as an investment, not just an expense?

You’d want to know what gave you a return on your investment… and what didn’t.

Time spent to gather our lessons learned represent the final, full return on our investment. If we don’t do that hot wash, we’re leaving money on the table.

It’s the first calm look at what went well, and how we want to do more of that.

We’ll notice what didn’t work as well as we hoped, and how it could be better.

And be honest about the stuff we’re just not going to do again.

How do you do a hot wash?

And who should be involved? And what do you cover? Do you need a facilitator?

So glad you asked!  Grab your complimentary Federal Sales Q4 Hot Wash Checklist today HERE.

Step Three — Stand Out!

Gratitude. It’s the most powerful, least expensive, and absolutely legal way to stand out costs you nothing: The thank you letter.

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them FEEL.
~ Maya Angelou

Your thank you letter becomes part of your Federal human’s permanent personnel file. Relationships with industry are an important part of their work! That contributes to their performance evaluations. It makes a difference when they’re up for promotion.

Promotions determine the calculation of their best three years of earnings. That affects their ending salary… and their retirement benefits. Right now, that might mean they can send their kids to college… or take the grandkids to Disney or travel to where they live.

Wonder what’s on your Federal buyer’s mind? These are the things that a whole lot of your Federal humans are thinking about when they come into work in the morning.  

And now you know how you can make a big difference for them: All that, from a simple thank you letter! Costs you virtually nothing…but its power is absolutely priceless.

Here are the steps:

  • Research. Find out who their managers are, and write a thank you note to acknowledge their savvy and smarts and effectiveness.


  • Reflect & Write.  Did your contracting officer or your Federal end user do a great job in your work together this past year? Write to their boss. Be specific. Say how and why their performance, savvy, generosity, and patience made a difference – not just for you, but for how well you were able to serve them and others in the organization. What expertise did they share? What did you learn from them that will help you do a better job?


  • Release: Here’s how to send it: On real paper…with your letterhead at the top. Sign it with blue ink and send two copies – one for their boss and one for their file. Get the right “snail mail” address, including the Mailstop. And put it in the mail.

If you want repeat business and an advocate behind closed doors in the evaluation committee, a strong past performance will get you a second look, but a thank you letter will guarantee they’ll never forget you.

Step Four — Stand Firm

This is a kind of fun theme:  only a GovCon insider would call up a government employee and say “Happy Federal Fiscal New Year” in early October!

“Stand Firm” is a variation on New Year’s resolutions: commit to completing a round of “new year’s calls” by the end of October.

Relax, Reconnect, “Re-Friend”

Call your long-time, one-time, and former, government clients and check in with them. 

That includes the people who told you, “No thanks.” 

That includes the people who were in the debriefings for the projects you lost. 

That includes marginal accounts – ones you’ve never quite been able to close a deal with.

Be relaxed and friendly. You’re not trying to sell anything. Find out what’s on their minds as they approach the newly-started fiscal year. Your attitude is to listen, catch up on what’s new with them.  

Don’t know what to say? Here are some easy ideas.

  • Start with gratitude. 

We talked about that in Step three, but I add it again here. There are never enough opportunities to give thanks! Maybe the thanks is just “…for staying connected over the past year…” or “…for always being someone I can talk to…” or “…for always knowing who I should talk to…” All good.

  • Listen to how they sound.

Ask how they’re doing, really truly. Listen for tone and feelings. I’ve noticed that just the tone of someone’s “hello” gives me a clue about whether they’re happy, stressed, or entirely forgot they agreed to talk to me and really wish they hadn’t picked up! But don’t make assumptions; be sure to then take that as a cue and ASK how they are.

  • Ease their pain. 

While the professional stress of the Federal fiscal year-end may be easing,  the personal stress at this time of year – October through December — is tough for a lot of people. It also opens up opportunities for easy casual personal conversation. What’s happening for them this fall? Got plans for the year – end holidays? Who or what resources or contacts do you have who could help them with what’s on their minds? Do they need training for their new puppy? A place to get some clothes altered to look good for the holidays? A kid-friendly event to get visiting family out of the house? Share.

  • Have a research conversation.

Ask your government contacts what sources they use to research vendors. Find out what social media they browse when they’re checking out someone new…or checking up on vendors they know. And what sources are their “go-to” places they’re on every day?

  • Dream a little.

Start a “wish list” conversation now. If you had a magic wand, what would an outstanding Federal new year look like for THEM? That becomes a story you can  revisit and keep adding to throughout the year…and it’s not only a conversational touchstone. That wish list can turn into a requirement that gets written with you in mind when the funds are available eight or nine months from now!

The Wrap: 

I wish you a truly outstanding Federal fiscal year. Now that you’ve gotten the first four steps done… grab my complimentary Q1 Launch Checklist HERE!

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