Sales Wisdom from a Long Time Player in the Federal Sales Game

A look at how the insider's game is played inside the "New Silicon Beltway"

  • How competitive is the market?
  • Who wins federal contracts and why?
  • Why it is an insider's game?

A complete "how-to" on winning federal contracts inside and outside the Beltway.

Rolling the Dice in DC - Chapter Excerpts

The introductory paragraphs from the first ten chapters of the book are presented below.

Chapter 1

Growing Market

My editors tell me that federal procurement is a deadly, dull topic and I don't disagree. But it becomes more compelling if your paycheck depends on your knowledge of how the federal sales game is played. The topic is becoming more interesting as the media spotlights the federal government's problems in buying goods and services in response to Katrina and to support the Iraq war. A Report on the Forum on Acquisition, prepared by the Government Accountability Office, concluded that the federal government is on a burning platform caused by budget limitations clashing with national priorities. GAO determined that the federal government must develop new and innovative approaches to conducting the business of government. The time is now to transform federal procurement.

Chapter 2

Your Cheese Has Moved to DC

The amount of money the federal government spends on items such as the war in Iraq, disaster relief, and congressional pork-barrel projects is increasing at an unprecedented rate. Perhaps your company is considering going to D.C. to pick some of this low-hanging fruit. Unfortunately for the uninitiated, the fruit may be higher on the tree than you think and you may not have a complete understanding of the realities of selling in the federal market.

Chapter 3

The Market: Truths and Misconceptions

The federal market can be an alien and confusing world. Many would-be contractors firmly believe that federal bureaucracies are governed by strange and convoluted procurement rules designed to confuse and even intimidate. The market appears big and mysterious from the outside and this creates misconceptions about how federal business is done. The mystery dissolves once you are on the inside and have learned how to play the game.

Companies entering the federal market find that it is essentially the same as the commercial market. You have to find out who buys what you sell, knock on their door, be prepared for rejection if you are unknown to the federal buyers, and then find a way to get around their resistance to newcomers. In the federal market, as in the commercial market, businesses must sell to the end users of the product or service they offer. The difference with the federal market is that it is critical that you have a way to close the sale.

Chapter 4

The Book of Rules

From a sales perspective, procurement rules concerning the sale of products and services to federal buyers can be easily and succinctly summarized in one sentence. It is as follows:

Vendors are encouraged to meet with federal end users before a purchase is publicly announced.

The book of rules governing federal purchases is called the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) which can be found at The FAR is as thick as the Bible and reads like the convoluted, bewildering document you would expect to see when lawyers and politics mix.

Chapter 5

The People in the Process and How They Are Motivated

Buyers in the commercial and federal sectors behave in the same manner. Most buyers will choose the path of least resistance and then run to get to their kids' soccer games on time. Federal buyers view obtaining the best value for the taxpayer as a noble objective but hold doing the best to maximize their raises and performance evaluations on an even higher plane.

Experienced sales people selling in the federal market know that the roles people play and their motivations profoundly affect buying decisions. Most people are motivated by self-interest; that's not necessarily a good or bad thing, it's just a fact. The desire to do a good job, to avoid failure, and to save money on behalf of the taxpayer benefits us all. Having a clear picture of the various roles of the people in the federal sales game may help you better target your sales approach.

Chapter 6

GSA Schedules

What federal purchasing procedure is open to small businesses and also allows any federal agency to buy virtually any product or service easily? Only one, a GSA Schedule contract.

Multi-vendor contracts are the preferred way to do business from the perspectives of both buyers and vendors. Since most of the large multi-vendor contracts are won by large businesses, it behooves small and medium-sized businesses wanting to compete for federal prime contracts to get on the GSA Schedule bandwagon.

Chapter 7

Playing the Federal Sales Game

How do you play a game where the rules are stacked in favor of others? Learn to stack the deck for yourself or don't play.

Playing in the federal market is a game in the same sense that selling in the commercial market is a game. To play successfully you must study the written rules, figure out the unwritten strategies, get burned a few times, and win a few times. This takes time, money, and patience.

Chapter 8

Selling Solutions

Which is more important, having a brilliant solution or an established relationship with an end user? Thinking that a top-notch solution will get you into the federal market is a mistake. Everyone thinks their solution is ingenious and sophisticated federal end users roll their eyes when they hear that pitch.

Even being a qualified service business does not cut it in today's federal market. Tens of thousands of companies can claim that they are experienced service companies. Today you have to have an end user relationship first, a customer solution next, and the last and least significant factor is corporate experience.

Chapter 9

Developing a Federal Sales Program

Now that you understand the reality of federal sales, you may ask, "How do I find the end users I need to sell and develop a federal sales program?"  Finding end users can be more of an art than a science. So where should you start?

Chapter 10

Government Relations and Politics

The massive size of the federal government gives the impression that it is an impenetrable bureaucracy. Yet at its core, federal contracting is a people-to-people business. Successful federal contractors work with their counterparts in the federal government as partners. They perform the work specified in the contract and help federal end users get their jobs done. When contract compliance or performance problems occur, successful contractors inform both their contracting officers and the end user of the problem immediately and work out a solution together as business partners.

Rolling the Dice in DC

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