5 things you need to know to close deals as fiscal year ends

With just weeks left in fiscal 2011, sales and marketing expert Steve Charles offers advice on how to close deals before Sept. 30.

Just a few weeks remain in the most turbulent federal fourth quarter in memory. On Oct. 1, a new fiscal year will launch without a budget of its own. In the meantime, you’ve still got fiscal 2011 to close out.

At this point, your sales group must swerve into expediting mode in order to close as much business as possible in the remaining month until the end of the fiscal year. 

While marketing and business development really can’t do much for the current fiscal year, you still have time to close sales. 

Here’s how: Concentrate your expediting activities on making sure contracting officers receive complete, signable packages they’ll be willing to move on. Keep in mind, they are in a mode of only signing and moving packages entailing the least friction for them.

To ensure closure, make sure you can affirm the following statements.

1. My customer has completed its market survey.

Program people -- those with the mission and budget -- must identify best value options for the contracting officer, so your proposals must explain your value, and not just your technical chops.

2. My customer is solid on its requirements and has justified use of my product by name.

Government buyers are taught to state requirements without naming a brand. To make sure your brand gets procured, it must uniquely fill a requirement. That information must make its way into the requirements document that accompanies the purchase request.

3. The money is there.

Agency comptrollers decide whether or not expenditures map to the congressional intent for the money about to be spent. But the documentation must be transmitted to the contracting officer.

4. The contracting officer has identified a preferred vehicle against which to execute the purchase.

That’s the fastest way for a contracting officer to obligate funds, placing an order against an existing vehicle. Make sure the contracting officer has everything needed to comply with ordering procedures of that particular vehicle. Keep in mind, managers of the big government-wide acquisition contracts are themselves doing what they can to help ordering contracting officers to max out year-end sales, but they can’t cut corners.

5. I’m tuned into fair-notice/fair-opportunity notices for my contract vehicles.

Each vehicle has its own process. The closer you get to Sept. 30, your sales team must be ready to respond as cycle times compress. 

Remember, a sale in the federal market isn’t a sale until a contracting officer signs an order or awards a contract. That makes federal sales different from commercial sales, where you can pretty much count on an order once it’s in the purchasing department. Federal contracting officers don’t report to program managers who manage the money, write the requirements and send purchase requests to the contracting officers.

Yet, even now, hundreds of millions of dollars remain uncommitted. Contracting officers don’t want to be deliberately obstructionist. But like the program and technology managers they serve (and you are selling to), they are looking at future uncertainty, the current time crunch and more oversight. Sellers who can help federal customers tie orders to authorized requirements and smooth the last-minute speed bumps will be able to maximize their fiscal 2011 revenue.

And here’s a bonus: By expediting last minute sales in this way, you’ll be able to deliver more accurate sales forecasts to headquarters. That’ll help maintain their faith in the federal market even as they look at the national headlines.

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