- Government contractors generally know a lot more about programs and possibilities than the government officials they’re speaking with.
It’s not often that government customers, especially key decision makers, have the same background and knowledge as experienced government contractors. If they do, a customer meeting can be as relaxed as a cookout with the family. If they don’t, it can be as frustrating as trying to help your best friend remove the slice from his golf swing. You both know something needs to change, but the more you talk the worse things get, which results in you talking more and him going silent (or hitting you with his driver).
Suggestions: Start with a conversation to find out what the customer knows and make that the baseline for further discussions to add to their knowledge. Strive to make complex things simple.
- Government contractors come from technical and engineering cultures and tend to think no detail is unimportant.
If you’re a government contractor and you’re ten slides into your fifty-five slide presentation and you see your customers’ eyes glaze over, is it because of the turkey pasta they had for lunch or that you’re saturating them with too many data points? Probably the latter, though scientific studies have shown that turkey pasta can result in emergency room visits caused by heads hitting conference tables around 2PM. As for data points, more is not more.
Suggestions: Give the big picture first. Chunk the information so it’s more easily absorbed. Provide data in ways they prefer: pictures, videos, conversations, demos, whiteboards, on napkins, whatever.
- Government contractors believe it’s difficult to convince customers of the value of their solutions in a limited amount of time.
Okay, you finally got that meeting with the key government decision maker. You’ve prepared a thirty-minute presentation for a thirty-minute meeting (leaving zero time for anything but you). The government customer arrives late from an executive meeting, hasn’t had a visit to the restroom in four hours and is already thinking about the meeting following yours. You’re frustrated that the customer came late to your party so you start jamming your presentation into the remaining time allotted. The meeting soon evaporates into a non-event.
Suggestions: Let the customer control the time and tempo of the meeting. Slow the conversation and focus on the main points. Prepare the important messages you want to get across and practice them before the meeting. Bring a copy of your material to leave behind and avoid the urge to go over every detail at the meeting. Give up five minutes so they can have a break on their way to their next meeting. You’ll get invited back.