One of the most common reasons that government contractors have difficulty in getting new business is that they do not have and communicate a clear vision of their value proposition – from the perspective of the potential client.
In all the work that we do with companies, this is the place that we normally start. Most clients have a website that describes the company and what it does and many have a stock ‘elevator speech’ or brochure to go along with it. But often these presentations falls short of even opening doors – let alone closing business. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.
- Talking in code: We often refer to this as ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’. The website and elevator speech is canted in terms that the company understands. Inside or coded language dominates the presentation. Much of this ‘inside speak’ is opaque to potential clients. Management fails to translate their value proposition into the language of the potential client. As a result, the value that they might bring to that client is clouded. The very best business development professionals know how to make this translation. But they are often hampered by the public presentations. One told me “I really hope that the person I am meeting with has not visited our website. If they have, I have to overcome the impact before I can get about showing them how we can help.”
- Imprecise or diffused value propositions: The biggest sin here is a public presentation of such a wide range of skill-sets and qualifications that the potential client, realizing how small the company is, simply turns away in disbelief. One of the drivers of this misunderstanding is the tendency of mid-level government contractors to try to appear as all things to all people. Potential clients generally have very specific needs and are looking for companies that focus on those areas of needs. The trick is to realize the core of your abilities to deliver and sell based on that.
- Responding to the need: Many companies are so eager to get new business that they attempt to tailor make their value proposition to whatever opportunity they come across. The alternative – finding needs that closely match your core competencies – is a much better approach. The key question is ‘what do we do very well – better than our competition’. This involves selling off of your clearly established core competencies. A good business development effort begins with a clear understanding of those competencies and searches out potential client needs that are a good match. Another friend put it this way, “I rifle shoot opportunities. Shot gunning is a waste of time. Sure it takes a lot of up-front digging, but my success rate is far better if I am selling precisely what the client wants and can demonstrate clearly that we can deliver”.
- Coordinating branding, marketing, business development and sales: This is the real test for a company. When all efforts are closely coordinated – when the pattern is tight and based on the actual capabilities and qualifications of the company – the likelihood that of success goes up significantly. Management’s vision of the process – covering all these areas – needs to be coherent, disciplined and focused. It is really the only way to keep the business development efforts from becoming a side show – an out-lying group that only tangentially represents the company. As this is often not done well, many companies find the business development group to be a revolving door – with people coming on board with great fanfare, under producing and then leaving only to be replaced by others who do the same.
One of the services that I offer is a facilitated strategic planning review. The benefits to a company can be significant. The major task of the process is to guide the discussions in such a way that the missteps outlined above are avoided. In the grand scheme of things, the time commitment and cost is modest but the impact of a company’s future can be very great. So how do we manage this?
The first thing that we bring to the table is very experienced and well connected team of professionals. Like me, many of my friends have successfully built companies. They have navigated the shoals and figured out how to develop a focused and compelling value presentation. They have also successfully approached and sold new clients. Rather than being consultants who are selling a standard package or perspective, we bring together a team that can approach each company as unique and find ways to unlock its potential.
Other members of our team are senior executives with some of the dominate players in the government contracting field. These subject-matter experts bring a depth of experience and a wide range of contacts that can help management realize the true value of their capabilities and open new opportunities.
The process begins with a careful assessment of the company, its team, client base, qualifications and potential. It culminates with a multi-day session during which our findings and suggestions are presented. This tends to be a highly interactive program with involvement by a large percentage of the company’s senior team. Start to finish, the process takes about three to four months – but the result can impact the company and its fortunes for years.
Don’t make tomorrow’s journey using yesterday’s maps
© Dr. Earl R. Smith II