Gov't Customers Demand Tech Solutions Support the Big Picture


No matter what the "coolness factor" of a technology is, when selling to the government, the focus is on how the soution will help a department reach its goal. Forget the whiz-bang gizmos, and get down to brass tacks, says Liesegang, vice president of the Government Channels division at immixGroup. In this second installment, Liesegang discusses how to sell IT solutions to government customers.—Jennifer Bosavage, editor

Federal policy, procurement changes, and budget drivers are having a real effect on how government agencies must adapt to fulfill critical mission initiatives. Consolidation is underway to address existing policies and initiatives, and new programs may not gain much traction.

The ultimate goal in selling IT solutions is to reduce the federal deficit and to generate real budget savings. It’s important to note, however, that some things in the federal government must never change –most notably, the mission critical objectives that every agency and department must support in its services to citizens and the warfighter.

For the government, technology is a critical bridge for maintaining mission objectives even when budgets are reduced or consolidated overall. The financial benefit of federal policy and budget evaluations, then, will likely be directed to technology solutions for maintaining current levels of performance and meeting mission critical objectives within agencies and departments.

In part 1 of this series, we looked at the policy drivers that are changing accountability and risk management for technology companies, systems integrators and VARs. In this installment, we’ll look at some general ways that technology can help meet mission critical requirements, and set the stage for a deeper look at trends in technology buying for 2012 and beyond.

An example of how technology will help agencies meet mission objectives despite reduced budgets is the Farm Service Agency at USDA. That agency plans to close 150 offices as part of a cost savings effort that will cut 400 USDA locations across the department. Besides relocating people, USDA will rely more on telework and mobility, consolidating cell phone and other technical services contracts, and unifying email in the cloud. That presents an opportunity for selling IT solutions through a scalable and secure technology.

The Office of Management and Budget also is pushing to reduce infrastructure costs, freeing up budget for “innovation development." OMB advocates continued use of “TechStat” review sessions and a cloud-first policy toward new IT (including emphasizing shared services). They are also promoting a government-wide approach to mobility and mobility services, starting with an online forum to solicit ideas, such as a single portal at which agencies can acquire mobility goods and services. To be successful selling IT solutions to the government, you must demonstrate how you will support the mission, while ultimately reducing cost.

Vendors, resellers, and systems integrators must begin positioning sales to government as a continuation of existing mission critical programs or objectives. That is a strategic means of ensuring sales through periods of budgetary continuing resolutions. ROI and the effectiveness of solutions to support the mission are key.

As a technology company, how does this affect your go-to-market strategies in the government channel? First, technology value propositions have to be crystal clear, in a way that relates to government missions. No longer are decisions going to be made based simply on who has the lowest price. In short, you will really need to know your customer at a deeper lever than before.

A technology value proposition for government must include understanding the agency mission, the program focuses, the originating source of programs that support missions, and how the technology supports those missions.

Now, how do you plan on selling products and solutions into the agency? That starts with strong relationships. VARs and systems integrators must have access to the lines of business within government. Often, the systems integrators themselves run those lines of business and programs. So in some cases, you may be working with both the government program manager as well as a systems integrator program manager. As we discussed in our last installment, technology companies need to understand whether they are selling with the systems integrator or through the systems integrator.

Another way of ensuring success is to partner with companies that have past experience selling into multiple agencies. If the government agency buyer has confidence that your partner is selling appropriate solutions, they will likely ask about other agencies for which this work has been done. This may require your partner to bring you in to speak with program executives and discuss how you will be able to support their missions in this time of reduced budgeting.

Selling to the government means thoroughly explaining how the buying agency will be able to cut costs through the effective use of IT–while not sacrificing the government mission. Based on existing federal IT procurement policies, that may mean selling cloud-based or subscription services, which ultimately are far more scalable and secure, and could lead to appreciable cost reductions. New service models will arise and you will need to understand them.

The key will be to understand agency mission objectives, the role of the VAR or systems integrator in fulfilling those mission objectives, and how your technology can maintain those objectives even when budgets are reduced and consolidated. Follow that formula, and you’ll boost your odds of selling effectively into government today.

Next Wednesday, we’ll take a deeper look at trends in technology buying for 2012 and beyond.