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Making government sector meetings work (Who you make them with and why?)

Posted By Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC, Sunday, February 07, 2010
Back in May 2006, Government Leader (an offering of PostNewsweek Tech Media now 1105 Media) presented the article:

Vendor, Vidi, Vici: How to make pitches from industry work for you

where the reporter solicited feedback from current and retired government executives on the topic of industry meetings. The article started like this:

It’s inevitable. You have to take meetings with vendor representatives. You can try to ignore phone calls and e-mails, or stay under the radar by not speaking at events where you can be easily approached. But you can’t hold back the sea—ultimately, if you’re an government executive of any consequence, you’ll have to listen to a sales pitch.

I've been waiting for a follow-on (or two) but alas, Government Leader is no more! It was a very good article and one I've referenced in conversation and in practice, often. But in light of the exodus of companies previously part of the "selling to the government isn't for me" crowd who are now feverishly chasing traditionally-funded and stimulus-funded opportunities,  on top of the legions of new sales and business development folks who have joined us in the last few years, I thought it fitting to make a contribution in the same spirit.

Time waits for no man (or woman)!
In full disclosure, I have dramatically changed how I schedule meetings. Those I request as well as those requested of me. The reason? Time is the most obvious answer, but one that pulls a close second is relevance. When I request a meeting I clearly state why I want the meeting and what I hope to come away with from the meeting. This way, whomever I am making the request of can tell me if they are the right resource. On more than one occasion since implementing this practice, the person I thought was the best source has actually invited additional or more relevant people to the meeting, making it a better use of time all around.

Likewise, I am stingy with meetings I accept. While B2G corporate members of The ASBC (CORE™, ChannelConnection™ and PrimeConnection™ Members) have priority placement on my schedule, even they must establish expectations for the meeting and provide ample time for me to complete research to ensure I'm going into the meeting with as many of my "ducks in a row" as possible. Without a clear idea of the goal of the meeting, I don't confirm. And I don't do lunch meetings or capability briefings. Let me clarify. If you are not someone I already have a relationship with, a meal-based meeting is not an option as it's just not a good use of time. And if you are not already a member of The ASBC, I cannot sit down with you to hear about the products and services your company provides or your goals in the government sector. The ASBC is focused on creating winning situations for our Members and it is not  sensible or fair for us to let someone take me to lunch to pick my brain. The only Not Yet Members my board (and my boss!) allow me to meet with are from the Government and the same expectation exists (they have to set expectations for the meeting as well).

No Dog and Pony Show, Please!
There are plenty of opportunities where companies can "show their wares" but trying to schedule a meeting with decision-makers just to do an overall capability briefing is inefficient. If you have a chance to get an audience with an agency or industry decision-maker, make it count! If you have done the research necessary to gain the meeting, most likely you've been able to uncover specific areas of interest if not a specific requirement they have, which you can use as the basis of your conversation. For example, how does your offering help them resolve an issue or achieve greater program efficiency. If the nature of the meeting is not somewhere along those lines, think about why you are requesting it.

Howdy Pardner.
If you are trying to entice another company to partner with you, an efficient exchange that show's you done your homework and value the time of the other party can go a long way to making a good impression. The same level of scrutiny (SWOT, Bid/No-Bid, etc.) you apply to pursuing opportunities, should apply in some way (if not the exact same way) to qualifying potential partners. What do they bring to the table? What do you bring to the table? Is the opportunity one they would be interested in based on previous awards and company alignment? Partnerships are crucial to success in the government sector and putting your best foot forward is crucial to garnering partnerships.

It's tougher and tougher nowadays to identify the right person to speak with based on your goal for a meeting. It is your job to qualify if the meeting is necessary and if the person or group you are reaching out to is the best resource, and if a meeting of any kind is a good use of time for everyone involved.

- The Chief Visionary and Executive Officer


Tags:  executive  government leader  meeting  relevance  time  vendor  vici  vidi 

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Comments on this post...

Eileen Kessler, OmniStudio says...
Posted Monday, February 15, 2010
Guy, thanks for some good tips on planning meetings. Speaking of meetings, I would love to see more meetings within DC. For those of us who have businesses in the city, it's often tough to begin the day in Virginia and venture over the bridge at rush hour in the evening. Maybe there would be a core group of members who could help expand networking meetings in DC? Just a thought....thanks for the great work you are doing!....Eileen
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Guy Timberlake, The American Small Business Coalition, LLC says...
Posted Monday, February 15, 2010
Thanks very much for your feedback regarding the blog entry and The ASBC overall! Maggie and I appreciate this type of feedback and look forward to taking information like this to continue the growth of the organization.

I definitely hear you about the DC to VA jaunt and would love for you to bring this up again at the upcoming State of The ASBC Membership Meeting on March 9th. Also, make sure you ping fellow DC members Courtney Fairchild and Angela Dingle about this as well.

Thanks!
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