One of the major themes that we’ve heard across the government – from federal agencies to state and local governments, to the U.S. military – is the need for modernization and digital transformation. Government organizations of all sizes and with incredibly different missions have all been evaluating and embracing new, transformative technologies. This digital transformation is intended to help them improve operations, increase efficiency, and meet mission requirements despite reduced resources, tight budgets, and other operational limitations.
But government agencies and military organizations can only evaluate and adopt the technologies that they know about. They can only craft solution requirements if they truly understand what’s possible. And one of the most effective ways for government decision-makers to stay on top of the ever-shifting and constantly evolving technology sector is to have industry partners that are actively working to demonstrate their innovative solutions and latest technologies.
In this way, government sales and marketing professionals play an essential role in getting the latest tools into the hands of government agencies and military organizations that can most benefit from them.
But that’s often easier said than done. The government sales and acquisition process are notoriously convoluted and complicated – with confusing, resource-draining steps and requirements that can be a challenge for even the largest, most successful company.
To help government sales and marketing professionals, the Government Technology Insider has partnered with a government sales and marketing savant – Thomas Mahoney of TD SYNNEX Public Sector – to record a very special instructional podcast series. This four-part series entitled, “The Public Sector Primer,” is designed to help connect government sales and marketing people to the public sector agencies and organizations that would greatly benefit from the solutions that they offer.
In part one of The Public Sector Primer, they focus on how government sales and marketing professionals can learn about opportunities and identify an agency’s needs and mission requirements.
To listen to the first part of The Public Sector Primer, click PLAY below. Or, read a transcript of the conversation below.
TRANSCRIPT: The Public Sector Primer Episode One – Identify Agency Requirements
Ryan Schradin: Hello public sector marketing and sales professionals and welcome to the first episode in our special four-episode podcast series that we’re calling the Public Sector Primer…because we love alliteration.
My name is Ryan Schradin. I’m a frequent contributor to the Government Technology Insider, and I will be your host for this special podcast series.
Growing a business, generating sales, driving revenue, these things are always difficult, regardless of what you sell and who you sell it to. But doing business with the government is another animal, altogether. Selling technology solutions and services to the U.S. government and the military is incredibly complicated.
There are procedures that have to be followed. There are complicated procurement and contract processes that are time-consuming and challenging. There are even contract vehicles that only give you the opportunity to sell your product to government and military organizations. And that can turn months of hard work into zero guaranteed dollars in revenue.
No, government contracting is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it could be a war of attrition that takes guts, patience, experience, knowledge, and – sometimes – even a little creativity. But, you know, we’ve got some good news for you. You don’t have to go it alone. That’s because the Government Technology Insider has sought out some help. The Public Sector Primer podcast series is basic training for technology solution providers that want to do business with the government and military, but don’t know where to start. It’s also a great resource for those who have done business with the government for decades but want to pick up a few new tricks.
Your instructor and my guest for this podcast series is a veteran of the industry, someone that has spearheaded government marketing and sales initiatives for one of the world’s leading government technology solution providers. Tom Mahoney, the VP of Marketing at TD SYNNEX Public Sector.
Tom, we appreciate you joining us for this special podcast series and sharing your experience with our listeners.
Tom Mahoney: Thanks, Ryan, really excited to participate in this series and just share some of the hard-won wisdom that we’ve gained here.
Ryan Schradin: All right, well, without further ado, let’s kick things off. And let’s start with some questions about identifying sales opportunities in the federal government and military.
To the uninitiated, it might seem like finding opportunities to sell products and services to the government is easy. Agencies release RFIs when they’re gathering data and identifying technology solutions that they need to solve a problem that they have, then they’ll release RFPs to listen to solicit bids to procure those solutions.
If the demand signals are coming from the agencies, do companies need to be out there proactively identifying sales opportunities?
Tom Mahoney: That’s a great question. The answer is yes. And absolutely.
We know that the average deal cycle in the federal government can be anywhere from 12 to 18 months – or even longer. Having a team that’s on the ground identifying opportunities before they reach the RFP stage is your best chance to get “line of sight” into where the market is going, where the pipeline might be downstream, and where you might be able to best position your product or solution.
Because, by the time the RFP hits the street, you now have 30 days to gather a response that can meet the minimum requirements of the program. But those requirements have been out there for years. Ss the agency has been meeting with industry meeting with partners meeting with their employees – and the men and women serving in uniform – to identify what needs to be satisfied by the RFP. Those requirements have been out there for years, and they have been building a concept of what they think the solution needs to look like.
Imagine trying to glean what the agency is looking for. They put that together in an effective response against everybody else that’s responding. And you only have 30 days.
It’s critical that you’re out there in advance, proactively identifying sales opportunities.
Ryan Schradin: So, it sounds like if you’re sitting back waiting for these RFPs to be released, you’re tying your hands – giving yourself less time to respond to them. And let’s be honest, you’re probably leaving revenue dollars on the table.
So, let’s talk about that a little bit. How do we do that? How do we identify the opportunities that might be out there? And how do we get out ahead of this so we’re not just sitting back and waiting for the RFPs?
Tom Mahoney: Well, you know, ironically, one of the first places to look at is the prior RFP history. What have the historical awards looked like at the agency level? That is a blueprint and a roadmap for what they’re probably going to be looking at in the future.
The other thing I would say is the government really doesn’t try to hide what they’re going after. We see executive orders. We see budget mandates and mission mandates get published publicly for public consumption. The challenge is that there is so much data that’s available that you need to digest and you know, separate the good opportunities from the opportunities that may not be a fit for your specific solution. But there’s tons of data out there.
