It’s a safe bet that few sales executives will look back on the post-2007 crisis years and conclude that these were the best days for doing business.
Despite the private sector woes, government agencies continued to spend. Contractors who took the following three steps were the most likely to keep their sales pipeline full with state, local and municipal orders. You too can build your company’s government business pipeline and set your teams up for success – no matter the current business climate.
1) Take a Long Term View of Your Sales Lead Management
According to Dan McDade, author of The Truth About Leads, as well as founder and president of sales coaching firm PointClear, adopting a method for prospect development and lead nurturing will yield greater dividends than trying to churn through short-term, so-called “hot” leads.
McDade’s theory is that short-term leads that are not hot are actually better: “These are defined as leads that are within a one or two sales cycle time frame of closing [and] are not working under an RFI or an RFP and no decision has yet been made.” To McDade, two phases of contact are a long-term nurturing of leads then moving them to sales-ready leads.
According to McDade the best leads are long-term - leads that “provide the opportunity to define, if not manage, the buying process.” With these opportunities, you have an opportunity to help design the RFP and “bake” the process in favor of your company against a late entrant.
State and municipal agencies require proof and value. They want to see a track record and they want your best price. In some ways, they are a simpler sell than private accounts that may not provide detailed specifications of what they want upfront or explanations when you lose the business.
“Capitalizing on long-term leads is probably the best way to secure the future of your organization, not to mention reap more return on marketing investment,” says McDade.
In this economy, short-sighted companies do not fare well in terms of maximizing their government sales opportunity. Those with a targeted sales approach and a long-term view should seek out methods to benchmark their lead nurturing efforts against competitors.
2) Assess and Compare Your Sales Team Investment to Peer Companies
Some sales executives are so focused on finding opportunities for their sales team that they forget to measure that team against peer companies. Sales execs should check awards that their competitors have won, to get an idea of missed opportunities for their business.
Government sales executives should ask the following questions when seeking to optimize their public sector sales team. How does your team compare in numbers, experience and support to that of the competition? Are you investing in the right resources to keep up with your competitors? If not, you’re creating a preventable vulnerability to your team’s success.
There are numerous tools and services to aid in this exercise, but the value is in actually doing it. To ensure that you aren’t over- or under-investing in your team, make sure your team is aligned with the best practices and policies of your peer groups and gather factual data to present to your CEO or CFO regarding any recommended changes or investments.
3) Convey a Long-Term Vision of the Opportunity to Your Team
Keeping top sales people focused and motivated during challenging times can make a decisive impact on your company. An important step in achieving this is reframing obstacles as opportunities. Remind them that companies are not made (or broken) in a quarter.
While you’re at it, remind yourself that you should also be working with a two-to-three year time horizon and not managing by the quarter. According to Paul Vinogradov, a vice president at The Alexander Group, a leading sales growth consulting firm, “Managing sales investments on an annual basis, or worse, quarterly, leads to very different decisions that could result in leaving money on the table.” [Quote taken from an Oracle White Paper]
Just as you’re taking a long-view with the sales investment, you have to paint a picture for your team to help them to understand the larger mission. Specifically, in order to motivate your team through challenging times and extracting their best efforts you need to answer the questions of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what’s in it for them.
Follow these three steps and no matter what the current economic climate is, your team can have a full pipeline of future government opportunities.