Tap this proven GovCon secret to bring home more of the Federal contracts you deserve – and more profit, too.
Theory: Wins should get easier as Federal fiscal year end approaches on September 30th. Vendors want to sell; buyers want to spend.
Fact: If you’re scrambling around, pumping out proposals in response to RFPs you find online, for people you’ve never met, in agencies you’ve never worked in, you’re working 12 times harder than you need to.
And your odds of winning are in the single digits, at best. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Profile In Success: How to turn $10,000 into $1 million in less than 8 weeks.
Jennifer Rhodes, VP of Business Development at Tagence, had a small, $10,000 pilot project at the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon.
She finished with good results and, more importantly, a relationship and a follow-up conversation during which she asked, “Who else needs what we do?”
Her contact had heard about a need from another entity at DoD, someone who needed a records management system (like the one she just worked on) to comply with National Archives and Records Administration requirements.
That single question led to close to a million dollars of work.
Here’s how she did it.
- Before the follow-up conversation, Jennifer built what she calls a “soft capture deck”—a semi-generic presentation for an unspecified client.
- During the call, she kept asking questions to find out who the client really was and the point of contact.
- Next, she sent a few emails and made a few phone calls.
- Armed with the details she had gathered, she did a “drive by,” telling the buyer that she was going to be in the area… could she come in to talk?
The buyer said yes, and together they whiteboarded out the project, and put together the skeleton of what a proposal would look like.
Tagence delivered that project, continued to provide enhancements, and was able to modify the contract to add more work for that same fiscal year.
Nearly a million dollars in revenue came from asking the question, “Who else needs what we do?”
You should ask that question as well.
Also keep in mind that even if Federal buyers want to work with you, if they’re out of money and time you may notice they’re reluctant to start a conversation. Pay attention to that. Instead of ignoring the clue, or pushing past it, here’s how to turn what might feel like disappointment into opportunity:
Be grateful for the conversation: thank your contact for giving you clarity on their situation. Ask “when might be a good time to circle back with you?”
Then be optimistic and confident. Ask, “If this isn’t the right time for you, who do you know at your other locations or regions, or at your sister agencies, who might need what we offer and has money to spend? Have you heard any rumblings? If you were me, who would you be talking to?”
Believe me, buyers know who has money because peers talk to each other.
If you don’t ask that question, someone else reading this post might do it instead.
That’s because someone who’s already done business with you is 12 times more likely to buy from you again than someone who’s never heard of you.
I call that “The 12X Factor”. In the Federal arena, here’s why that happens.
As July arrives, Federal buyers are running short on time to spend their money but also need to get everything done right. Their agencies establish cutoff dates for purchasing weeks in advance of fiscal year-end. As those deadlines loom, they tend to be more comfortable with the vendors they know, like, and trust, whose performance is proven and who doesn’t make mistakes.
Incumbent vendors: You’ve got an advantage, but you have to work for it.
Here’s how to use the 12X factor to get into action—to become the go-to, trusted resource now and throughout the next fiscal year.
Step 1: Make Your “12X” Lists
As we get started: If you don’t have a Contact Relationship Management (CRM) system, you don’t need one to do this. The simple spreadsheet is your friend. If you do have a CRM, then this should help you get your money’s worth from that investment.
Now, look at the contracts – prime and sub – that you’ve won in the past two years.
Who – which individual Federal humans – have awarded contracts to you, worked with you every day, used your services or products, teamed with you, and helped you meet people, and leverage any small business certifications?
List them all. Then sort your contacts into four groups.
- End users
- Industry – Primes and partners
- Small Business Specialists
Our clients use our proprietary PALM – Players and Layers Methodology® to sort out who’s who in the account, and get in front of the right person with the right message at the right time. Now, you can too. Learn more
Step 2: Make Your “12X” Call Notes
Now that you know who you’ll talk to, what will you say?
