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Contents

Foreword

Preface

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1: What It Takes to Play

A Tale of Two Companies

Basics

Doing Business with the Government Requires a Lot of Listening

We’re Talking Competitive

Market Stats and Facts

Government Market Myths

Market Guarantees

Market Research

Your To-Do List

Chapter 2: How the Government Buys

The Mechanics of Purchasing

GSA Schedules

Other Contracting Methods

Set-Aside Procurements

The Reality of Purchasing

Your To-Do List

Chapter 3: Determining Where You Fit

Working with the Government is Different!

GSA Sales and the SSQ

Your Role(s): GSA, Open Market, Prime, or Sub?

Size Matters

Establishing the Company credentials

Registering your Company with the Government

Your To-Do List

Chapter 4: Infrastructure Issues

All That Work and No Pay . . .

Infrastructure Issues

Sales and Marketing

Local Resources

Finance, Payroll, and Personnel

Legal, Accounting, and Ethical Issues

When, Where, and How to Get Professional Assistance: Finding and Selecting Outside Vendors

Your To-Do List

Chapter 5: Aligning Marketing, Sales, and Business Development

Marketing, Sales, and Business Development for Professional Services

Sales and Marketing for Products

How to Market Your Small Contracting Business: Networking

Going “All in” to Generate Key Relationships

Your To-Do List

Chapter 6: The Power of Relationships

Customer Relationships

Channel Relationships

C-Level to Employees

Company Representative to Government

Manufacturer to Channel Partner

Manufacturer to Distributor

Prime to Sub

Sub to Prime

Company to Media

Peer to Peer

Venues for Building Relationships

Professional Associations

Events

Your To-Do List

Chapter 7: The Myth of the Level Playing Field

The Small Business Two-Step

Basic Small Business Programs

Long-Term Planning Pays Off

Research

Networking

Your To-Do List

Chapter 8: Differentiation Is the Key

Defining Your Turf

Truth in Labeling

Differentiation in How You Do It

Segmentation

Defining, Claiming, and Defending Your Intellectual Real Estate

Competitive Advantage Versus Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Your To-Do List

Chapter 9: Execution

Your To-Do List

Chapter 10: Building Momentum

Market Intelligence

Lemons to Lemonade: Grace Under Pressure

CEO Visibility and Activity

The Changing Landscape

Your To-Do List

Chapter 11: The Missing Link

Linkedin

Other Online Social Networks

The Web 2.0 Toolbox

Linking Them All Together

Your To-Do List

Chapter 12: Final Thoughts on Staying on Top of the Game and Becoming a Government Market Master

Your To-Do List

Appendix 1: Glossary of Common Government Terms

Appendix 2: Resources

Appendix 3: Advice from Industry Experts

About the Author

Index

Praise for Selling to the Government

“Selling to the government is not for the faint of heart . . . you need passion for the mission, patience for the process, and the ability to persevere through administration and agency changes that happen frequently. Government is a complex marketplace, but is absolutely the most rewarding! Be a good partner to government, build solid relationships and it will pay off. In his book Selling to the Government, Mark Amtower provides the quintessential primer on the government marketplace. A how-to manual for those looking to enter it and a reference for seasoned professionals, it is packed with solid guidance throughout.”

—Teresa H. Carlson, Vice President for the Federal Government, Microsoft Corporation

“Mark’s insights on how to penetrate the federal market show his serious knowledge of government business. Are you serious enough to follow them?”

—Larry Allen, President of The Coalition for Government Procurement

“Many people in Washington may think they know a lot about selling to the U.S. government, but few will claim that they know more than Mark Amtower does. Mark is awesome! Mark understands the bureaucratic thought process, he understands how to communicate with these people, he knows how to get into the right door, and he is most creative when he puts it all together into a plan of action.”

—Dendy Young, CEO, McLean Capital, LLC

“It’s the same mistake . . . over and over. During the two decades that I have worked in public sector marketing, I have witnessed a myriad of highly successfully, commercially proven companies struggle when initially entering the government market. Why? They fail to invest the time and resources to fully understand how and why government agencies make procurement decisions.

This book from Mark Amtower is a must-read for any corporate, sales, or marketing executive interested in doing business with the U.S. federal government. Mark shares a set of best practices, lessons learned, and advice in an easy-to-read and informative writing style that will put any company on a fast path to success.”

