The depth and breadth of the federal market is so enticing that even industry veterans get caught up in the seemingly limitless potential that comes from looking across the entire federal government. This is particularly true when speaking with a new company or sales rep. The energy and enthusiasm makes you feel like you can be everywhere at once.
The problem is, of course, that you can’t be everywhere at once. Trying to be all things to all people means that you’ll likely end up not making much of an impression anywhere. While successful companies don’t ignore entire chunks of the federal market, they do realize that the best chances for success come from proper focus. Even the largest companies make regular choices about where to put the bulk of their business development efforts.
The best time to develop your company’s focus is before you dive into the deep end of the federal pool. Your approach should be “ready, aim, fire”, not “ready, fire, aim.” While taking the time to do research may delay full-on sales and marketing efforts, you’ll definitely hit more of what you’re aiming at if you have actual targets in mind up front.
Even if you’re already well down the road into federal business, this time of year is a great time to take a step back and develop a strategic plan for moving forward. Many companies will find that 80 percent of their business comes from their top 3-5 customers, but that they have a sizeable amount of time and resources invested in chasing the bottom 10 percent. So long as your firm isn’t beholden to one or two customers, re-focusing to go deeper where you’ve already established a beach head will likely result in your company closing more business more easily, with customers who already know of you, or whose colleagues are your current customers.
This approach delivers results.
One company we’ve worked with found that they’d spent considerable resources over nearly 18 months pursuing a government prospect who barely responded to their e-mails, but who had a huge project in the pipeline. In the meantime, they had a handful of customers who truly loved their solutions. The company changed their staffing around to minimize the effort spent on likely dead-ends and re-focused around the top four places where they were currently doing business, and the next four where they had, or could easily develop, relationships. The firm realized they probably weren’t going to hit the “home run” with that one customer, but did very well by consistently getting “on base” with people who knew, or knew of, them.
None of this means that your firm should go to market with blinders on. Similarly, no company should be so tied to one or two customers that their viability would be at risk if those customers went away. Diversity is critical to sustainable success over time and you always want to have an eye out for developments in the market that could make your solutions of interest to a brand new market sector.
Most federal contractors, though, keep more than “an eye” out looking for new things. The grass always looks greener, after all. Resist this temptation. Focusing on a few agencies or opportunities is a proven method to getting your company more “green,” while flying from agency to agency may have you seeing red.