I often meet with business leaders who are frustrated with their progress as they work in government sales. They sometimes react poorly to customer responses. What many business leaders don’t do often enough is put effort into the art of the reframe.
Common refrains from customers include:
- “We didn’t make the cut line last year.”
- “We can’t get the ‘customer’ to move.”
- “They’re going to spend five times our cost on the competitor’s product.”
- “Politics is everywhere in that community and I can’t break-in.”
I’ve come to appreciate that these refrains are all about the same thing…the company approaching the government customer couldn’t reframe the issue appropriately at the right time. What looks like stalling is typically a customer not seeing the same problems the same way you see them. What looks like internal politics is often much more about culture and familiarity on the customer’s part—and a lack of understanding on the part of the seller.
However, it’s quite common that the government end-user doesn’t know what they need until you put it in their hands. It’s also common that when you do get your product in their hands, the end-user figures out a better way to use the product than you had imagined. Lastly, we know that in the earliest phases of the budgeting process, the rack and stack of priorities take place years before budget parameters are understood – let alone how much funding the customer will have to work with. That’s right, years. As in more than two years in advance of funding appearing in the customer’s checkbook. Therefore, they make poor decisions with terrible information.Adapt your mindset to the sale. Do this by being ready, and knowing how to, reframe the issue from your perspective or theirs. Read more here: Click To Tweet
The Art of the Reframe
In sales of commodity items, especially in B2B or commercial enterprise sales, teams look to position or re-position for a mutual win. That is to say, you can adapt that mindset to government sales. Do this by being ready, and knowing how, to reframe the issue from either perspective, yours, or theirs.
There are multiple entry points for a subsequent conversation, demonstration, and reframing of the issue. This can be before, during, and after the budgeting aspect of the acquisition of the timeline completes. The entry points aren’t all with the same person or office that you’ve identified as the customer.
I’ve talked many times about the 3-Rings of influence: industry, agency, and Congress. There are people in your customer constellation and in each ring of influence, who can help. They can help you present the problem, need, your solution, and yourself in a better way. If the refrains above ring true for you, something needs to be reframed:
- The understanding of the need,
- The understanding of the proposed solution,
- The understanding of your capability to solve the need,
- The funding priority associated with the need – this is often overlooked, and rarely resides with the agency customer alone.
In aviation, pilots are taught to believe their instruments. In golf, Tiger Woods is famous for identifying that amateurs can’t distinguish real from feel. Don’t ignore the myriad data points of environmental feedback you are receiving along the way.
Be ready for the opportunity to reframe the issue to everyone’s advantage.
Need help engaging with the federal government for a policy or funding your product? If you need help, schedule a call with Gene.
To get a copy of my book, Pitching the Big Top: How to Master the 3-Ring Circus of Federal Sales, or information on federal sales, visit Capitol Integration.