A Solution-Selling Parable

“Hi, Doctor,”  I said from my perch on the examination table.  The unfamiliar physician entered the small room wearing a traditional white coat, carrying a clipboard, and scribbling something indecipherable on a pad of white paper.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Bristow,” he replied with a smile.  “My name is Doctor Kildare and I’m here to help,”  he said, tearing a sheet from the stack with a flourish.  “Here’s your prescription.”

For a moment, I thought Dr. Kildare had confused me with another patient.  “My prescription?” I asked puzzled.

“Yes, your prescription…that is why we’re having this meeting, right?” he said with a slight chuckle. 

“Hmmm, I guess so,” I said.  “It’s just that we’ve never actually met and you haven’t even examined me.  We haven’t discussed the symptoms I’m having or the pain I’m experiencing.  How exactly do you know what to prescribe?”

“Oh, well, this medicine I’m prescribing is the best on the market.  I have prescribed it for many other patients, and I’m sure it will help solve whatever problems you have,”  he said with great conviction. 

Sensing my confusion and disbelief, Dr. Kildare cleared his throat, furrowed his brow into a serious “doctor look” and continued, “The medicine comes in five different flavors, is packaged in a nice reusable bottle, and, it’s a really pretty color if you hold it up to the light…see.”

Perplexed and struggling to respond, I said,  “That is a really nice bottle.  And Pomegranate Passion is certainly a creative flavor for medicine.  But, I’m just not sure it’s what I need.  Is this stuff, whatever it is, expensive?”  

“Truthfully, it costs a little more than other medicines, but, believe me, it’s WORTH it.  And, if you buy it today, I’ll even throw in an extra 20% more free for first-time patients.”

Getting a great deal on something that couldn’t really solve my problem was not appealing.  The few things I had learned about the medicine–flavors, bottles, etc.–weren’t really important to me.  I’d prefer a prescription for something that would clearly address my specific needs.  In fact, I’d happily pay more for such an effective solution.  I’d heard enough.

“Well, let me think about it more before I commit,” I said, sliding off the edge of the table, crackling the long white paper serving as a sterile barrier.  “Do you have a business card and perhaps some literature?  I’ll get back with you later.”

With a downtrodden countenance, Dr. Kildare reached deep into the front pocket of his white coat and pulled out a business card.  From a shelf over the stainless steel sink behind him, he produced a glossy brochure describing the medicine’s plethora of flavor options and the benefits of its multi-use packaging. 

This medicine may be fantastic, but because the doctor failed to diagnose my pain points and illustrate how the solution would address these specifically, I wanted no part of it.  I am not one-size-fits-all.  I was off to another doctor who would take the time to delve into my problems and present a tailored approach to relieve my pain.

Now that’s what the doctor ordered.

-LBB

FCC Public Safety Broadband Workshop Highlights Industry Concerns

Yesterday, Galain Solutions participated in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) workshop on broadband in public safety and homeland security.  The goal of the workshop was to enlist feedback from various industry sources with regards to the developing National Broadband Plan.  A variety of interesting perspectives were offered we will highlight in upcoming blogs.  Particularly,  we found comments made by Charles Brennan, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Radio from Pennsylvania to be enlightening.  Here are some key points:

The need for situational broadband.
While most of his state is covered at the consumer level for broadband, what is missing is the ability to establish mobile and situational broadband capabilities for responding to critical events.

Grants weighted toward states, not local.
Mr. Brennan argued that local agencies can not realistically act in a consistent manner with a bigger picture vision.  He believes grants should be given to states for funding of strategic initiatives.  He also urged for more block grants as opposed to competitive grants.

It’s more than the network.
While much emphasis is being placed on developing infrastructure, Mr. Brennan suggested applications are equally as important.  He further said many in public safety do not know exactly how they would utilize broadband, pointing to a need for industry education around broadband applications.

Data interoperability is key.
Mr. Brennan stated while there is much discussion related to interoperability in communications (radios specifically), data interoperability is also key.  It is imperative disparate databases can be accessed and shared across multiple applications and regions.

Data interoperability and an application focus  are “sermons” we’ve been preaching for a while.  We hope the NTIA, in its decisions related to grant funding for the BTOP, will give these issues appropriate weight and merit relative to infrastructure enhancements.
-LBB

 

Small Business Federal Contracts Up, Percentage Down

The Small Business Administration says the federal government spent a record amount of money on small business-primed contracts in Fiscal 2008.  The amount totaled 93.3-billion-dollars.  However, as a percentage of the total amount awarded, small business contracts declined a bit,  from 21.5 percent from 22 percent.  That’s short of the 23-percent goal for small business spending set by law.

