The first thing I did when I came into the office yesterday morning was announce that until further notice, Vendere Partners will be ceasing to work on all customer lead generation and sales campaigns that target federal markets. The second thing I did was wonder how many other company leaders will make similar announcements this week, and what effects the government shutdown will have on their businesses.
Fortunately, my company has a diverse portfolio of clients, the majority of which target customers in the commercial B2B space versus the federal space. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel for those technology companies that do rely primarily on federal accounts, including IT consultants and resellers, distributors and manufacturers of technology solutions, as the shutdown continues.
It almost goes without saying, but if you’ve got federally contracted IT accounts, your company will most certainly be negatively impacted by the government shutdown that began yesterday, Oct. 1, 2013. Similarly, if you have pending deals with government entities that are critical to your business, the likelihood that you will face major financial challenges is great.
As an article put forth by Ovum, an independent research and analysis provider, recently pointed out, “No new technology contracts or contract extensions will be signed during the shutdown.” Ovum surmised, “For many vendors, deals expected this quarter will not close on time.” If your major target markets are made up of government entities, your sales cycle could potentially come to a grinding to a halt very quickly.
Potential Quick Fixes
The good news is that there are are things you can begin to do right now to diversify your technology company’s client portfolio, generate new sales, and remain sustainable throughout and after the shutdown. Even if you didn’t have a contingency in place in preparation for a government shutdown such as the one we’re currently experiencing, there are actions you can take quickly that can help keep you from having to make major cuts, or worse, close your doors.
Identify your commercial target markets.
To identify potential commercial target markets, take a close look at your company’s competencies. What are your core solutions and where might they fit within the commercial space? If you’ve been helping federal entities with mobile device management for field service workers, ask yourself what commercial businesses have a need for mobile device management and/or have field service workers. How might those businesses benefit from your products and services (or adjusted products and services)?
Also look to companies that would be your competitors in the commercial space and the clients they serve for insights.
Once you determine your commercial target markets, purchase or develop lists of companies that contain business critical information and the contact information of decision-making personnel.
Host a webinar—now.
If you’ve been focused on federal accounts, you probably don’t have a lot of sales and marketing collateral for commercial sectors on hand. Since time is of the essence, rather than try to generate an abundance of sales and marketing materials all at once, focus on developing the pieces that will help you reap the most benefits at the fastest rates.
I highly recommend developing a presentation for a webinar sooner rather than later. You can scramble to set new sales appointments through in-house, hashed-together telemarketing and e-mail campaigns, but when you don’t have a lot of existing commercial marketing collateral and need to qualify leads, determine interest levels, and set new sales appointments quickly, hosting a webinar is probably going to be your best, most effective first action step.Webinar Benefits:
- More leads
You will more get more low-quality leads when you host a webinar than you would through a telephone-based appointment setting campaign, but you will also get a greater number of leads with which to follow up post-webinar. Don’t forget to follow up with the leads that register for your webinar but don’t attend as well as with those leads did attend.
- Fast lead gathering and lead qualification
Webinars can help you touch a large number of prospects and gather leads in one swing. They can also help you qualify leads, determine interest levels and gather important market intelligence within a relatively short timeframe.
- Training opportunities
Hosting a webinar is a quick way to get immediate hands-on training and experience in pitching to the commercial space. Your salespeople may not have the skills or training to pitch to the commercial space right now, but through developing and/or attending your webinar, they can begin to get acclimated and hone their own commercial pitches.
Invest in outsourcing.
This may seem like obvious advice coming from the co-founder of a lead generation firm, but investing in outsourcing your target market identification, prospect list building, webinar audience acquisition, sales training, appointment setting and other lead generation needs at this critical time may very well be the thing that helps your business overcome the challenges presented by the current shutdown.
Identifying your target markets can be a crapshoot when you aren’t able to perform the kind of easy data analyses that a lead generation provider with a solid database of companies and contacts can perform, as can prospect list building. Webinar audience acquisition can be another challenge. Who do you target and how should you target them? Do you have the ability to create effective marketing collateral for the commercial space quickly and easily? If you don’t know or aren’t sure, outsourcing these and related tasks can save you from making missteps at a time when you need to be making all the right steps.
Sales management consulting and sales training services can also be big helps to you as you move into new areas.
The last government shutdown, which occurred in 1995, lasted for 22 days. What would 22 days of not being able to bill or get paid do to your business? Some analysts are predicting the current shutdown will end tomorrow or five to seven days from now, but the reality is that nothing is certain—including the status of your current and pending federal accounts. There are no guarantees that your current federal clients and pending federal deals will still be on the table when the shutdown ends.
If your technology business is at all dependent on federal accounts, and if, in addition to employees, you have consultants and partners on payroll, in the absence of a solid contingency plan, you’re probably already in trouble. If outsourcing your lead generation and sales needs now enables you to land even one quick hit—that key account that pulls you through October and November without having to make drastic cuts that will have a long-lasting impact on your company—it could be well worth the investment.
At Vendere, we like to say, “You’re either selling, or you’re billing.” If you’re doing neither, you’re a cost, and you might as well work for free or go home.
Don’t work for free. Don’t go home. Instead, take action. Your technology business can remain sustainable throughout the shutdown and in the future if you take the right steps and make the right decisions right now.