To everything there is a season. No one knows this more than companies that do business with the Federal government; the Federal procurement season that is. Summer, especially late summer of July through September, is 4th quarter of the Federal calendar year, and many Federal contractors mirror that schedule. If you’re in the Sales or Business Development function, that means a mad rush to close out June strong. In fact, June may be the end of the fiscal year where you work, so extra emphasis is placed on hitting the bogey. That last quarter of the US government fiscal year tends to be the silly season of getting all your Federal bids in before year end, as boatloads of Federal RFPs are due in August and, at the latest, very early September. Conferences and other networking events tend to also take a powder for a few months too, so as a BD or sales professional, you may be looking for ways to stay productive.
In my last article, 4 Signs the RFP is Wired, I talked about a few rules of thumb to avoid wasting unnecessary time chasing the bluebirds that only have half a wing; ergo, proposals you can’t win. Today I’ll cover 5 little things you can do to get ready for fall and roll right into the next fiscal year without missing a beat in your business development cycle.
Finish Winning Proposal Responses
I can’t stress the word “winning” enough. Not that you’ll win them all, but use what you’ve learned to recognize the ones that are wired against you (see last paragraph). Too many companies around this time of year start justifying that there may just be an outside chance of victory even when the leadership spidey sense says, “Hey Mac, you’re kidding yourself.”
Once you’ve determined that they are indeed in play and your company has a legitimate shot, go strong and win as many as you can. Don’t do a half-baked job. You may be wrapping up anywhere from 1 to 10 proposal responses. Trouble is, writing and reviewing resources may be hiking the Appalachian Trail or sightseeing Europe right about now. If you’re in that situation, do a great job on the top RFP responses that give you the best chance to win and forget the rest. Don’t do a lousy job on more than you can handle.
“But Karl,” you say, “that’s just common sense!”
Sure is. If this point doesn’t apply to you, go on to number 2.
Particularly later in August, your company may start hearing back on the super proposals you’ve already submitted. I’m assuming your team is pretty good at these things, so you’ll start hearing about a certain percentage of victories. Learn to celebrate them in the present, not just the next company newsletter that comes out in November. CEOs—blast the email notice to the company about the wins and thank the team that helped bring home the bacon. Even if their out on vacation, they’re all connected. They’ll know. I won’t get into when your PR team should or shouldn’t publicize this to the world. There are several factors both legal and marketing that might cause you to wait.
For the individual sales and BD stars, this is the time to decompress for a bit. Take a trip to the beach. Play some golf (like I need to suggest that to half of you reading this). Go fishing and thank yourself for having such a great year. You’re going to need your energy once things ramp up again in the next few months.
When things get hectic with busy activities under deadline, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re really selling, what your real value proposition is. Spend some time thinking about that against how many contracts you won or sales advances you made since last summer. Perhaps there are subtle, maybe even major adjustments to make. Now is not a bad time to do just that.
Particularly focus on your Federal customers and ask what their current missions are and how your solutions stack up against those. What do they really want for fiscal year 2018 and beyond? Do you need to move out of some agencies all together and serve others that you have little footprint in? This is the time that many companies start grinding out that strategic plan for next year, so the act of re-focusing is a necessary part of that process. This isn’t just a corporate strategy thing. The individuals tasked with business development and capture should be asking these same questions about the future. If something is misaligned, make the appropriate changes.
Autumn Business Development Strategy
Things will start heating up again in September for your Federal business development and capture efforts, so now is a good time to identify the people, titles, agencies, and teaming partners that you need to connect with. This is a great time to do that research and commit to paper those key nouns that will lead to your advances and sales next year and beyond. What networking events are coming up in September and early October? AFCEA, HIMSS and many other outlets have their calendars online for the fall programs. Pick the ones you want and start registering.
Top of Mind Outreach
Thought leadership is way too often overlooked. This is the perfect season to start drafting the whitepapers you’ll be submitting in the fall. Get those blog posts over to your webmaster that your Federal customers will want to read that establish credibility for your company, technology, product or service. List them in your LinkedIn feed and you might be surprised how many 1st and 2nd level connections will read them, like and comment, and better—share them with their networks. This activity positions your firm as competent and you as somebody not just asking for stuff but delivering something worthwhile. The social media connections will start to come at you, a way better place to be than just pursuing prospects.
That’s not to say that you don’t reach out to strangers too. For the people, start connecting on LinkedIn with the people you identified in the last section as a prelude to setting up the relationships you need. The simplest thing to do is run through your customer list of agency decision makers and teaming partners and send them anything from a “I hope summer is going along fabulously” to the “Here is something I read that I think you’d appreciate” email. All these things will keep you top of mind and a known entity when your business development and capture ramps up in Autumn.
Karl Walinskas is the Founder and CEO of FedTrax, a business development firm that helps innovative technology companies gain opportunity and traction in the Federal Government marketplace. FedTrax provides a variety of smart business development services including targeting strategy, thought leadership, Federal teaming, sales management, and complete outsourcing of the business development process.
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