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Oftentimes, there are pressures to make contact within a federal agency to meet the top priorities of your organization, and most government contractors feel it. But there are lessons to be learned along the way. Let’s look at a fictional example.

Let’s say your Senior VP of Sales gave you a mission: Penetrating the Department of Regional Analysis and Technology* (DRAT) is a number one priority for your company. DRAT is planning some large projects next year, and it’s up to you to establish contact.

What do you do?

Keep this in mind: The level at which you establish that contact is actually more important than just developing any new relationship at the target agency. You need to have contacts that are senior enough to make things happen, but not so senior that your chances of getting to see them rely heavily on whether you’re related by marriage.

Fortunately, you can learn from mistakes others have made to ensure that your own efforts are properly targeted and have the best chance at success.

Lesson 1: Not every contact is a good contact.

While the agency is fictional, the example below is based on a real-life experience. Once given the directive to make contacts at DRAT, sales reps charged out of the meeting and made the first contacts they could find. They were actually able to speak with officials at the target agency and, amazingly, get an in-person meeting for the very next week. The reps knew they were on their way to developing a strategic account.

Their feeling was further strengthened when the initial meetings led to the quick placement of a purchase order for an ancillary piece of equipment that the customer made with a government purchase card. What could be better than this?  New contacts at a new agency! An easy order! Success is imminent!

Unfortunately, the customer was a relatively low-level employee with a narrowly defined mission and little visibility to the senior people in the agency. She had little time to help the contractor leverage the small success for bigger opportunities elsewhere. Worse, while the company had developed a great reputation, it was for being the supplier of ancillary equipment that could be purchased inexpensively. The full range of solutions they offered never even got off the launching pad.

Speed can actually work against a government contractor.  Go too low at a target agency, and you run the risk of having a tougher time convincing people of your ability to do more complex work than if you had no existing business at that agency.

Lesson 2: A High Level Contact Could Be Too High.

Some contact can be too low, but the opposite is also true. In this fictional example, Wendy Wonderful, DRAT CIO, is a popular speaker on the federal IT circuit. She has more LinkedIn contacts and Twitter followers than one of the lesser Kardashians. Your SVP is convinced that Wendy is the person you need to see at DRAT.

Just like lining up to see Santa at the Mall, though, getting in to see Wendy can be tough. Everyone wants their 15 minutes with her, including her bosses. Unless you went to high school with Wendy or her brother, you may have little chance.

Lesson 3: Find the Influencer for Success.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s Deputy Assistant CIO, David Drone, may be available. David doesn’t have the title, but guess what?  He is the person shepherding a $10-million DRAT IT upgrade through the agency. David is preparing to have three companies he likes meet with Wendy.

David and people like him are the people your firm most likely want to target in order to achieve success. You can meet with David in a timely manner.  He clearly has enough trust from his boss to oversee a large procurement. He also has access to the boss, meaning that success with him can, indeed, be leveraged for future opportunities.

Lesson Learned:

When targeting your federal agency, remember that aiming too low means you may just hit the ground.  Aim too high, and you’ll miss important projects in the pipeline now.  Going somewhere in between gives you the best chance of hitting what you’re aiming at – successful business.

* DRAT is not a real federal agency. It is fictional for the purpose of this post



Larry Allen

About Larry Allen

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Larry Allen has over 20 years’ experience in government acquisition. He has provided critical information and advice to most of the top 10 federal contractors doing business with the government today. His relationships in, and knowledge of, the federal contracting arena are second to none. He is routinely sought-out by contractors, investment firms and other consultants to provide expert insight into various aspects of the federal market. This includes spending trends, market leaders, acquisition policy, and the opportunities to shape federal acquisition via coordinated government affairs campaigns. He served as a member of the Multiple Award Schedule Advisory Panel and the “Federal Contracts Report” Board of Advisors. He has testified often before committees of the US Senate, House of Representatives, and several state legislatures. He hosts his own radio show on government procurement, “Off the Shelf” on Federal News Radio in Washington, DC.

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