Federal - Why the 'left coast' often fails in Washington sales
Being a 20-year veteran of the federal IT sales market I have learned a few things about companies and what they think they can do by entering the Washington DC market. Great companies have come to DC and left DC. There is a reason some stay and a reason more go. In that time, I have seen many seasoned commercial software companies that wanted to get a piece of the federal purse. Unfortunately, it is not that easy for one person to take on that “tip of the spear” role alone, without ending in a less than stellar blowout.
Finding a willing, able and experienced federal sales person is easy. They all know someone who knows someone that can help to open a door, especially if armed with a “state of the art” solution that meets the criteria for success at the agency they are trying to educate. Most of the companies that come to DC forget that doing business with the feds is a different type of animal than commercial. A different game requires a different game plan.
Staffs change with administrations and there are really no addresses to find the right people to go after, so if you are not a federal person then you will fail. The first thing all companies do is get a headhunter that deals with federal talent. Everyone uses the same ones and there are typically pools of people that make the rounds every time someone retires, moves on or gets the axe. For a small to medium sized company that wants to do business with the feds, there are certain “must haves”
1. Channel partners – you have to have them to get market share
2. GSA schedule – must have either a channel partner of a GSA schedule
3. Federal compliance - for example, in cyber-security, NIAP
4. Target federal organizations – civilian vs. DoD
5. Long sales cycles – 12 to 24 months before revenue, preceded by many meetings, proofs of concepts and trials
6. A unified pitch and collaterals that speaks to the marketplace
Companies new to the fed marketplace often count on just one person to accomplish all of the above, with a failure rate of over 85%. In truth, one person cannot set up all of the above effectively in a 12 to 24-month time-frame and companies cannot wait, especially where simply following the commercial game plan in federal, so they either fire the current salesperson, hire someone else, or leave federal altogether.
Formula for success
I created 202 Partners to offer a solution, an alternative to that cycle of failure. Team-based selling has always been part of my success and 202 was created with that in mind. As someone embracing humility from a young age, my successes over the years have been due to the collective power of the smart folks with whom I have engaged. In turn, all the people engaged share in those successes. 202 takes humility to the next level with the client’s mission always in mind. Each of the 202 partners has a mission specialty that helps drive the client’s overall mission. We call these “swim lanes” and when we engage a client, all the lanes are engaged in parallel, with no one trying to swim “widths”
202 is a team of specialists rather than just an individual. Our engagements are performance-based with “skin in the game”. Hiring 202 Partners allows you to have a 90-day window to validate whether or not your product and services are going to be embraced by the federal government, building on the general case of new products and new markets (previous blog post) in our specialty areas of cyber security, mobility and cloud.
What are some of our swim lanes?
Relationships – We have relationships in the DC area that are very deep and wide. C level execs with the federal government, the DoD and those of equivalent stature with companies and partners that support the missions of our federal customers.
Sales & Market Positioning – As seasoned federal sales leaders we know what the feds want to see and what they need to have. If the feds don’t understand the product or solution or do not have a need for it then your company is dead in the water.
Compliance & Architecture – Our team has all the expertise and certifications needed to touch and engage the fed infrastructure and make sure everything scales and meets SLAs, whether it be cyber-security, mobility, or getting a cloud environment FedRAMP certified.
About Peter Laitin
Prior to founding 202, Peter held executive sales and management roles at Thursby Software, Good Technology, Verisign and RSA Technologies, with a strong focus to security, DoD and Federal clients. He holds a BS degree in Marketing and Public Relations from Ashford University and also a BA in Political Science from Indiana University.
About 202 Partners
202 Partners is an American consulting partnership based in Washington, DC. We specialize in highly regulated enterprise software sales and business development in the areas of cyber-security, mobility and cloud for DoD, civilian federal, finance and healthcare enterprise commercial organizations. 202 was founded as way for seasoned and start-up IT companies to take advantage of mature tactical and technical advice in emerging technology, early markets and in dealing with the Federal Government. Learn more at 202partnersllc.com.