Overcoming Challenges to Sell Within the Government Space
For companies that sell into the government space, knowledge is everything. Because there are so many variables—the size of the municipalities, the titles of the decision makers, the purchasing process, the existing operational strategies—it is difficult if not impossible to make headway with government prospects without first accumulating as much information as possible.
Attempting to sell similar products or services to small rural towns, heavily populated counties, and everything in between requires vastly different approaches. Developing those approaches involves a lot of time and research.
Having a partner to handle these fact-finding responsibilities can make a huge difference in the eventual success rate. That’s why a company selling government software solutions turned to VSA to assist with programs across numerous divisions, each targeting a different demographic or geographic location.
It has been a long and fruitful relationship, with VSA utilizing multiple strategies to qualify leads, set appointments, and provide the client with crucial pieces of information.
Here are five of the ways we’ve been able to help:
1. Testing the market
This client frequently targets specific states for expansion, but before fully committing, it needs to make sure they are viable locations. We are asked to “warm” the territories by reaching out and gauging the level of interest among prospects throughout the state, attempting to schedule appointments and helping our client determine if it’s worth assigning new reps.
In these cases, the message is already in place—it’s just a matter of learning how well the message resonates. We always make sure to customize the message, even if it’s the same software solution, based on information we’ve learned about the state we’re targeting.
2. Surveying hard-to-penetrate markets
If certain states are slow to show interest in our client’s services, it’s up to us to find out why.
Rather than delivering a specific message, we casually ask a handful of general survey questions: what they’re already using and why, what they like about it, what they don’t, etc. Then we take that information back to the client, and from there, we can collaborate on a calling script that targets certain trends and pain points.
Not only does our client learn more about its prospects, but VSA does too. The next time our Business Development Representatives (BDRs) start calling within that state, they’re able to use the increased knowledge to their advantage.
3. Smartening the lists
VSA’s list-building process is data-driven and fluid—we’re always looking for ways to strengthen the quality of the prospects we’re calling. This is especially true in the government space, where a list of contacts can become quickly outdated, especially in smaller towns.
In one state in which we were calling mostly rural townships, our BDRs were frequently finding it difficult to reach the listed decision makers, so we did extra research to discover alternate phone numbers or names. We didn’t treat continuous ringing, disconnected numbers, or generic voicemail messages as dead ends; instead, we treated them as opportunities to find new, more accurate points of contact.
4. Getting past the “no”
Just because one city official quickly dismisses our call, it doesn’t mean the administrator in the office down the hall isn’t interested in learning more. Our BDRs are adept at identifying multiple qualified decision makers and influencers within the government space, and they have the wherewithal to not give up after the first rejection.
Or, in many cases, the second, third, or fourth.
Even if seemingly everybody in a position of authority has turned down our request for an appointment, it doesn’t mean a record is permanently “dead.” We know there is frequent turnover among elected officials and their staffs, so sometimes, returning to a record months or even years later can deliver an opportunity. We recently set an appointment for this client on our 32nd call to the same location, proving that diligence pays off.
5. Knowing when to call
Of course, simply calling back at random times isn’t always effective. Often, it’s about knowing when to call back.
One of the biggest reasons government officials give for a lack of interest is budget. Or perhaps they’re under contract with another vendor. When those situation arise, our BDRs will ask when the budget is next up for review or the contract is due to expire, take detailed notes, and schedule the follow-up call for the appropriate time of year—well before decisions must be finalized.
Sure, sometimes we get lucky on a first call and reach a prospect at the perfect time, when their need for our client’s services is immediate. More realistically, it takes a few calls and a few conversations before the timing is right, but we always make sure we are prepared to connect when that time comes.
Our ongoing relationship with this client has produced a 7.5% aggregate opportunity rate over multiple years and dozens of programs. The client has counted on us for a wide variety of campaigns, and we have repeatedly been able to deliver the desired results.
Selling in the government space isn’t easy, but doing it without the required background information is just about impossible. In our relationship with this client, VSA has continually been able to provide that information, through persistence, research, and best practices gleaned from two decades of lead gen and appointment-setting experience.
Communication with our clients is always critical, especially when there is such a wide range of prospects and needs. In this case our client has never stopped learning—and neither have we.
If you’re looking for a partner to help you sell within the government space, give us a call. We’d love to share our knowledge with you, as well.