—Marc Hausman, President and CEO, Strategic Communications Group, Inc.

“What some may fear, Mark Amtower clarifies and simplifies. The federal government has money and pays its bills on time. Read Mark’s guide and “Go for it.” You will have no regrets.”

—Tom Carroll, Founder and Chairman, Carroll Publishing and GovSearch

“Mark is well respected in the government marketplace and understands that in spite of the 1,600 plus pages of Federal Acquisition Regulations it’s about RELATIONSHIPS!!! Mark tells you in plain English how to go about the process of business development. Except for NASA, this is not rocket science, . . . it’s about following the proven path successful entrepreneurs have used to create market share.”

—Scott Denniston, Former Director; Office of Small Business and Center for Veterans Enterprise, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, and Founder/President of the Scott Group of Virginia

“When I was presented with the opportunity of reading an advance copy of Mark Amtower’s latest book, Selling to the Government, I was both honored and, of course, intensely interested. . . . [T]his is a topic of considerable relevance and even controversy in the realms of public sector procurement.

Mark did not disappoint, as his text displayed a rare balance between meaningful experience and practical expertise, delivering much needed insight into an area in which a clear line of both vision and understanding is—more often than not—obfuscated by contradictory policies and competing interests. Explained using informative as well as entertaining anecdotal references, this is a cover-to-cover read . . . probably in one sitting.

My advice . . . buy the book and enjoy, then prosper!”

—Jon Hansen, Author and the Host of the PI Window on Business Show

“I’ve witnessed Mark Amtower in action on his home turf in Washington, DC—he’s a certified genius about marketing and selling to the government. In this book, he shares his secrets. Mark shows you that making money (lots of it) selling to the government doesn’t need to be mysterious and you’ll learn exactly what you need to do to succeed.”

—David Meerman Scott, Best-Selling Author of The New Rules of Marketing and Coauthor of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

“Mark Amtower has been the go-to guy for marketing to the federal government for more years than I can remember. Selling to the Government distills his decades of experience in marketing to the government into a book you can buy for a few bucks. It’s the bargain of the century!”

—Bob Bly, Copywriter

“I have been observing Mark Amtower and his successful clients for over twenty years, and there is no one—and I mean no one—who knows more about successfully selling to the government than Mark. He is the ‘Dean of Government Marketing.’ ”

—Don Libey, CEO, Libey LLC, and Veteran Direct Marketing Advisor

“This book is a must for anyone selling to the government. Amtower gives you the answers you need to questions you don’t know you have. He will help you put the puzzle together—in a way that works for your specific situation—in this engaging guide to selling to the world’s largest customer.

—David Powell, COO, Federal Business Council, Inc.

“Don’t be seduced by the big numbers of the government market. As Amtower and his cast of B2G experts explain, success takes time, persistence and understanding, the basic workings of this unique market. The public sector landscape is littered with companies who thought they had the right product or service, only to fail because they didn’t understand how the market worked. Amtower’s premise is one that everyone from the C-suite to the new recruit should heed—never forget the blocking and tackling of the government market.”

—Nick Wakeman, Editor-in-Chief, Washington Technology

“Mark Amtower’s Selling to the Government volume is a useful guide for getting started and succeeding in the government marketplace. There are plenty of tips and comprehensive information in the report that businesses large and small can use to tap the world’s largest market for goods and services. Chapter 11 on Web 2.0 tools shows that Mark has his eye on the future of government contracting. Executives eager to get their share of government contracts should have Mark’s volume on their bookshelves.”

—Michael Keating, Senior Editor, Government Product News

“Mark Amtower is known as the guy who knows everybody and has devoted a lifetime to earning the bold title ‘Government Market Master.’ However, one of the things that impresses me most about Mark is not the encyclopedic knowledge you’ll find in this book, but his humility to keep on learning and growing. An expert at traditional networking and research, Mark is also well known in the Gov 2.0 community for his voracious appetite for new media, his critical eye on social networking and Internet fads, and his willingness to embrace change. This book represents not only Mark’s three-decade history in learning the government markets, but also his best lessons of today and his contagious attitude for staying at the top of the game.”

