This isn't "lobbying," is it?
November 13, 2012 4:31 AM   Subscribe

One off my clients wants the government as (his or her) customer. Does my client need a lobbyist?

I do work as a marketing consultant. One of my clients wants to do business with a state agency. But this isn't a case of responding to a request for proposals and seeing if my client's bid is selected, which is the only way I'm familiar with doing business with governments. My client believes (he or she) has a solution to a problem a specific state agency has, and wants to cold-pitch (his or her) services to solve it. This is not an unreasonable belief on my client's part, who has worked at high levels. I must be deliberately vague for business discretion reasons. Also, I'm not only asking metafilter. I've made queries to my "real life" network too. I'm just casting a wide net. Any lobbyists out there? Because I don't think this falls under "lobbying." Anyway, I want to recommend or find the right expert for my client and thought I'd see if this kind of thing rings a bell for anyone out there, since it is a bit out of my depth.
posted by Buffaload to Work & Money (7 answers total)
I may be telling you something you already know as you are aware of how bidding works, but is the government agency already purchasing an equivalent good/service from someone else? If so, they probably have a "preferred vendor" situation that stipulates that they may only purchase that good/service from that vendor, unless the vendor can't deliver on what they promised.
posted by griphus at 4:38 AM on November 13, 2012

As far as we know, no one is providing this service right now. Client's work involves creating workflows and processes from scratch. My client made the following observation: "State Agency A has this problem when dealing with the industry it regulates. It's had this problem for years and I believe I can solve this problem." Client would be looking for a consulting contract.
posted by Buffaload at 4:42 AM on November 13, 2012

I used to do this on the Federal level, both for myself (a consulting firm) and helping my clients (sellers of widgets and gizmos). You do not need a lobbyist. You do need to get a good idea of who your potential buyer is, or who influences their purchasing decisions. Once you have their name and contact details, reach out to their office, explain what you want to talk to them about, and schedule some time. Meet in person, not over the phone. Most - but not all! - will be happy to meet with you for 30 minutes to hear you out. After all, if they have a problem, and you have a solution, it's a good use of their time.

You should have a 1 page summary of what you want to talk about, or what you have to offer, that you can send to their office before the meeting. Their EA might request this before they'll even schedule you, so have it ready. It should be very crisp and to the point - don't make it full of marketing lingo, or making it look really slick, just stick to the facts. Clearly articulate both the problem and the solution.

If they decide to buy, then you have to figure out how to become a government vendor. Sounds like your client is a small business (a term that takes into consideration number of employees and revenue), and most government agencies have one or two people whose full time job is just helping small businesses do business with the government. If you wrap up your meeting with the buyer and they're interested, it's totally acceptable to ask them for the contact information for the small business liaison, and then to reach out to that person directly.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:32 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh! So in many ways this is just like a regular sales call, except with the "government vendor" rules to abide by if they're interested in buying. Thank you very much.
posted by Buffaload at 8:19 AM on November 13, 2012

I've sold my consulting services to government agencies several times. You don't need a lobbyist. It's just like selling to a big corporation that has more vendor paperwork than normal.

You need to identify an internal contact who has decision-making power or influence over the decision-maker, and talk with them. When they decide to work with you, they'll forward the (often extensive!) paperwork required to become a vendor.

One caveat: You might ask for the paperwork before getting super far into negotiations, in case there are requirements that make you want to bail or increase the price. For example, the paperwork might require things of you that you're not eager to supply, such as the names of past clients and how much they paid you. Also look out for increased costs. I've turned down government contracts that required me to carry a million dollars of errors & omissions insurance for what was a tiny amount of work, or that required me to carry car insurance or extensive physical-premises insurance when the work was going to be done completely online from my desk on another continent.

If your state is like the feds, once you've filled out various forms on various sites and have gotten two magic numbers, you don't have to do as much paperwork again if you get another government client. You just have to provide the magic numbers.
posted by ceiba at 8:22 AM on November 13, 2012

So far you guys are beating the pants off if my real-world contacts. I was confusing all this with both lobbying and the competitive bid process. I'll stop sitting on the thread and just say thanks.
posted by Buffaload at 8:25 AM on November 13, 2012

Just wanted to add that when dealing with government agencies, Federal, State, County, Municipal, that you have to become an approved vendor. You can go to the State website and download the forms your client will need to become an approved vendor.

Usually it covers if the person is a minority (who will get perference), covered by insurance, have no conflicts of interest with the procurement office.

Selling to any kind of government is a nightmarishly long process.

Well I remember my days selling Centrex. Too Well.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:41 AM on November 13, 2012

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