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Four Simple Techniques to Manage Constant Vendor Meeting Requests

As a government leader, how often are you contacted by a contractor trying to sell a product or service? How often do you wish you had more time to review proposals? What if I told you there was a better way? 

Meeting with government contractors outside the request for proposal (RFP) process is an easy way to educate yourself about the latest and most outstanding products to meet your jurisdiction’s needs. During my public-sector career, I often struggled to figure out what government contractor meetings I should accept. Refusing to talk to anyone was not a solution because the unsolicited call from a government contractor could provide the answer I needed to solve a high-priority challenge.

To help with this dilemma, consider following the four simple techniques I used to reduce the risk of becoming overwhelmed by requests and to weed out who you should and should not engage.

Technique One — When a government contractor contacts you and you are familiar with their company, consider setting up a 15-minute call. Yes, only 15 minutes. The conversation’s purpose is to describe a single need you have, not cover the many challenges you might be facing. 

After the meeting’s conclusion, ask the contractor for additional literature, online demos, or white papers that describe how their company helped other jurisdictions solve the challenge you described. This technique cuts down on initial meeting times and allows you to decide at your convenience if a future conversation is necessary.

Technique Two — When a government contractor sends an unsolicited email, does it appear to be personalized, or does it look like a generic email that could have been sent to anyone?

If the email looks like the sender took time to personalize the correspondence, besides just your name, and references a challenge you might have, consider scheduling a short discovery call to learn more, and perhaps deploy Technique One above. If the contractor took no time to research your jurisdiction before sending the first email, expect the same level of service and attention when you meet with them. 

From my experience in both the public and private sectors, the government contractors that work to understand the jurisdiction’s needs before reaching out usually deliver the most value through the discovery and buying process. 

Technique Three — When a government contractor reaches out, decide if you are not interested at the time, not interested in the solution, or not interested — no matter what they offer.

Engaging, then ghosting or saying, “contact me in a few weeks” when you have zero interest in meeting causes frustration for both parties. Therefore, just be honest. Remember that government contractors are people, too; they appreciate knowing if you are genuinely interested. 

Technique Four — Consider setting up demo days to cut down on constantly receiving meeting requests that interrupt your day or discovery meetings that cover a solution you do not need.

Government contractors frequently contact government buyers directly because there are few opportunities to engage outside a typical RFP solicitation. Creating a process where any government contractor can sign up to quickly demo their product or service in response to a specific challenge makes the time spent much more valuable. 

Government leaders need government contractors, and government contractors need government leaders. Neither can exist without the other. However, simple screening and engagement techniques can make life easier for everyone involved.

Shonte Eldridge is the founder and CEO of Drake Strategy & Associates, a company focused on helping government leaders simplify cumbersome business processes and navigate an ever-evolving technology landscape. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s in criminal justice and leverages the unique perspective gained from being a long-time public sector executive and senior strategic advisor at DocuSign and Amazon Web Services to develop change management and digital transformation strategies that gets results. 

Shonte is most known in the industry for her energetic approach to solving complex operational challenges and was named one of the 25 women to watch by the Baltimore Sun newspaper and magazine in 2020.

Image by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

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