The job of sales has changed. That is as accurate in the Government sector as in the commercial.
The traditional view of Government sales is that it’s not what you know as who you know is now outdated. Now it’s all about information management and mindset. Knowing the right people gets information; what you do with it is more important.
Different scale opportunities can work a bit differently, but any competitive procurement decisions will be made based on an assessment against several criteria, with clear audit trails for decisions. Government works hard to show that tenders are fair, if they are not the procurement can be open to legal challenge, which might cause a re-bid – no Government department wants to risk that.
Many competitive sales campaigns have been lost because the sales lead relied on too few sources (or sources who thought they were more important than they are) – perhaps because of a bias towards one of his or her old contacts.
A major high-value procurement (£50M+) will often take years in the making and will be subject to all manner of impacts, buffeted by policy effects, geopolitical changes and general elections. Politicians may weigh in trying to score votes in home constituencies of the different bidders; technology might change and render the whole thing moot. In handling this, a sales lead needs to be capable of dealing with two primary aspects:
The sales lead is like a conductor of an orchestra. They need to have a grasp of the essential elements, from the vision to marketing materials, to the solution, to an understanding of the financial model and how it impacts the opportunity. Their ability to grasp the concept and handle information is critical. They need to critically evaluate that information rather than let emotion affect their judgement.
They need to be resilient. In a multi-year campaign, there will be good days and bad days. Key people will leave, goalposts will shift, budgets will be cut and like as not the customer will delay the procurement for administrative reasons. Given the size of the deal and therefore, the visibility the sales lead’s career can often feel like it hangs on the one transaction. Depending on how to close core business, this can be very true. As a result, the sales lead can experience wild shifts of emotion, which can jeopardise the campaign, or take significant risks, not in the company’s interest. Proper sales management needs to recognise this and insulate the sales lead from the worst of the internal impacts, but sales leads also need to be selected based on their ability to handle the emotional strain.
Ultimately the sales lead who controls their team and themselves the best will almost certainly be the most successful one. These are far cries from the popular perception and its possible that many long term sales people will struggle with the former as its importance has grown radically in the last ten years.
The correct mindset is essential in dealing with the plethora of challenges mentioned.
In the 21C sales environment, it is aspects of mindset that afford sales teams a source of competitive advantage.