Commercial Firms looking to Enter the Government Market?
Are you kidding me? Nope, surprisingly some have mentioned this as an option; even though there’s limited money, long sales cycles and a completely different process some commercially focused companies are looking to enter the government market. After I pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard I find that some are just chasing the idea of the big contract while others see this slowdown in spending as an opportunity to be part of the next phase or the next boom with the recognition that its years away and won’t be like the boom of the last 10 years. If you never enter you can’t win business so at some point if there’s a desire to close government deals you need to bite the bullet regardless of the current situation. It might be better to enter the market when you don’t expect much – any win is a huge win. This is the company that truly understands that entering this market is an investment. You should expect a bare minimum of 2 years activity in this market before you close a deal – for some it’s shorter and others its longer but if you think you’ll close business in 6 months you’re either smoking something or you have THE MOST amazing widget ever.
Here’s the deal, is it a great time to enter the government market if you have no experience? Why not, look at the environment – even long term government players are struggling to close deals. With re-competes, less business to be had, bid protests, reduced budgets, etc those that are there now have to do more with less and if they haven’t already they will soon be forced to deal with the new reality. That reality is a little more challenging and can be highly lucrative IF and it’s a big IF you put in the effort. The problem is that in the past it was fairly easy to get business, just respond to a RFP and go low – you’ll get millions of dollars worth of business – not the case anymore (except the low cost – that definitely helps). So if there’s less coming down the pike, things are taking longer to come to fruition, there’s a litigious environment why would you want to enter this market? It’s easy, get in now, create the relationships now and prep for when the situation improves and if you get a deal it’s just icing on the cake. It’s better to lay the groundwork now when business isn’t flying off the shelf then to feel like you’re missing out by trying to jump in when it’s going gang busters. Again recognize that all business development is an investment.
If the government space is a desired target market you have a choice –
- Commit to the market, do your research
- Understand that each agency works differently and identify which is best to pursue
- Hire those with technical knowledge and connections to bridge the gap
- Identify where you fit and why you fit – inside each agency there are multiple silos
- Identify contract vehicles to pursue
- Understand your commitment – a minimum of 3 years
- Attend industry events, join industry groups that support the mission you’ve chosen to support
- Build a pipeline with short, mid and long term opportunities
- Manage the pipeline consistently
- Sit around and wait for the right time
- Get frustrated when you have to act happy for your buddy that just closed on a big contract
- Constantly second guess yourself
- Prepare and identify when the right time will be and commit to action
There is no perfect time so make sure you do your homework and plan for the future. Create a strategy to enter the market and a timetable then execute. Most importantly create relationships and be patient.