I was reading through a publication produced by the GSA offering business owners advice on how to market to the government. While most of this document covered typical ground such as RFP databases and the benefits of GSA, one section was particularly good for those new to government procurement (or at least those, like me, who benefit from occasional reminders). This section highlighted the three types of government buyers within an organization: procurers, influencers and end-users. Understanding the role each of these plays is important to successful government marketing, so let’s look at each of these a bit closer.
Procurers are the professionals (often referred to as “contracting officers”) charged with managing the purchasing process for any given good or service. They serve as filters and gatekeepers between contractors and program managers or end-users. They are experts in the process details and, depending on the product or service being purchased, generally have insight into appropriate costs/value. Though most of your selling efforts will not fall here, it is important not to forget these key folks. Even though they are process experts, they can still benefit from creative or alternative purchasing vehicle ideas. And, make sure you follow their rules. They can either be a partner in your sale, or an absolute nightmarish obstacle–much depending on how you approach them. Kissing up won’t work, but genuine concern for helping them do their job will.
These are the program managers and key decision-makers regarding the purchased product or service. The term “influencer” may seem a bit light as many of these carry considerable if not near-exclusive power over decisions. However, the term does reinforce the complex nature of government sales–multiple stars must align before a contract is signed. With this group, a first consideration is meeting the specifications they set. Check that box, then prove to them you’re easy to work with. Reinforce you know the rules and won’t cause headaches. Finally, hammer home you’re a safe bet. The more influencers feel you won’t embarrass them down the road (or they’ll look like geniuses), the more likely you’ll be to get the contract.
End-users are typically specialists in their job. They may not have the broad strategic perspective of a program manager, but they know the details and inner workings of their world better than anyone. That doesn’t mean they understand the ins and outs of procurement. They really don’t care as long they get the relief they seek from the vendor’s product or service. They can certainly impact the contracting decision up front, and will most definitely hold significant sway over whether or not your contract is renewed. Selling messages with this group relate to features and functions of your solution, but only in a targeted fashion aimed at how these features will resolve pain for those using the product and service on a daily basis.
Selling and marketing is most effective when well targeted. Remember the three types of government buyers, and tailor your approach to each. The payoff may be a loyal, long-term client that you never have to worry about paying their bills.