It’s the election season and we are inundated with headlines on the players, policies, perceptions, peccadilloes and politics. For my clients who sell to the public sector we have a recurring conversation that is focused on winning in a political world.
When you are in sales, even if you don’t get passionately wrapped around an elections cycle, you will be affected by the outcome. Many times I hear how someone rigged a deal or that it’s too hard to do business with government. Rarely is there any true corruption and government is no harder to do business with than any commercial sector. You just have to understand the language and know the rules. The people you meet with day-to-day, the government workers who serve as the implementers and practitioners of the solution, are keenly aware of the politics. In fact, often these are the folks who waved signs, worked in precincts and made calls for the political leadership in that territory. Politics matter, so you have to be attentive and sensitive. Selling to government is a relationship business.
The vendor has a role, which is best positioned as a partner to the government sector. Mr. and Mrs. Vendor should feel the public sector’s pain and be committed to the right solution for the right price.
The customer has a role, which is best described as the public servant who wakes up day-in and day-out knowing that it is imperative for them to serve their leadership and the public they represent.
The lobbyist has a role, and no, it’s not buying dinners and throwing parties. The lobbyist serves as a liaison to the customers and the vendors (i.e. their clients). The lobbyist is an interpreter, and advisor.
If you understand these roles and how they work together you will have great success. If you don’t understand or choose to ignore your role, you are in for a disappointing ride. When an effort goes off the rails, it’s often because of politics or perception. There’s many outside influences and even more outside influencers. Whether you are a donkey or an elephant, you can thrive, but you need to understand the rules of the game.
Tell me about how you used the rules of politics to crush your competition or how you became road kill to a savvier player.