12X Call Ideas:
- Look up their LinkedIn profile and online activity; what might be new with them since you talked to them last?
- Look in their forecast: what’s coming up that you might be able to help them with?
- What could you bring them that they might appreciate? An article? A link? Information about a conference?
- What else might be important to them right now? Something to save them time? Maybe a comparison matrix of vendors to support their market research and help justify creating a set-aside in which you can compete?
Need more ideas? Get my complimentary GovCon Personas Guide, which gives you insight into the roles and goals of those key contacts to help you build value, trust, and connection, in every call, voicemail, and conversation. Learn more
Step 3: Make Your “12X” Calls Count With Confidence
Play a professional voicemail game: Use the “double tap” approach.
Expect to leave voicemail more often than you’ll get someone on the phone right away. Have short notes at the ready to leave a concise voicemail. Include:
- Your name, company name, and, yes, phone number. Say it twice.
- Mention one “best value” about your company that’s important to the person you’re calling
- Say “Check your email for details.”
- Finish, “If I don’t hear back from you by DATE/TIME, I’ll call you back DATE/TIME”
- Send that follow-up email right after you leave the voicemail.
- Mark your calendar or call sheet with the name, day, and time you promised to call back.
Taking all these steps accomplishes a lot. You’ve reminded your prospect of who you are and why you’re valuable to them. The two promises you’ve made – to send an email and to call back – create two opportunities to build trust by demonstrating that you do what you say you’re going to do. By sending that email right after you leave the voicemail, you have already delivered on one promise. And you set yourself up to build more trust by making that note in your calendar for the right time to make the follow up call you promised.
Gosh, they answered! What will you say?
- Start with gratitude: Thank them for the opportunity to serve them.
- Ask, “Is this a good time to talk?” If not, then just take a moment to find another time that works, and send an evite for then.
- Catch up on what’s new with both of you
- Ask whether they’ve got any small project you can help them with right now. “I’m not just looking for the big projects. Nothing’s too small for me. What’s an annoying project that never gets done? The one that always seems to roll over to the next year? Let me take that one off your hands.”
- Keep your head in the game! Even when they say “no”, silently tell yourself, “…not now…” .
- What if they say they don’t need you? Ask for referrals and introductions. If you’re on the phone with this contact, chances are that they already know, like, and trust you. If they say no (and even if they don’t!), ask, “Who would you call If you were me? Who else would you call?”
- Ask what else would make their life easier right now. You don’t do everything, but you might know someone else, or something else, that can help.
- Close with thanks, again, and ask when and how would be a good time to circle back.
- Keep your promises: follow up when and how you said you would.
Bonus Tip 1: What to do when your Federal contact has moved
One of the biggest complaints I hear from Federal contractors is, “These people move all the time. It’s hopeless.”
On the contrary!
Sure, maybe, they moved to another agency, but that’s a double opportunity if you track them down.
Don’t worry about “oh, it’s been so long….”
You can bet they’ve had other things on their mind besides you.
Once you reach them, congratulate them on the move, ask how it’s going, and then draw from the following set of questions:
- What’s different from where you were before?
- What do you like here, at your new place?
- What do you miss?
- What are you learning?
- How can I help you be successful in the new job?
- Is there anything on your wishlist?
- Is there anything you’d love to get done but haven’t yet found someone to do it?
- Is there anyone you know who could use what I have?
- Who took over when you left?
- If they asked you what it was like to work with us, what would you say?
- Would you introduce us?
- If not, may I mention your name?
- Who else would you call if you were me?
You may end up with the names of a few brand-new people you can get to know, especially with a warm introduction from someone you’ve already served well. Send your capability statement and let them know that you’re standing ready to serve.
At Federal fiscal year end, those people might need exactly what you do.
Bonus Tip 2: October is always coming!
Any time one of your contacts is too busy right now, ask whether before or after October 1st would be better. Whether it’s this fiscal year or next, get an appointment on the calendar for a time they say works for them.