Generating revenue is a constant preoccupation for small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). For those that have a sales strategy, keeping a pipeline filled with qualified leads that are likely to close is an uphill battle. Yet, every year, the vast majority of SMBs are ignoring over 100,000 contracting opportunities that could help to revolutionise their bottom lines.
Too many SMBs are stuck on B2B selling
Most SMBs rely on other businesses for the majority (over 70%) of their revenue. When I started my first company, I relied heavily on just a couple of contracts for my entire cash flow. And even then, the cash didn’t exactly flow – as a supplier, you’re often at the whim of buyers when it comes to getting paid on time. Quoting non-compliance with Directive 2000/35/EC of the European Parliament on late payments isn’t likely to speed up the process, and is more likely to reduce your chances of getting another contract!
Nowadays, buyers are very well informed about what it is they’re buying, how much they should be paying and what kind of service they can expect. They have plenty of choice when it comes to selecting a supplier and are increasingly more comfortable with a ‘panel’ of suppliers rather than relying on just one or two companies.
What's wrong with this picture?
My own experience, working with several hundred SMBs, is that most don’t even have a sales and marketing strategy. ‘Sales’ generally consists of fielding referrals and keeping existing clients happy enough that they’ll give the company more business.
This type of selling is expensive – it requires businesses to be extremely flexible when it comes to different client demands. Some clients will want marketing brochures, some will want workshops or demos and others will want full-blown proposals. They’ll all be at different stages of their buying cycle; and they may simply be educating themselves without having any particular buying need.
Governments spend billions every year on equipment to maintain roads, research reports, office stationery, landscaping and thousands of other goods and services. In the private sector, where most SMBs do their business, there’s an opportunity missed every time the government goes to the market.
Government contracts = qualified sales leads
The great majority of SMBs treat government contracts with disdain, because participation can be expensive or require specialised skills. But there is a huge upside for SMBs here – all government contracts follow a standardised process. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s got a beginning, middle and an end; the rules of engagement and how the contract is to be awarded are clear. And government organisations tend to pay on time too!
SMBs that learn how to incorporate competing for government contracts into their overall sales process have a massive opportunity to grow their business through consistent and cost effective sales activities.
In my next article, I’ll look at ways to create a pipeline of such opportunities through a process of finding, evaluating and selecting the right tenders for your business.