Many times, companies selling in complex markets seem to deploy a “passive-aggressive” sales strategy. They passively wait for an RFP to be issued within the company’s line of business. Then, once identified through a database or some other means, they aggressively activate hoards of people to figure out how to spin the response so they are favored. We believe this is a mistake.
Don’t misunderstand us. Responding to RFPs is certainly a requirement for playing in the government space; doing it effectively is both an art and a science. In fact, you’ll likely never be able to eliminate RFP responses completely.
However, if the bulk of your opportunity development strategy is built around uncovering and responding to RFPs through government or private databases, it’s going to be a difficult ride. You see, at the RFP stage, specifications are already set in stone and you’re too late to the party. All your competitors have the same information at the same time, and limited discovery can occur once the RFP is issued (plus any questions posed to prospects must be shared with everyone). This is not the ideal situation.
No, our real goal is to get in front of prospects BEFORE specifications are developed so we can have an impact on the requirements before they’re locked in. In fact, the ultimate picture of success here would be creating a sole source situation where competition is effectively excluded because your company is the only real option given the prospect’s needs—needs you helped define.
How, as a sales team, do you get in the door before the RFP is issued? It’s all about relationship-building, and it’s as critical to success in government selling as it is in other arenas. We’ll discuss this topic in greater detail over the coming blog posts, but here is an overview of five key strategies for improving relationships:
Five Key Strategies for Building Relationships
-Increase “termination” costs
-Make deposits into your “value” bank account
-Discover and develop shared values
-Improve the quantity and quality of communications
-Eliminate any perceptions you’re “just in the relationship for yourself”.
These strategies will work with prospects, customers and channel partners alike. This week, think about how you’ll take a step to improve a key relationship–and stay tuned as we dig into these steps for better selling relationships.
All the best,
Lorin Bristow and Rick Wimberly help companies increase sales from government and other complex markets through their firm, Galain Solutions, Inc.