The Department of Defense is by far the largest spender with small business.  Total for Fiscal 2008 amounted to over 62.4-billion-dollars.  While that number was up seven-percent from the previous year, DoD failed to meet its goal of 22.24% spending with small business.

The next largest small business spenders were the Veterans Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Agriculture Department.  All four met their small business spending goals.  (The links take you to the agency small business scorecards; a master list of all federal agencies can be found here.)

Scores were also given for other categories such as:  Small Business Disadvantaged, 8(A), Veteran Owned, Service Disabled Veteran Owned, Women Owned, and Hubzones (underutilized business areas).  Details can be found hereGeneral Services Administration is the only federal agency to meet its goals in all categories, in fact exceeded them and improved from the previous year.

The federal government is a growing area of opportunity for small businesses.  Federal law will make sure it continues to be  so.  However, federal buyers are not push-overs, even when trying to reach their mandated goals.  As we’ve said many times before, it takes understanding their pain and process and presenting a strong value proposition.

Reports Unveils State Spending Plans

If you’re interested in the public safety space, you’ll likely be interested in a new report.  It shows that 26 states have decided to spend discretionary money from the economic stimulus law on public safety.  The total amount:  2.56-billion-dollars.  (Yes, billion with a “b”.)

The money comes from what’s called the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF).  SFSF is managed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), not what you would think would be a likely source for public safety money.  The writers of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a discreet clause that allowed governors to spend a portion of their stabilization funds on “public safety or other government services”.  The portion was only 18.2%, but the total amounted to 9.8-billion-dollars.  (Yes, another “b”.)

States have been trying to decide how to spend their stabilization funds.  Some have made their decisions quite awkwardly.  Others have yet to decide.  Of those who’ve made their plans known, 26 say they’ll spend at least a portion of their 18.2% on public safety.  The largest public safety spenders are California, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington, and Alabama.

The report is being published this week by Galain Solutions.  You can get a copy, including numbers for all 26 states, here.

It may not be too late to influence the other states, and certainly not too late to get in front of opportunities that will be funded by the stabilization funds.  Keep us informed how it works for you.

ARRA Grant Recipient Registration Site Open

Recipients of ARRA funds are now able to register with the government.  Starting yesterday, state and local governments, contractors, etc. receiving a grant of $25,000 or more through the Recovery Act can register at www.FederalReporting.gov.   This registration process is the first step to fulfilling reporting requirements, a process that begins officially October 1.  Recipients will have until October 10 to submit reports outlining things such as the amount of money received and spent, project scope, and jobs created.

Officials are reminding registering organizations they must have DUNS numbers (obtainable at www.fedgovdnb.com/webform) and be a part of the federal government’s Central Contracting Registry (CCR) database (at www.ccr.gov) prior to registering for federal reporting.

It is expected between 150,000 and 200,000 recipients will file reports by October 10 according to a RAT Board press release.

-LBB

Broadband Application Deadline Extended

The NTIA has extended the deadline for BTOP applications until August 20, 2009.  According to a PCWorld article, agency servers have been very slow, causing concerns that some applicants would not meet the deadline due to an inability to upload the application.  The NTIA said servers were being added to address the problem, but they felt it necessary to extend the deadline just to be safe.

In keeping with our post yesterday, the PCWorld article also highlighted that this week Qwest Communications said it would not pursue first round broadband funding.  While specific reasons were not given as to why, their statement quoted in the article indicated a business case could not be made given the requirements for participation.

-LBB

Broadband Grant App Deadline Tomorrow

The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) grant application deadline is tomorrow.  And, according to an article on the Urgent Communicationswebsite, the volume of applicants may not be as high as originally thought.  According to the advisory arm of Alcatel-Lucent (a group geared toward helping companies apply for broadband grants), rules surrounding grants and short time frames may have inhibited potential applicants from moving forward.

Alcatel-Lucent expected 40% of the proposals it received would ultimately be submitted for grant funding.  Now it appears only 15% of these will actually result in applications.  According to Rich Wonders (great name) VP of Strategic Marketing for Alcatel-Lucent, narrow definitions and difficulty in estimating required network capacity may have deterred some companies and organizations from responding.

First round funding recipients are slated to be notified around November 7 (expect this to push out despite the reduced volume of applicants).  There are two additional rounds of funding over the next six months, though according to the article, there are rumors the remaining two could be combined into one.

-LBB