How to Sell Ideas to the Government

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Whether you’re looking to make your fortune by pitching an idea for a defense system that promotes world peace, or you’d like to contribute to your community by selling a social media strategy or you want to design a dog park, expect to muster all of your patience as you set about clearing bureaucratic hurdles that governmental bodies impose on those who wish to do business with them. Things can get complicated, but solid preparation will make your journey easier when you shop your great idea to government officials.

Things You'll Need

  • Government contacts
  • Proposal
  • Supporting data

Consult with professionals who have dealt with government authorities to learn about that culture. Ask for honest feedback about your idea and challenge advisors to poke holes in your concept. Take advice offered on the process of governmental bidding and sales protocols to avoid surprises once you are given a chance to present your idea. Master the art of the Request for Proposal (RFT), the key to all commercial relationships with the government.

Prepare a comprehensive presentation for the government officials you plan to approach. Create a framework into which your idea fits. Load your research with the kinds of qualitative and quantitative data that attracts higher-ups on the food chain. Double-check everything before you commit it to paper, as a single less-than-factual statement can stop your chances of success on a dime. Know your competitors.

Do your homework. Isolate the most appropriate government body and department within that agency for your idea. Approach gatekeepers to ask about officials likely to consider your concept. Follow etiquette guidelines so you don’t jump a level of decision makers, thereby alienating the rest of the agency.

Book appointments with decision makers. Present all aspects of your idea, from concept to ownership of rights and from the theory behind the design to the manufacturing process. Outline dynamic marketing strategies and line-by-line cost breakouts. Stress features (it’s made of steel that will last for decades) and benefits (it can protect an entire town from child abduction) when you make your case before your target decision makers.

Leave behind materials appropriate for higher-ups interested in learning more about your idea. Verify protocols involved with that agency’s bidding process before you leave. Don’t expect answers to everything, but probe respectfully to increase your position and do ask when bids are expected to be opened.

Be aware of common errors that others make when pitching the government. Follow National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP) recommendations to avoid mistakes (see Resources below for links). Be certain your product or concepts are a good fit. Put into place contingency plans to show officials you’re prepared for all eventualities. Assure contacts that you have arranged for raw material and subcontractor backups. Convince the agency that your firm is on solid ground and that your relationships are based on respect and integrity. Nobody can predict what may happen in a business-government relationship, but if you commit to an excellent, well-written pitch, you’ll wind up on top when bids are opened.

Tips & Warnings

  • It helps to tell the stories of real people and then explain how your idea can affect or change lives when you make your presentation.

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