Going after the Government


You are the Rep in Today’s Tale

Imagine this sales scenario.

You have an appointment with the biggest buying group on the planet – the GSA or Government Services Administration of the United States. These people do all the purchasing for the federal government – paper, computers, cars and more.

So you fly to Washington, D.C. and are led into an office that is wildly decorated. Unusual pictures hang on the walls. You gaze at bizarre ceramic figurines sitting atop the desk and office shelves are covered with eclectic knick-knacks.

This guy has some strange sense of style, you think. And the man’s voice welcomes you to the GSA.

You can’t ignore his “collection,” so you glance quickly across the sea of stuff and pick a small statue to comment on.

“That’s a Roman Centurion! Did you know that a Roman soldier who deserted the army had his armor piled on some logs and was set afire atop his gear?” You’re showing off a tiny bit of knowledge that two guys might find kinda cool. It’s a rapport play, and you think a pretty good one.

The buyer grins, no it’s really a smirk, and he asks what you have to show him.

So you’re caught a bit off balance by his all-business approach to a first-time meeting and dive into your presentation.

Twenty minutes later the call is complete and you get the sense that it’s not going to have a happy ending. And here’s why.

We are the substance of great amusement to these professional buyers.

In fact, in D.C., reps visiting the GSA are not sitting in an office full of dear, precious, personal items. The purchasing team of our government finds and displays odd artifacts because these BUYERS BET ONE ANOTHER, FOR EACH SALES CALL, ABOUT WHAT OBJECT THE SALES REP WILL COMMENT ON! In other words, our predictable behavior is a source of entertainment for buyers who have finally found a way to tolerate our obnoxious actions.

POSTMORTEM: A sales trainer from Washington D.C. told me this tale after it happened to a friend who sold there, and he was let in on the little secret by a secretary at the GSA. Are you so predictable that buyers anticipate your every move? Because if you are, it gets worse: These buyers are already familiar with all the closes your predecessors have used for 3+ decades selling. So later on in the sales process you just might be getting that smirk again. Find ways to distinguish yourself from others (the book, Sales Autopsy, has six or seven great ones). I’ve said it before and it bears repeating – memorable makes money!

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