Please forgive the tabloid-like headline. I simply couldn't resist. This story is so revealing and so relevant for professional services firms that want to sell their services to the government I didn't want it to get lost beneath a less provocative headline.

How valuable would it be to have a top government procurement executive tell you the right way and the wrong way to sell to him? Well, that's exactly what happened to me this week. Now at Hinge we don't sell directly to the government, but many of our clients do. So the topic was of intense interest to me.

The procurement executive was none other than the legendary Greg Rothwell. If you are not familiar with him, here's a brief introduction. Greg recently retired after 34 years in the federal acquisitions community. During that time he served in 10 agencies, including Interior and Treasury. But perhaps his most notable achievement is that he stood up the massive procurement function for the newly created Department of Homeland Security (DHS). He personally developed several of the largest procurement programs in history. After his retirement, Rothwell started a private consulting firm, Evermay Consulting Group so he is now free to tell it like it is.

He did not disappoint. Here are a few of his key insights:

  1. Buyers are extremely busy. DHS has 6000 procurements in process at any one time. Don't waste their time.
  2. They are not impressed with how big your firm is or how fast you are growing. They are focused on their own issues.
  3. They are not impressed that you do something well or have great expertise. Every firm does. (Or at least say they do).
  4. He's sick of being asked “What keeps you up at night?” or “Where is your pain?” If you don't know the issues they are facing, you have not done your research. There are numerous official reports, documents and press articles that make it clear what the issues are.
  5. Lay out an important issue that your target agency is facing so they know you understand them and tell them how you can help address it.
  6. Show the government agency how you have helped someone else with the same or similar issue. Back up your claim with some proof.
  7. When you do get the chance to provide some service, make sure you are successful. Deliver on the promises you make.

Now if this sounds familiar, you win a gold star. These insights track with the results of our study of professional services buyers. And even if you never plan to sell to the federal government, you can still learn from these points. Private sector buyers have very similar concerns and preferences.

Want to learn more? We'll be covering the research and it's implications for professional services firms in an upcoming free webinar entitled Inside Buyer's Brains: How the new professional services buyers are changing the rules. Check it out.