Sales pitches have a lot of similarities across industries, but pitching to the government is vastly different from pitching to another business or a customer. It’s more about your relationship with the decision-makers than the product itself.

The government moves more slowly than other markets and tends toward tradition. If your product is innovative and disruptive, it can be more challenging to get them to make the leap. Often, what’s familiar and sufficient wins over the new and unknown.

In addition, government stakeholders don’t often have the empowerment to look for innovation. If they’re sold on the product, they have to take that knowledge and enthusiasm and pitch to other stakeholders to get buy in.

B2G vs. B2B Pitching

The art of the pitch is unique when it comes to government agencies. It’s crucial to understand the differences between them to craft a pitch.

B2B sales relies on creating transactions between two businesses, such as a software vendor and a law firm or a manufacturer distributing products to a retailer. One of the important characteristics of B2B is the length of the sales cycle, which is typically much longer than selling to a consumer.

Once the sale is complete, however, B2B relationships tend to be long term. The process is long, involved, and includes multiple stakeholders balancing different pain points and goals. They’re not making impulse purchases; they’re investing significant capital into enterprise solutions with the expectation of a return on investment.

While some of these aspects are true for B2G, there are some differences. B2G sales involve companies offering products or services to government entities or public sector organizations. The goal with these solutions is to improve operational efficiency, such as with CAD integration, or complete public-service projects, such as Next Generation 911.

The B2G market has stricter regulatory requirements and a more complex sales cycle, however. In addition to multiple stakeholders, there can be lengthy administrative processes, government lenders, compliance standards, and request for proposals (RFPs).

With B2B, the vendor and the client can negotiate pricing, terms of service, and more. B2G contracts are often secured through competitive bids, ensuring that the government agency or public sector organization is getting value out of their investment.

Tailoring Your Pitch for the Public Sector

Engaging with the public sector to sell products requires a tailored pitch that differs from the private sector.

Capture the Government Buyer’s Attention

Knowing the audience is crucial to any pitch, including government pitches. You have to speak the language of the public sector. This doesn’t mean bureaucracy and legalese but developing an understanding of the acronyms and jargon that are used in government vendor contracts.

For example, terms like request for proposal (RFP), invitation for bid (IFB), and incumbent may be used often. It’s important to become familiar with these terms to use them confidently and boost your credibility as a B2G vendor.

You should also be familiar with the rules and regulations the public sector is beholden to. Make sure your product or service is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations, including data security standards and social responsibility. Your approach to compliance can make or break the sale.

Identify Key Decision-Makers

The public sector often has multiple people making purchasing decisions. You have to know who you’re tailoring your pitch to and how to reach them effectively.

Procurement teams are the common purchasers in the public sector. They are responsible for a lot of the process, including IFBs and RFPs, and ensuring that these procedures are compliant with legal, regulatory, and policy framework.

Agency leads can be key decision-makers as well. Department heads, program directors, and agency presidents have an intimate understanding of the needs and obstacles the organization is facing, giving you an opportunity to show how your product can help.

Like agency leads, senior managers like administrators or executives have purchasing influence. Their focus is on a product’s cost-effectiveness, impact, and performance capabilities for the organization.

Of the executives, chief information officers (CIOs) are often tasked with handling the procurement of technology products or services and evaluating their reliability, functionality, fit, integration, and security. They understand the technical jargon and how it translates to real-world value.

Understand the Sales Cycle

Public sector sales cycles are long – perhaps taking months or even years from the first interaction to the contract. Each stage is just as complex as well, so there aren’t any quick sales.

Sales teams need to be patient and persistent, answering questions, following up, and touching base throughout each stage of the process.

The stages of public sector procurement can include:

  • Needs Assessment: The agency identifies its needs and potential solutions.
  • Budget Approval: With solutions in mind, the agency must get budget approval for the procurement process.
  • RFP Issuance: The agency issues an RFP and invites vendors to submit bids.
  • Bid Evaluation: The agency considers the bids received and narrows the list down.
  • Contract Negotiation: The agency negotiates the terms of the contract with a few selected vendors.

Sales teams must also understand how budgets work and when they’re set. Public sector budgets are usually annual, so it’s important to time sales efforts to align with budget planning. The end of the fiscal year also offers an opportunity for agencies to use up budget surplus.

Nurture the Relationship

The relationship between a business and a government agency doesn’t begin at the sale – it starts from the first interaction. Sales teams need to invest in building a relationship with the potential client to understand their needs, pain points, and barriers and offer solutions. It’s not about selling but helping.

Keeping up regular communication is crucial to provide value. Best practices, regulations, industry news stories, and other relevant topics offer help and position your company as a trusted authority instead of just a vendor.

Nurturing the relationship doesn’t end after the sale, however. Contracts will come up for renewal, so everything that occurs after the sale can mean the difference between renewing the contract the following year or seeking out other solutions.

Master Your Pitch for Government Clients

Sales in the public sector can be long, complex, and challenging. Understanding the intricacies of B2G sales – and tailoring your pitch to align with them – can ensure you get positive close rates and build strong relationships with government agencies. 

Author: Kevin Ruef

Kevin Ruef co-founded 10-8 Systems after exceeding multiple companies’ sales records (both domestically and internationally). With more than a decade in sales, his experience ranges from B2B, B2G, and B2C. Since the company’s start in 2019, Kevin has been responsible for business development, strategic partnerships, and business operations.