Common Misconceptions About Selling to Government

Confused about government selling?We talk with executives all over the country who are considering ways to break in or improve their government business.  One of the barriers to success we see often are misconceptions about the market itself.  Get these out of the way so you don’t stumble as you move forward.

Government agencies are massively wasteful.

Believe me, as taxpayers, we can be just as outraged as the next guys about some of the “pork barrel” spending that comes out of Washington.  Ridiculous, pet projects can happen at the local level as well.  Certainly, government agencies are not always frugal and efficient with the money they’ve been given. 

However, we also would not categorize them as being massively wasteful in the general sense.  There are many processes and practices in place to reduce waste and frivolous spending.  As government salespeople, there have been countless times when we’ve half-seriously longed for the government to be a little less stingy or a little less focused on the almighty budget.  If you’re expecting to land deals because agencies are throwing money around willy-nilly, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

Government workers are less skilled or lazy.

So we’ve all experienced the “typical” government worker behind the counter at the DMV or the Post Office.  The unmotivated, listless—even rude, worker who “helps” us with our problem.  Like all large organizations, the government has its share of these poor souls.

However, over many years, our experience with program managers, contracting officers and other purchasing stakeholders has been pretty stellar overall.  We’ve worked on the corporate side of things as well, and can tell you that some of the brightest, most competent people with whom we’ve worked across the board are government employees—particularly at the managerial level.

We’ve been around salespeople in the past who seemed to view government prospects as being somehow inferior to them.  Their attitude showed through and it hurt their success.  Like other markets, the foundation for selling lies in relationships and respect.   

Government business will be a way to quickly drive revenue.

Too often, companies experiencing declining sales numbers decide to pursue government markets as a short-term way to bolster declining revenues.  Government business can be highly lucrative for the right vendor.  But it is rarely short-term in nature.  Credibility, lead generation, partner development, contracting decisions, etc. all affect the sales cycle.  We’ll discuss this in greater detail later, but for now, recognize that government business, while a substantial opportunity, is not a path to overnight success.    

Government business is too difficult and expensive to tackle.

Another common misconception about government markets is they are simply too difficult or too expensive to penetrate.  While there are plenty of rules to follow and the payoff is often down the line, companies can build strong pipelines and profitable businesses, even if they are starting from scratch.  Patience and commitment are the two most challenging requirements. 

If you tend to believe any of these misconceptions, it will likely serve you well to reconsider.  Exploding these myths can be a first step to stellar success in the government market.


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