Pitching to the government is always a challenge – it’s not the same as pitching in the B2B space. The government moves slowly, traditionally, and transformative or disruptive effects aren’t easily embraced. The system operates with the “business as usual” approach, which can be difficult to overcome.
Furthermore, government decision-makers aren’t given the tools, time, budget, or mandate to pursue innovative ideas. They have to pitch it, too, so your pitch has to be even better.
Obstacles to Pitching to the Government
The government has only a few sources of revenue, the majority of which is taxes. If there’s a decline, the only way to make it up is by raising taxes (not popular with the public) or decreasing spending. The government budget also has mandatory obligations, such as social programs, and discretionary spending, such as military and defense.
It’s also bound by budget cycles, which typically include four phases. The first is agency planning, which is followed by budget review in the second phase. The third phase is the Congressional appropriations cycle, and the fourth phase is the execution of the budget by the appropriate agencies. These limitations can significantly impact investments in the public sector.
Government Security Requirements
The General Services Administration outlines security practices for federal computer systems and requires periodic assessments of the risk and potential harm that could come from unauthorized use, access, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction of information systems.
Because of these strict requirements, the government is more wary of potential products and solutions and their security.
Business as Usual
Governments are slow to innovate. In many cases, government organizations purchase what works for their neighbors, making them resistant to change and trying something new. Despite many systems and solutions being sorely in need of an update, it’s a tough sell to get them to replace what has historically worked, or has adequately served their needs.
Strategies to Successfully Pitch Your Product
Illuminate the Issues with the Current Approach
Pitching an idea that is a departure from a traditional approach or policy is challenging in itself. It’s not enough to illuminate the problem – you must illuminate the problems with the current approach as well.
For example, while pitching our video wall control room to local law enforcement, we noticed that the majority of police agencies had outdated control rooms. Therefore, we decided to make that our selling point and put all our strategy and research in making sure they understood why updating their control room was crucial.
This shows that the problem is a long-standing issue, and one that, until now, hasn’t been solved satisfactorily. Case studies showing how your product helped other government organizations or departments can go a long way in making your case.
Pitch Innovation by Highlighting the Benefits of the Unconventional Approach
Demonstrate the ways in which the new approach is seeking new solutions, insights, or information that traditional avenues have failed to capture. The public sector is risk averse, on a whole. Even the most fundamental or standard tools may have encountered resistance when they were first pitched, and that’s no different than now. Remind them that they’ve taken risks before with what are now legacy solutions, and that it may be time to do it again to get the results they haven’t been able to achieve.
Demonstrate a Need for Diverse Solutions
Like businesses, the government tends to focus on a broad solution that will satisfy the widest needs. This is a good approach for positive ROI, but it’s not always ideal for meeting the diverse demands. A variety of stakeholders may be struggling with different needs and obstacles, and a one-size-fits-all solution can’t address all of them. This is an opportunity to show that additional or complementary approaches, such as your product, can be effective.
Show How Your Product Is Needed to Deliver New Expectations
The public has greater expectations, not only for consumer companies, but from government organizations as well. The public wants the government to engage with them and be accessible to them, and that may not be possible with the status-quo solution. This is an opportunity to leverage case studies or a demonstration that shows how the product can deliver these expectations and lead to a more satisfied public.
Highlight How You Learned and Improved
At its heart, innovation is about learning and improving to get better results. This may include a learning curve, or even failure, until it’s right, and that’s what the government doesn’t want to experience. You can show that you’re learning and improving, however, and how that progress has resulted in new insights or knowledge.
Build their confidence in not just what you’re selling, but you as a representative of the brand. If you’re willing to continue experimenting, testing, and learning, you instill trust in them that you can deliver results for them as well.
Show, Don’t Tell
Create opportunities for decision-makers to experience and experiment with the product. Remember, these people often have to believe in the product themselves, and then they’re tasked with pitching it to higher stakeholders. By giving them an opportunity to engage with the product hands-on, they will believe in it more and can effectively pitch it themselves.
The government and public sector are slow to adopt new solutions, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to successfully pitch them. When you have an in-depth understanding of what your product offers and how it ties into their current challenges, you can close the sale with the most traditional of industries.