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Have a System for Understanding and Pursuing Government Business?

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Monday, March 03, 2008
Updated: Sunday, June 29, 2008

As industry thought leaders such as Mark ‘the Godfather of Government Marketing’ Amtower and others will tell you, when it comes to doing business with Global One, even the most basic process can save you time, money and lots of frustration.

Anyone that’s been in this business for a few years can relate how one can end up literally “chasing your tail” if you don’t set parameters and goals. The trick is to obtain knowledge of the space in which you are playing in order to establish those parameters.

I’m still amazed by the number of companies and individuals I meet or that contact me online, who still have an adolescent excitement as they make plans to enter this arena. I honestly think I’ve even seen some of them salivating as they describe all of the wonderful things they will do for the government.

It reminds me of the conversation between the characters Dave Bowman and HAL 9000 in Space Odyssey: 2010 that went something like this:

HAL-9000: What’s going to happen?

Dave Bowman: Something wonderful.

They really have no idea what’s in store for them.

Usually within three months I see these same companies headed out of town (or at least out of the government contracting arena) in a way that would make you think a UFO had landed in their back yard, never to be heard from again.

Doing business in this sector is not the easiest, but I definitely don’t consider it the hardest nut to crack. The most common mistakes I see made are assumptions.

Check Out My New Mousetrap!
When people who are in their own right geniuses, develop a tool or solution and assume the government and/or prime contractors will fall over themselves to adopt it, although they have no idea who you are, nor do the influencers and recommenders.

Everybody Knows Me!
Business executives that have achieved success in other verticals, who assume they’ll be moved to the front of the relationship line because of their ‘credentials’ or relationships in those other segments.

But We Only Hired The General For Six Months!
My favorite to this day, which is recanted by my friend and mentor Mark Amtower, is when a company new to the government sector sets up shop locally, hires a business development professional, and assumes they have put everything in place to achieve “Government Sector Nirvana” in six months or less, regardless of the fact that everyone, including the business development professional they hired, has indicated that even eighteen to twenty-four months is optimistic for any level of measurable success.


There’s a couple I know (let’s call them Jack and Diane) running a business that serves both the commercial and government sectors which, especially for their offering is very customary. Jack and Diane are energetic and enthusiastic and have seen some success already on the government side, which is good. We sat down the other day to complete an assessment we do in The ASBC called a StratReview™. This is a process we use to determine how to productively work with companies in The ASBC participating in our CORE™ level of Membership. We ask a lot of questions and hope to provide some strategic and even tactical advice to these companies.

During the meeting, we discussed things such as Market Identification, Prospecting, Bid/No Bid Strategies and more. Now, the whole time, both Jack and Diane are taking copious notes and asking good questions. As I’ve gotten to know them during the last few months, I’ve already determined that Jack is a lot like I was ten or fifteen years ago, and Diane is like, well she’s like my wife and business partner Margaret, who keeps me balanced (this means out of trouble for you unmarried folks) and manages the parts of the business and our lives which are not in my particular area of expertise or interest, from a day-to-day management standpoint.

Now according to Myers Briggs, I am an ENFP (The Inspirer), and all of the traits I know to be associated with this personality type tell me that Jack is not far off from this. My point is that when they say that folks with my personality type “…place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns.” it means that if Jack and I don’t have a Diane or Margaret, we’re in trouble.

This is the case I see almost daily with companies in the government sector. Not just the newbie’s or small companies, I see it with some of those who have been around many years and are no longer considered small by government contracting standards.

If you don’t want me to start quoting Amtower’s Laws and singing Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “The Bug” (you know the one, Sometimes You’re the Windshield Sometimes You’re the Bug) as an anthem to everyone that tries to enter this sector without the requisite education and planning.

I mean seriously, you can at least find yourself an Industry Sherpa in the form of a person or organization to help you out.

Bottom line, make the investment to determine some of the basic criteria:

  • Who is it that might potentially have a need for the product, service or solution you intend to offer?
  • What is your offering and what have you done to determine the viability of this offering to the intended customers?
  • Why would they need or want the it? Why does it matter to them?
  • Where do you need to begin developing the relationships and how will you ultimately gain the awareness you need?
  • How will this product, service or solution impact the achievement of mission goals for the customer and what research have you done to determine how they will buy it from you (what acquisition method)?

The “When” depends on how well you do understanding the needs and culture of the eventual customer and leveraging relationships to develop the all important “Who knows you and what they think of you.”

Thanks Mark! 

- The Chief Visionary

Tags:  9000  godfather  government  hal  marketing  odyssey  space 

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