What will the FY’18 federal budget look like? What will its impact be on your federal business? Despite reams of paper being devoted to this topic, here’s the real bottom line: No one really knows. The Trump budget was deader than a doornail upon arrival in Congress. Final FY’18 federal spending priorities will bear little resemblance to the package currently receiving so much attention. We won’t really know how all of the details will shake out until maybe the end of the calendar year.
In the meantime, there are real customers with real needs to be met and, more importantly, real money to spend. The main event is federal buying season, and it’s taking place now through September.
Cyber, cloud, shared services, and other priorities are already well-established. You should be working with your customers right now to tailor acquisitions that are scoped properly and give you a chance to compete. Working key relationships, that either you or your partners have, is an important activity as we head into summer. Successful companies know how to use those relationships and help over-burdened customers get to “go.”
At the same time, you should also be working to tailor your solutions internally to meet customer needs that have already been defined. Being able to speak your customer’s language is essential. Any proposal you can submit in their “mother tongue” increases your chances for success.
Similarly, you should think seriously about pursuing any piece of business that requires you to twist and contort your solutions to meet a narrowly scoped project. First, anything with an overly-specific description may be intended for someone else, giving you only a small chance for success. Second, there’s not enough time to chase down everything. Staying focused on what you do best and working with customers with whom you have at least some sort of established relationship with will likely give your firm a higher close rate.
Just as with solutions, your company should also be suggesting acquisition approaches that can work for your customer. Do they have a specific contract vehicle in mind? If so, can you sell through it? If not, making a case for why an alternative may be in their better interest is important.
One last action is also incredibly important. While we don’t know what next year’s spending numbers will look like, we do know that FY’18 will not start on time. Work with your customer now to initiate as many new projects as possible, even if they have to be broken down into phases. Getting started now will enable the customer, and you, to keep moving forward on what will be an “existing” project in FY’18. That’s an important consideration if your project is funded by appropriated dollars, dollars that allow you to keep moving forward under a Continuing Resolution – but not start anything that hadn’t already been initiated.
Following these simple guidelines will give your company a great shot at closing business now and in guarding against slow-downs that come from budget delays for next year.