Meeting in Person with a Potential Customer?
By Ann Martin | Harkcon's Vice President and Business Development Specialist
So you’ve built your capture plan, done a lot of research and now it’s time to establish or strengthen your relationship with the client staff, specifically the decision makers for the opportunity you are positioning to support. This means scheduling, preparing and conducting a face to face meeting with the client. While email and telephone conversations work well for touch base, establishing a strong relationship and communicating your understanding is greatly enhanced with in person meetings. There are a number of key points to remember when meeting with a new federal customer. First and foremost, is knowing what is considered “appropriate” and “inappropriate”. As I’m sure you are aware, you should not give “gifts” of any sort valued at $25 or more (for an entire year!) to any member of the Federal Government. So OK...you can give them one of your nifty pens with the company name on it, but that’s about it. The other faux pas is to try to meet with the technical staff once an official acquisition document has been released to the public. Once an RFP/RFQ is released publicly, it becomes inappropriate for vendors to talk with anyone at the Federal Agency other than the Contracting Office (KO). Speaking about the opportunity to the program staff or others within the agency would be a violation of acquisition integrity policies and is therefore completely inappropriate once the RFP/RFQ is released. Before the release of an RFP/RFQ, it is perfectly fine to discuss the opportunity with key persons within the agency to further research background on the opportunity, understand their pain points, and increase overall understanding. Then when the RFP/RFQ is released, you can craft a winning solution for them. Early in the capture process, it is best to setup a capabilities briefing with the new customer(s) as soon as a business opportunity is discovered. The goals for this meeting will be multifaceted, but bottom line is you are laying the foundation for future meetings where you will acquaint the customer with your company’s capabilities, learn more about the customer’s challenges and build a strong sense of “respect” for the work that the agency performs and that your company can provide. With that theme in mind, I would recommend a series of meetings with the client, initial “meet and greet” where the goal is for you to gain understanding of the agency’s goals, priorities, pain points, etc. A second meeting where you can present your company’s capabilities, in response to what was learned in the first meeting, and further follow meetings to “brainstorm” solutions. The frequency of these types of meetings will vary depending on a number of factors. Next article, I will discuss some ideas on how to make your next customer meeting meaningful. If you would like to contact the author of this blog, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and reference the title, "Meeting in Person with a Potential Customer?"