Winning business in government: 2. There’s no selling to government
There’s a simple reason why you can’t sell to government: you can’t go through a process of ‘closing’ a deal without ending up in a tender process, or at very least a process of comparing competing quotes.
Once you’re responding to a tender you’re locked into a bidding process which means using bidding techniques, not sales techniques. Of course you can use sales techniques during a bid if you want, but
you’re likely to be giving your buyer the hump and making it harder from them to buy from you.
The real problem with using sales techniques is that government doesn’t buy anything. I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. Government tenders for things, so prior to the tender if they’re
meeting with you they’re focused on trying to gather the information they need to publish a good tender. If you’re already in the tender process then they’re focused on running a successful tender, which means they’re focused on process, audit trails, scoring and negotiating. Sure, at the end of the process they’ll sign a deal, but they’re concerned with the outcome delivered by the tendering process
and the rules of the tendering process trumps everything else. So whilst most people might think of it as buying, they’re rigidly tendering according to the law and that’s what drives any transaction.
Right now, all the sales professionals who’ve been winning business in government are jumping up and down and saying “this is rubbish, I’ve been successfully selling into government for years and they’ve been buying our services for years”. I’m sorry, but you’re wrong, you’ve been successfully marketing and then bidding into government for years, your attempts at selling into government have been a waste of time and your customers have been thinking that you’re the human equivalent of spam.
Apart from the fact that government tenders rather than buys, it doesn’t help that most public servants are allergic to the sales process, so when they hear a sales pitch all they think is: “she’s lying, she’s lying, she’s lying”. They grit their teeth and try and get through the meeting, because they need information, but they’d be happier if they could spend the time burying forks into their legs.
The only approach that works in government is to build advocacy for your product within the buying organisation.