Selling To The Government: The Art Of The Approach

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Another framework that can help build your marketing message to federal agencies is POET, an acronym created by Topside Consulting to describe four dimensions in the federal IT market: political, operational, economic, and technical. Companies must learn to navigate all four.

Politics is politics with a small "p." This isn't a reference to lobbying or Congress or political donations. Rather, politics here refers to office politics -- biases you won't know about until you really know the people involved. Hiring a former fed can help on this front. Be aware, however, that any former senior fed has both friends and enemies, and is known for certain biases as well.

Operational refers to whether your product, service or solution will do what it's supposed to, and whether your company will perform as promised. Getting something to work in the government environment can be a challenge as unexpected obstacles can arise. The dataset for your service might need serious cleaning. Or maybe the program office is convinced you've done a bait-and-switch with résumé qualifications. Companies and the government can butt heads in this area.

Economic refers to whether the government has the money to buy what you're offering. It takes about two years for a single cycle of the federal budget process to complete, and each federal fiscal year has a distinct buying season. Someone has to get the right amount of money into the right account in order for you to receive a fully funded order -- not one with the increasingly common "subject to availability of funds" clause.

Technical refers to the technical environment into which you must fit. Asking the questions necessary to know you are a good fit, can offer superior value and won't have problems integrating during implementation is the seller's job.

Identifying key stakeholders in the acquisition process and delivering the right messages at the right time during the market survey and requirements writing phases should be the primary task. Begin by segmenting the market into actionable targets using frameworks like the TAP and POET to build messages that will catch the attention of the people you need to reach.

The preceding information was adapted and digested from the book "The Inside Guide to the Federal IT Market," published by Management Concepts Press. For more information, visit


Steve Charles is a co-founder of immixGroup, which helps technology companies do business with government. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer on technology and the federal procurement process. He can be reached at



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