Whether it's a K-12 school, a public university/college, a county, city or state, it's important to identify five key stakeholders that usually exist (even if you think they don't). When developing a sales strategy in the public sector, keep in mind these key Famous Five:
- Technology Stakeholders. OK, you knew this one right away because technology salespeople typically gravitate here, and these stakeholders usually grant meetings without much fuss. Obviously, we need these relationships to help define the technical match between what you're selling and the technical requirements in the customer's business. Unfortunately, these folks typically cannot create budget. In fact, they usually are over-extended on budget. Examples include: Director of IT, Data Analyst, Security Engineer, Director of Applications, etc.
- Business Level Stakeholders. This should sound familiar because every technology company around the globe is force-feeding this relationship to salespeople regularly. The concept here is to define "business outcomes." These are issues/challenges inside the customer's organization that aren't necessarily about technology. They typically are about: making more profit, becoming more efficient/productive, increasing safety/security, improving their organizational image. These folks are key because they usually have the ability to create budget (or shift budget). Business level stakeholders will not take a meeting to talk about a technology product; however, they'll likely take a meeting to discuss improving one of these key areas above. This is where you should start penetrating any new prospect. Examples include: CXO, General Manager, Superintendent, President, City Manager, Office of the CIO/CTO, Provost, Chancellor, Dean, Chief of Police, etc.
- Financial Stakeholders. While some government organizations roll this into procurement (see below), there are plenty that have specific people that bless deals over a certain dollar threshold. While these folks typically do not create budget, they usually manage all budgets and sometimes they are very powerful in approving or denying a large purchase (even if your other stakeholders are ready to go)! It's important to learn who these people are and understand what ways they will evaluate large budget approvals. Examples here include: CFO, Director of Finance, General Manager, City/County Finance Director, etc.
- Political Stakeholders. These people are some of the most overlooked decision influencers in any sale, and they shouldn't be forgotten! Public organizations typically have an elected official(s) that correspond and work jointly with, the Business Level Stakeholders above. For K-12, this is the school board (board members/officers). For Higher Ed, this is usually the Board of Trustees/Regents/Governors (board members/officers). These people work with provosts, chancellors and presidents of colleges/universities. In local government (city, county, towns, etc.) you'll also find elected officials. These can be council-members, boards of supervisors, mayors, etc. States typically have houses of legislature that are elected, along with governors. Make no mistake: These folks can create budget and usually have their own personal agendas (wins) that were made/developed during their campaigns. If you can align your technology solutions with these important stakeholders, it's possible to leap-frog many steps in the sales cycle. This level is a great place to begin with your prospective government agency.
- Procurement Stakeholders. In government sales, you'll often hear the sales expression, "find out HOW they're going to buy, before you invest time in qualifying the deal." Woe is the salesperson who invests 60 hours into a large deal, forgetting this key adage. They've been told they have the deal, only later to find out that the procurement office is going to shop the deal, or take the deal to formal bid. Even worse, some government entities have existing contracts which mandates who must be used for different types of procurement. Don't let this happen to you! Establish a relationship early (and often) with the procurement office of your prospect. Understand the procurement policies and quickly disqualify opportunities in which you simply cannot win (even if you're chosen). Examples here include: Procurement officer, Head of Procurement, Chief Procurement Officer, etc. Remember that many times, these folks are attorneys (especially in large counties, cities and states).