Sometimes, you play offense. Sometimes, you’re D.
I just returned from a hockey weekend. Our son is a freshman and plays hockey at Ole Miss. (Yes, SEC schools have hockey teams.)
The SEC tournament last weekend was in Nashville. Ole Miss finished an impressive second. Our kid is a reliable defenseman. On the ice, he intensely protects his goalie. He’s also potentially dangerous at the point if you aren’t paying attention to him.
Hockey moms tend to see the game in everything. When our kids are young, we use skating metaphors to get them to study more, to clean things, to address life's challenges. As a hockey stepmom and workaholic, I see correlations between hockey and government capture. Government sales requires tenacity, aggressive intensity, competitive intel and strategy. (Sometimes, it also has a foul odor. Hockey parents, you understand.)
If you are a prospective government contractor new to a particular agency – or you are completely new to government sales – you have the advantage of anonymity. Your first strides on the ice can rock the competition because you have the element of surprise. They don’t know you, they don’t know what to expect of you and they likely underestimate you.
Capitalize on this. Do your homework before you hit the ice to know your competitors – the goalie is horrible at weak side high shots or the second offensive line lacks speed. When you have data points and you use them wisely, you found a strong cocktail with a powerful punch.
If you are the established incumbent, you must defend against known and unknown challengers. Your competitors have been watching you because you won the last three tournaments. You are the target. Be worried and proactively take steps to retain your contract. In addition to common sense concepts – be compliant, responsive and exceed expectations – develop a strategy for contract retention. Protecting your goalie requires peripheral vision. Keep track of your potential competitors, and maintain strong relationships in your industry.
Every day when my kid got out of the car – for school, for hockey, even when we left him in Mississippi for college – I gave him one piece of advice. “Skate hard, kid.”
Applies to government, for sure. For every capture, don’t bother if you don’t plan to skate hard.