—Adriel Hampton, Producer and cofounder, Gov 2.0 Radio

“What Zig Ziglar is to selling, Mark Amtower is to government marketing. He is a master of his domain and can break it down and teach it like no other. Don’t waste time and money trying to enter the government market blind. Let Mark Amtower’s book Selling to the Government be the guide as you traverse this unmapped, but lucrative territory.”

—Steve Ressler, Founder and President, GovLoop.com

“So many businesses think they can’t benefit from selling to the government. The executives of those businesses apparently never met Mark Amtower. Helping organizations sell profitably to the federal government isn’t simply Mark’s area of considerable expertise; it’s also his passion. As an editor for several trade publications dedicated to marketing, I’ve long relied on Mark for the skinny on reaching this massive, complex audience, and he’s never failed to come through with up-to-date, actionable, and easy-to-understand (and often entertaining!) advice. The bottom line: If you’re considering selling your goods or services to the federal government, Mark’s your go-to source.”

—Sherry Chiger, Editor-at-Large, Chief Marketer, Director, Multichannel Merchant

“This is the perfect book to understand how to do business with the government. Mark makes what seems so obvious to federal employees understandable to those who want and need to do business in the federal market space. I would recommend that those already doing business with the federal government should read this book as well. Mark provides tremendous insight into the federal market.”

—Karen Evans, Partner, National Director for the U.S. Cyber Challenge, and former Administrator, E-Government, and Information Technology, Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget

“If you are selling to government (or hope to), you need to read this book! Actually, don’t just read it. Do as Mark suggests: Highlight it, mark it up, and keep it for reference. It’s a keeper.”

—Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs and coauthor of Content Rules

“It’s rare that a guy who makes his living as a consultant will give away his experience in a book. Here, you’re getting Mark’s 30 years of wisdom in how to sell to government buyers. Grab it now!”

—Ruth P. Stevens, president, eMarketing Strategy, and Adjunct Professor, Columbia Business School

“Mark Amtower is an object lesson in B2G marketing. He lives his words. Because he practices the basics, he defies the odds and continues to make a successful career in a difficult space. His longevity in the federal market proves his value; he’s been there, he’s seen it, he has the knowledge to draw the detailed map of the calm but deep waters of selling to the federal government.”

—Lisa Wolfe, Program Director, Federal News Radio 1500 AM, Washington, DC

“The federal government really is Fortune 1 and can be a great source of revenue for most companies for decades. However, it’s a market that requires understanding, patience, and most of all, commitment. Amtower’s new book answers many questions for companies considering entering the market and solid tips for companies that are already entrenched around the Beltway.”

—Fred Diamond, DIAMOND Marketing

“Once again, Mark provides a veritable treasure trove of relevant, actionable information useful to novices and veterans of B2G alike! Unless you are winning every possible piece of business in your segment of the government marketplace, take the time to read this book. Your competition will.”

—Guy Timberlake, Chief Visionary Officer, The American Small Business Coalition

“If you want expert advice about selling to the government, Mark is your guy, and this is the book. Whether you’re a newcomer seeking to enter the government market or a veteran looking for a refresher, Mark’s book covers the basics, debunks the myths and shares his best tips to help you find the right path to success in the government market.”

—Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot and Best-Selling Author of Inbound Marketing and Coauthor of Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

Selling to the Government provides a clear understanding to the process of selling to the government. Mark provides readers with a strong foundation to successfully sell to the government. I read Warren Buffett to learn about investing and Mark Amtower to learn how to sell to the government. Both Warren and Mark understand the benefit of simplifying the truly complex.”

—Andrew Meringoff, Founder, Government Connections

“If you are serious about being successful in the business of doing business with the government sector, Mark is a must-read author. Once again Mark gives us an easy to understand, direct, incredibly practical, and useful guide to doing business with the government. Mark has probably forgotten more about doing business in this sector than most of us can remember at any point in time. He has made it his business to get it right and help others succeed in a very complicated, yet simple market. Whether you are looking to get into the government market or hoping to be more successful in it, Mark’s advice will make a huge difference—if you follow it. Corporate leaders and stakeholders in other businesses should be as fortunate as we are in the government contracting business to have an advisor as wise and as practical as Mark Amtower to help them succeed.”

