One of the biggest nightmares confronting executives in the public sector is allocating limited resources among priority programs. Inevitably, some very worthy programs will have to be cut. And vulnerable constituents will suffer as a result.
It is comparatively easier to choose between programs that address similar purposes. For example, deciding whether to modernize a data center, or seek a cloud solution instead. It is much tougher to decide between projects that serve different constituents with vastly different purposes. Will hiring more teachers or building a new police station best serve the public?
The Easy Part: Responding to a Bid Proposal
Once a public contract bidding is begun, the rules and players are usually well-defined. The competitors are typically the usual suspects, and the tradeoffs – generally cost vs. capabilities and risks– are narrowed within the particular business line.
Sophisticated sales teams know that the real battle is getting their public agency account to put opportunities out for bid.
For public officials, the bidding process is the end-game. The key steps occur well before a bid is announced: convincing the government agency heads and the various budget comptrollers that a particular program or investment is a better use of limited resources than projects proposed by a different government department.
For example, why increasing data storage is so much more important to the government’s overall objectives than paying unemployment benefits or renovating a school or hospital.
Sales Teams Often Fail to Understand Who, and What, is their Real Competition
Sales teams typically spend their executive meeting time talking about the features and technical specifications of their products. They then complain that their target agency can’t, or won’t, make a decision to go to contract.
These teams miss that their meetings should also:
- convince their government customer that this investment best meets overall government objectives
- provide arguments that their government customer can use when competing with other agencies and dissimilar programs for limited funding during tradeoff analyses.
Learn from Watching Cutback Proposals
A good way to learn how your government customer sets priorities and makes tradeoffs – what key factors are considered – is to watch what programs are cut during budget shortfalls.
Unfortunately, today there are a lot of examples, at the national, regional and local government levels. Examine and understand the arguments that public officials make when making the “painful” choices to cut programs. These factors can help you understand how to position your solutions when investment choices are made, and help you “shape” demand for your services.
Try It Yourself
Think you can do better than your government leaders? Do you understand the tradeoffs and the impacts?
The Washington Post has issued a very interesting tool for you to make and understand tradeoff decisions as the US federal government tries to curb its deficits. Check it out here.