One of the first things you want to do is see that you can subscribe to some of those intelligence-gathering resources and subscription-based services that are available in the market. There are many of them out there that provide a line of sight into future opportunities. That’s step one.
Step two is to be present in the marketplace. Look for the industry events and trade shows. Look for the association memberships. Get out there and meet with the government employees face-to-face and begin to build a network with them. Because you may learn more information about what they’re seeking, what their pain points are, and what their challenges are. And, if you’re effective there, you may even find yourself in a position where you can help them identify what the requirements may need to be for the upcoming proposal. And that puts you in a much stronger position to win once that shot clock starts going off – when the RFP hits the street.
Ryan Schradin: We talked about the RFPs. And you’re saying that a lot of those requirements have been there for years – well before the RFP comes out. But when we’re talking about innovative technologies, when we’re talking about new solutions, when we’re talking about exciting startups…agencies and military organizations, they don’t know what they don’t know. And they might not know that innovative technology from an entrepreneurial technology startup even exists.
In that scenario, how can a company like that identify the agencies that might need their solutions, and educate them about its existence? Because in that case, that requirement might not have been there for years? Candidly, the agency, the military organization might not even know that this is something that’s possible.
Tom Mahoney: Yeah, that’s a great question, Ryan. What I would offer here is that this is where a sales and marketing funnel is an essential framework that you need to put in place, not just for managing your opportunities, which is the most common use case for a joint sales and marketing funnel. But for mapping your content and your marketing program to those funnel stages.
And there are many different flavors of funnel out there across the marketplace, you could run a Google image search and come back with all sorts of different diagrams and graphics, let’s make it as simple as 1-2-3: top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, and bottom of the funnel. And that top of the funnel is what is the widest part of the funnel. That’s where you’re focused on building awareness – awareness of your solution and product. So that when a government agency is reaching out to the marketplace to look for solutions, they’re familiar with your brand, and they’re associating your brand’s products, services, and solutions with a pain point.
So, what are some of the tactics you can use there? This is where public relations is a top-of-the-funnel activity. This is where new product launches are top-of-the-funnel activities. Broad-based social media in general advertising is a top-of-the-funnel awareness activity. Radio advertising is actually an effective top-of-the-funnel awareness opportunity where you’re trying to reach the largest percentage possible of your target audience do that they are aware.
That’s outbound marketing. And then in terms of other tactics that you can bring to bear – other strategies to help you identify agencies that may need your solution – take a look at past award history and see where you have something that is complementary to what they’ve purchased in the past. It could be an add-on or a follow-on sale opportunity. Or it could be that your technology is the latest and greatest and replaces an established trusted piece of technology, in which case you want to use that as a targeting mechanism to help introduce your solution as the next best thing as you get ahead of the next cycle with the next RFP.
Ryan Schradin: We’ve talked about a few different things here. Getting out in front of these RFPs. You talked about going to trade shows. You’ve talked about public relations and some of those things at the top of the funnel. But candidly, I always learn best by learning from others and hearing how they’re doing things. So, maybe you can give us some examples of all of this in practice.
What is TD SYNNEX Public Sector doing actively to identify target opportunities? How are you guys generating business intelligence and insights? How are you leveraging those tools to create sales opportunities? And how are you doing that on behalf of your partners and clients? Because I know really that’s one of the big benefits of working with a company like a TD SYNNEX Public Sector.
Tom Mahoney: Yeah. Well, thank you for that question, Ryan. Doing business with the government can be complex. The way government procures is different than what happens in the commercial sector or direct-to-consumer sector. The paths to the end user can be different because you have to go through special partners that meet RFP requirements. TD SYNNEX Public Sector exists to remove that complexity from the dynamic so that you can accelerate your public sector growth. And it actually really starts with deep market intelligence and insights.
In fact, we have a fully dedicated team within TD SYNNEX Public Sector called the market insights team. All they do is create first and third-party research to help us identify what are the key trends that are influencing the federal, state and local, and higher education markets in terms of its consumption, mission mandates, executive orders, RFPs, and RFQs. They study the agency blueprints and the org charts, identify who the buyers are, and then turn that information into assets to support the TD SYNNEX Public Sector sales and marketing teams so that we can become more effective in building brand demand and accelerating pipeline for the vendors on our line card.
But, if you are a vendor aligned with us, as your public sector distributor, we make all that information available to you on a self-serve portal, so that you can access information directly. You can even use it as a training mechanism for your new hires that may just be getting introduced to the public sector. So, that’s one of the examples of how we help our vendors understand how to identify targeted opportunities for their business – because we’ve actually embedded market intelligence as a key component of our value proposition.
Ryan Schradin: It’s very cool. It’s exciting. And I’ve known you for a long time – I didn’t even know about that market intelligence team. I learned something new today. Very, very neat stuff.
Well, unfortunately, I hate to cut it off here, but we are out of time. So, we’re going to have to call it quits on the first episode of the Public Sector Primer podcast series. But Tom, I want to thank you again for joining us for this very special, and I think incredibly educational four-episode series.
Tom Mahoney: Thanks, Ryan. I’m really glad to participate. And looking forward to the next few episodes that we have coming out.
Ryan Schradin: I think it was going to be really great for people – your wealth of knowledge on this stuff. And I’m looking forward to what the next three of these are going to sound like.
For our public sector marketers and salespeople joining us today to learn about how to sell and market to the government and military, we appreciate you listening. If you’re looking for more educational resources on this topic, check out TD SYNNEX Public Sector’s whitepaper called, “30 lessons for doing IT business in the public sector.” We’ll put a link to that in the body of the article with this podcast.
Also, be sure to check back on government technology insider for the next three episodes and the public sector primer podcast series. In our next episode, we’ll be discussing theme-based marketing campaigns.