—Cal Hackeman, National Managing Partner, Technology Industry Practice, Grant Thornton LLP

“The insider knowledge and shortcuts described in this book will save those new to the government contracting industry precious bid and proposal time and dollars.”

—Brenda Crist, President, Association of Proposal Management Professionals, National Capital Chapter

“Amtower’s Selling to the Government is infused with his expertise, wit, and practical know-how. This informative and entertaining book should be required reading for anyone selling to government. Mark truly understands that to achieve success, a company must be fully committed to the public market sector, take all of the right steps to comprehend and respond to the needs and requirements of its customers, and ultimately deliver the right internal structures, contracts, relationships, and people to get the job done. Even the most seasoned government sellers will benefit from reading this book as ongoing education, constant fine-tuning, and refinement of technique are key to long term success.”

—Christina V. Rother, President, CDW Government LLC

“The federal government market is the largest single market in our country. Mark Amtower’s book opens the door for readers on how to approach this maze of complex rules and procedures, including its opportunities and pitfalls. It is a “must read” for any company or individual doing business with the federal government.”

—Dr Andrew Uscher, Director of Corporate Relations, Senior Executives Association

“Mark Amtower’s book provides readers with valuable information about the federal marketplace. His insights about federal contacting are based on his long experience in this field and are especially useful to anyone who wants to approach the complex federal market.”

—Carol Bonosaro, President, Senior Executive Association

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To my wife, Mary Ellen, who is a constant inspiration and a great partner in every respect; and to my children, Elora and Travis, who tolerate my strange work habits and love me anyway.

FOREWORD

As those of us in and around the Beltway know, government contracting can be a very good place to be. In this book, Selling to the Government, Mark Amtower shows what it really takes to break into the government market.

There are many things one must know, much infrastructure to get into place, and lots of buyoff required from senior management in order for the real commitment necessary to break through the red tape, the market intricacies, and the overall “bigness” of this market. There are many relationships that must be established, regardless of where your company is located, if you want to do business with the government.

Many of TechAmerica’s 1,200 member companies are ensconced in the government market, and as the largest and strongest voice and resource for technology in the country, we help our companies navigate this vast government market, federal civilian and Department of Defense, as well as state and local government. To do this, we have a seasoned, well-connected staff; the importance of this is something Mark Amtower reminds us of constantly: relationships.

The learning curve for those entering the government market is long and slow, and there are few legitimate shortcuts.

There are books on getting a General Services Administration Schedule and on winning contracts, and there is even Mark’s first book on marketing to the government, Government Marketing Best Practices (2005). What has been lacking is the “big picture” book: one that outlines the corporate commitment necessary to enter the market intelligently, the infrastructure required once in, the staffing requirements to pursue bids, and much more.

With this new book, Selling to the Government: What It Takes to Compete and Win in the World’s Largest Market, Mark Amtower fills in this missing link. It is the first book to address what it takes from a corporate point of view to enter the market slowly and intelligently and to build an organization capable of playing in the big leagues.

In his trademark, straightforward style, Amtower lays out the requirements and warns readers up front that although anyone can play, most will end up walking away. Long known for his candor, he clearly lays the process out for anyone willing to pay the entry fee: working long hours, doing months of groundwork, staffing, managing infrastructural issues involving accounting and legal concerns, handling the glacial nature of the government market, learning to market and sell to the government, and so much more.

Our executive vice president for the public sector, Olga Grkavac, commented on the cover of Mark’s first book: “Mark Amtower is a true original.” Some things don’t change.

—Phil Bond, Chief Executive Officer, TechAmerica

PREFACE

Korean Tae Kwan Do master Jhoon Rhee once said there are only seven basic moves to Tae Kwan Do, and everything else is a combination of those seven moves. He taught his students to practice the basics daily, even those who had attained various degrees of black belt. His point: It is always about the basics.

My mentor in the government market, Lynn Bateman, taught me the basics in government contracting, and she told me to stay current on those basics. She taught me where I could get the best information and instructed me to monitor those sources for the nuanced (read: slow) changes that would occur. She taught all her students, even those winning and managing major contracts, to stay current on the basics.

We all need to know and practice the basics.

