“You don’t sell to the government…they buy!”

That’s the conventional wisdom in the federal market–at least among inexperienced contractors.

The truth is, you actually do have the opportunity to “sell” to the government. It just doesn’t work the way you might expect.

Many businesses new to the federal marketplace make the same blunder: they transact sales using methods and timelines that apply to commercial customers.

One of the most frequent mistakes is to overvalue an interpersonal relationship with a high-level government official. Newcomers to the procurement process assume an “in” with a senior bureaucrat is a fast track to winning a contract.

In reality, government procurements are process-driven. Agency officials are bound to strict adherence to Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). The bureaucrats who handle acquisitions are usually discreet, reclusive mid-level managers, not your newest best buddy in government. With very few exceptions, your team will interact with acquisition officials only on their terms and schedules.

So what’s the secret to the “sell”? You craft a compliant, high-quality proposal.


Government procurement personnel judge your business based on two criteria– performance and the quality of your proposal. That document is crucial if your goal is the acquisition official’s signature on a contract with your business.

Effective proposal writing is a learned skill acquired through training and experience. Even within the constrained rules imposed by government Requests for Proposals, a knowledgeable writer can make your “sales pitch.” Your proposal can present a compelling case to the source selection authority that differentiates your offering from the competition. If your team lacks the capability to produce such a document, it is worth your while to seek outside assistance.

There’s lots your company can do to dress up its business development and sales tool box. Your best bet is to invest in superior proposal response capability–people who can not only communicate your offering, but manage the process, too.

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