Bills and securing a federal sales contract for your business can sometimes feel like playing three-dimensional chess. There is an entire constellation of customers to take into account, numerous relationships to manage and many overlapping timelines to follow. From the outside, what happens inside the halls of power may even seem inaccessible or outside the domain of business influence.

Of course, savvy businesses know this isn’t true—engaged and knowledgeable businesses can influence all these processes at all stages

Though there’s plenty of legwork to do at every stage, one particularly misunderstood part of the federal sales process is legislation.

Though plenty of businesses understand the idea of influencing key players, fewer of them understand the details of the legislative process

In fact, many people subconsciously view the Congress portion of the three-ring process as a black hole. On the one end, their issue or concern is sucked in…and what comes out the other side is anyone’s guess. Fortunately, the process is not as difficult to understand as it seems.

For business purposes, the most relevant bills to understand break down into three categories: policy, authorization and appropriation.

Policy Bills

In the process of getting things funded, authorization bills are an important step. That’s because these bills authorize spending on a certain concern or program area—and the authorization of funds is directly correlated to your business landing a successful sale. Though these bills can overlap with policy bills (in rare cases when an outlined solution comes with authorized money attached to it), these are generally authored specific to one cause or department within the government.

Authorization Bills

In the process of getting things funded, authorization bills are an important step. That’s because these bills authorize spending on a certain concern or program area—and the authorization of funds is directly correlated to your business landing a successful sale. Though these bills can overlap with policy bills (in rare cases when an outlined solution comes with authorized money attached to it), these are generally authored specific to one cause or department within the government.

Appropriations Bills

Of all three, appropriations bills may be the most significant of all. While the other two kinds of bills are necessary steps to a federal contract, an appropriations bill is what actually releases funds to be spent in a given area. If the other two categories outline plans for how money could be spent, appropriations bills function as a kind of “open bank account” from which federal agencies can draw at their own discretion.

 

Agency Implementing Policy Process

To put it simply: authorization bills allow spending, but appropriations bills do the spending.

By understanding these different kinds of legislation, businesses can more effectively track their concerns as they flow through governing bodies. What strategic businesses will find is that there are places at nearly every legislative stage where they can campaign for their business’s interests.

By fostering good relationships with Congresspeople, businesses can offer information and strategy that can help shape a proposed bill. By understanding the committee and subcommittee structure, businesses can help influence or inform members on why a given piece of legislation should pass. The same is true for the floor stage—knowing which people will be speaking on what topics in a bill can give your company an edge.

When it comes to federal sales, being proactive about selling far before money is allocated is key—and understanding the legislative process in detail gives your company an edge.

Need help engaging with the federal government for policy or access to funding for your product? If you need help with this, schedule a call with Gene.

To get a copy of Gene Moran’s book Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales or for more information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.