By Frank Bennett, Procurement Consultant
This article was originally published in our monthly KYPTAC Newsletter. If you have any questions about this topic, your KYPTAC consultant is here to help! Not a client? Sign up here.
One of the most common questions people ask the KYPTAC is how often should I contact an agency? Researching to discover what agencies buy what you sell, how they buy it, and who the key decision-makers are within the organization to connect with is fundamental to effective government prospecting. While it is possible to call or email your prospect agency too many times. That is not the most important consideration in effective prospecting. To achieve meaningful results, focus more on how you contact prospects and less on how often.
As part of your day, if you look in your inbox, you have dozens of emails from people trying to sell you things. For most of us, none of these marketing emails will ever get our attention, and the primary reason why we will never engage them is not that we are busy, the primary reason is that their messages failed to resonate with us.
If someone came along that perfectly understood your nagging issue and presented a solution, would you listen to that person? Of course, you would. We are all open to ideas that will make a significant positive impact on our business and our life. Our frustrations are with generic sales emails from people that have not taken the time to learn about our needs. Our frustration is with people trying to sell instead of learning why we are buying.
Famed business theorist, Clay Christensen frequently said, “People don’t simply buy products or services, we choose a product or service to help us progress in a specific circumstance.” While there is a definite process to how government agencies make purchases, at its core, just like with private sector purchases, government agencies are made up of people attempting to make progress on their projects.
Instead of focusing on how often you contact an agency decision-maker, focus on understanding their specific circumstance, and the reason they are buying the products and services they consume.
I recommend a three-part process for contacting agency decision-makers:
Find the agency and the key decision-makers- One of the common questions in government procurement is who we should get in contact with at an agency. The answer is everyone who is part of the decision-making process. The department that physically uses the item, the contracting officer and related team, in some cases, even the people that process billing. Anyone who is part of the decision to buy a specific product or service should know about your solution.
Research- Finding out that an agency buys what you sell is only the first step. You need to find out how they are using what you sell. Who is the end-user? What are their goals? If there is a legacy provider, what do they like about the current solution? Are there ways that the current solution is causing frustration points? If they described a perfect solution to you, how close would it be to what they are currently using? Can you provide a solution that better addresses their needs?
Points that Matter- In sales, people often talk about pain points. Yes, they are relevant but are a small part of a bigger picture. While customizing your messaging to match the end user’s pain points may get their attention, depending on the significance of the pain point, it may not cause them to take significant action. Instead of pain points, I find it more effective to focus on dream points. If they had a solution that perfectly fits their dream scenario in all functional facets, what would it look like? If you can match dream points, you will create meaningful conversations, and ultimately have an opportunity to provide a solution that bullseye matches all their needs. When done well, this won’t just get you agency sales, it will be the basis for building meaningful long-term relationships.
One last note, ‘dream points’ exist with almost every product or service, including commercial items. Returning to an earlier point, in my experience, if you ask an agency end-user about their current solution, there is always something they wish was different. In my experience, you rarely see an end-user say, “Everything is perfect, I have no struggles, and in an ideal world I wouldn’t change a thing.” Often the biggest struggle is something that would never occur to us because we are not the ones using the item in the environment.
Want to get the attention of more agency decision-makers, don’t focus as much on how often you contact an agency. Instead, focus on developing messaging that addresses nagging issues, relieves stress, and ultimately matches dream points. Getting the attention of people that can purchase your products is more about message effectiveness and less about message frequency.
For help with every part of this process, from finding agencies that purchase what you sell, to research and message development, contact your KYPTAC Procurement Consultant.