Sales Process for the Government

In a conversation the other day on LinkedIn, someone asked:

What is your favorite sales training for professional services sales, especially to Government buyers, and why? Sandler? SPIN? Miller-Heiman?

Here was my response:

None of these are great for most government buyers. The problem is that government buyers do not function the same way as most corporate buyers do. The user of the product or service is completely different from the buyer, who is usually a procurement officer of some kind. Procurement officers have a set of interests, issues, and concerns that are not similar to CFOs or other corporate economic buyers, and which typically are not successfully uncovered with probing questions, discovery, or assertions of increased value. That’s why none of the popular selling methodologies are very successful in this environment.

You really need to start with a thorough understanding of the buying process in your government customers, and then create an engagement selling strategy that responds to the needs, interests, and concerns of those customers. Any off-the-shelf approach is most likely to come with a lot of booby traps for your sales team, which can undermine your efforts.

I would add one more thing: We are finding increasingly that SPIN, Miller Heiman, and similar approaches to selling are coming up short today. Customer expectations and requirements are soaring, and they seem to have decreasing tolerance for, say, a sales rep who comes in to ask a bunch of questions. The value to the customer is questionable. Expertise is becoming the valued commodity, and a rep asking tons of questions is not viewed positively in that situation. If I were to look at one direction, I would think about the complex sale, and Jeff Thull’s Exceptional Selling. We recently innovated on that approach with much success in one of our client organizations.

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