Installment 4: Become an Insider in the Federal Market

Outsider Perception: The federal market is dominated by insiders.

Reality: A large portion of the federal pie is given to insiders who know how to play the federal sales game.

Lesson: Become an insider by selling in your own backyard with an aggressive sales program.

Background: Consider becoming an insider and share in the fruits of the world's largest market. Remember, the insiders were outsiders at one point in time and the game is not that tough to play once you understand it. In order to become an insider, you must first understand how competition (or the lack of it) influences how buys are made. Furthermore, your company must hold a direct contract with a federal customer. It only takes one. Having an existing federal contract allows your business to demonstrate, through your partnership with the government, that your product or service provides value to the federal buyer or end user. This partnership becomes the path of least resistance. It is the path that minimizes the federal buyer's risk and the path that allows buyers to obtain what they want quickly and efficiently. As in the commercial market, federal buyers go with the proven vendor. Think about it. You do the same thing when purchasing goods or services.

You may be saying to yourself, "This sounds easy. So, what's the catch?" Landing the first contract requires the establishment of a business relationship with the buyer and you probably don't have one. Any sales person will tell you getting through the glass wall to a new customer can be a formidable task; the potential customer most likely already has business partners and may not realize that she needs you. But getting through the glass wall is not any more difficult than selling to a new commercial customer.

Don't go the Washington, D.C. area initially. There are too many entrenched insiders playing there. Find federal buyers in your locale or region. You will be dumbfounded by the volume of federal work to be found in your immediate geographic area. Use federal directories published by military bases, federal agency web sites, and your local blue pages (which list federal telephone numbers and addresses).

Military bases and the federal installations and offices located outside of Washington, D.C. prefer to buy locally. If you were a federal procurement officer, you would probably prefer to buy a dozen digital cameras from a local photo shop rather than a national chain. You would have better access to service and it is the politically correct thing to do. Natural disasters and the threat of terrorism have also resulted in new, more flexible purchasing rules that allow sole-source buys under emergency situations and specify that preference should be given to local sources for products and services.

Ask for introductions to federal buyers through your current network of existing customers, neighbors, fellow church goers and the like. Attend local chamber of commerce events, business conferences and industry events. Attend local or regional business opportunity conferences held by federal agencies. Make cold calls beginning with the contracting offices for those federal agencies in your area.

In short, selling in the federal market is just like selling in the commercial market. People buy, not agencies, and most sales are based on the development of strong relationships with federal buyers. The two markets diverge when it comes to closing the sale you have made with the buyer. Market characteristics and how they impact closing the federal sale will be the subject of the next two newsletters.

Installment Series:

Installment 1: The Best Offense is a Good Defense
Installment 2: Make the World's Biggest Customer Your Own
Installment 3: Market Research in the Federal Sector
Installment 4: Become an Insider in the Federal Market
Installment 5: Competition and Price Sensitivity in the Federal Market
Installment 6: Are Federal Bids Wired?
Installment 7: Fundamentals of Federal Contracting
Installment 8: Making a Federal Sale
Installment 9: Closing a Federal Sale
Installment 10: Start with the Credit Card and Quick Buy Markets for Smaller Transactions
Installment 11: Consider Starting as a Subcontractor to a Prime
Installment 12: Selling Directly to Prime Contractors
Installment 13: Pre-approved Government Price Lists
Installment 14: Getting a Pre-approved Federal Price List for Your Company
Installment 15: Small Business Preference Programs
Installment 16: Distinguishing Messages Win in the Federal Market
Installment 17: Selling to Federal Agencies Located in Your Backyard
Installment 18: Getting Started in Federal Sales
Installment 19: Don't Get Caught Up in Red Tape
Installment 20: Steps to Take After Winning Your First Federal Contract 
Installment 21: Learn How to Write Federal Proposals
Installment 22: Prosper in the Federal Market

Fedmarket has been helping companies win government business since 1995. We have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other trade publications. Our customer testimonials speak to our competence and expertise in helping customers win federal business. We have been singled out by public and private organizations -- including the Small Business Administration and federally-funded Procurement Technical Assistance Centers -- as the most comprehensive government contracting resource in the industry. Our web site's free content includes informative newsletters on GSA Schedules, Proposal Writing and Federal Business Development.

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