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“Repair your boat, prepare your map, update your tackle and cast your nets!”

That’s the message from federal sales strategist Eileen Kent. She says that during this time of sequestration and possible federal employee furloughs, federal contractors are becoming more and more disenchanted with selling to the federal government in 2013. Primes are cutting back on their sales teams, their proposal efforts, their capture management and their project management teams.

Basically, they’re pulling up their nets and leaving the industry – for opportunities they believe are open in another marketplace altogether.

“This is the perfect opportunity for new vendors to enter the federal marketplace,” says Eileen. “While the primes struggle with losing their contracts, cutting their project teams and letting people go, new contractors should be strategizing and focusing on new ways to support the government in its goal to streamline business processes and saving money.  It’s time to get out there and start casting your nets.”

How do new businesses position themselves to win federal contracts?

Kent says, “As a federal sales sherpa or guide, the first thing I do is look at a company’s direct competition. How much business are they doing with the feds, what agencies are buying from them, how much and with what contracting vehicles? This intelligence is vital to finding where the fish are biting. Despite what you read in the news, they are, in fact biting.”

The second step is to train the company’s ownership and management team, along with the sales executives, on how to fish for leads and opportunities. “The info is out there, you just need to know where to look,” says Eileen. “Most guides won’t show you their secrets, but I will.”

There are many public classes offered by PTACs and the SBA and a variety of federal marketing companies, including Eileen. These can help the entire team understand federal key decision makers, critical terminology, and methods of opening doors and closing deals, quickly and quietly. The goal is to build long-lasting relationships inside the government and close deals that are “under the surface.”

The third step is to build a federal sales action plan, which includes a focused list of agencies based on the competitive analysis, who to contact and with whom to partner. This federal sales action plan must require the sales team to report their results and their contact conversations weekly so the management can track the legacy of every relationship and help steer the sales (boat) toward fertile waters.

“This is not rocket science,” says Kent. “Like fishing, it takes patience, persistence and perseverance, but it also requires a guide who can tell you where all the fish are hiding. It also  takes a good size boat to handle the rough waters and times when the fish are all biting at the same time.”

When will the fish bite? “From June until September, 2013, it’ll be a feeding frenzy because agencies still have to spend the 2013 budget – so the time to prepare and strengthen your nets, equipment, maps, team and relationships – is NOW.”

Don’t sit on the riverbank watching FBO.gov waiting for opportunities and complaining when you lose.  As Eileen and I both say, “The fish don’t jump in the boat!”

Eileen Kent has trained over 10,000 in federal sales, proposals and GSA Schedule Contracting. Her woman-owned small business has helped organizations win tens of millions in federal contracts, through teaching federal sales strategies one-on-one and in team training. For more information, call 312-636-5381 or connect with Eileen on LinkedIn

  1. Great article, Bill, and I enjoyed the quotes from Eileen Kent. But the opportunities are not just there for businesses new to federal contracting. Our President & CEO, Kwesi Rogers, and I both believe that there is a lot of opportunities for agile small businesses already in the government space to rise to the occasion and grow in this environment.

    1. Yes, I can understand that perspective, but neither Eileen nor I share it. While the marketplace is tight, this is precisely the time that innovation, tighter responses, and a good solid “Why Us” story can let newcomers overcome the old-timers. Is it easy? No. But don’t forget, military vets and federal officials retire all the time, catch the entrepreneurial bug, have a great idea, and proceed to execute. That’s what they did in their military or federal career, and it is repeatable in business.

      As always, your mileage may vary, nothing is guaranteed, but if you have the relationships or build them, success is still open.

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