Let’s start with a simple premise—my variation of the Pareto principle. Ninety-five percent of businesspeople out there are happy with where they are, who they are, and what they currently know. They assume that by some form of osmosis, by going to work, or some other proximity to thought and intelligent action, they will get smarter. Possible, but not practical.

Four percent of people out there take some type of action on a semiregular basis to get better at whatever they do. They read the trade publications, attend meetings, and network regularly. Practical and good.

One percent of the people out there wish to excel at what they do and read professional books, journals, and trade publications; join pertinent groups; attend seminars and webinars; and find multiple ways to share and grow. Difficult, doable, and a major differentiator.

Welcome to the top 5 percent bracket. You opened this book.

On what do I base this premise? In my 28 years of studying the business-to-government (B2G) market, I have observed that about 90 percent or more of the companies that try to enter the government market fail. They fail not from lack of skill at what they do; they fail from lack of understanding the nuances of a new market—a different market—with rules arcane enough to cover literally tens of thousands of pages of “government-speak.” They do not adapt. Our extensive glossary in Appendix 1 will help you with “gov-speak.”

Appendix 2 will give you some great leads for publications and associations that serve the market. Updated information for the book will be available at www.GovernmentMarketMaster.com; just click on the book cover.

I am a student of the government market and have been for nearly 30 years. I am also a legitimate Government Market Master. I am a master of one aspect of the market—marketing—but that is not the only thing that makes me a Government Market Master. The other facet of being a Government Market Master is knowing who the masters of the other facets of the market are and having strong relationships with them. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and without all the pieces, the picture is never complete. So, I keep studying, and I keep finding people who are really good at the other parts of the puzzle.

The first sentence of my first book, Government Marketing Best Practices, is, “This market—any market—is about relationships.”

Throughout the course of this book, you will meet many of those I consider to be masters of their pieces of this puzzle; the people who comprise my inner circle; and professionals who understand their respective niches like few others in this market. Together, we will share with you tips, tricks, ideas, resources, and more that will help you along your path to becoming a master of your piece of this market. These are the people I rely on to fill in the blanks in my skill sets. You need to find similar people to rely on to help you succeed in this vast and potentially confusing market. The quality of those advising you will be reflected in your outcome. You will also find advice from some of my advisors in Appendix 3.

But don’t look for shortcuts. There are none, and those who tell you there are shortcuts are selling you pipe dreams. There are charlatans in every market, but you will find none in this book. The only real “shortcut” is market knowledge applied to your daily actions.

So, for you business owners, presidents, chief-level executives (C-levels), and board members reading this, do not take this lightly. Heed the advice from me and my inner circle of Government Market Masters and you have a real chance for success here in Global One—the U.S. government market.

Finally, this book is not a panacea for all aspects of selling to the government. This book is the beginning of your journey and is designed to direct you to other valuable resources and alert you to the many things you will encounter along the way: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There are many ways to succeed in the government market, and each path is different. This book can help you determine the best path for your ultimate success. I have been studying and working in this market a long time, picking some of the brightest brains in this business, and the results are here, waiting for you.

So, sit back with a highlighter, notepad, and pencil, and let’s see how we can take you from B2G novice to B2G black belt—a true Government Market Master!

And a final quote from my first book: “The government market is only sexy if you like money.”

HOW TO READ THIS BOOK

Every book is different in its design and intentions. This book is designed to be a guide for the novice and a refresher for the professional. For the novice, it is sequential, and for those more experienced, each chapter may be a refresher or may provide new insights on a specific topic. Chapter 11, “The Missing Link: Web 2.0 Tools,” deals with social networking and Web 2.0 tools and will be good for both the experienced market professional and the novice. This book is meant to be used as a reference, so I hope you come back to it again and again. Keep in mind that updated information will always be available on the Web site, www.GovernmentMarketMaster.com.

I suggest you read this book with a highlighter, Post-it flags, and a small notebook at hand. Highlighting key passages in a book is a great way to reinforce an idea you find useful.

I use Post-it flags to mark the most memorable and useful passages in the books I read. For those same books, the ones rife with useful ideas, I keep a notebook handy so that I can make a to-do list of all the actions I need to take as a result of reading.

All Web references, recommended companies, contact information for those quoted, and updates or changes will be available at www.GovernmentMarketMaster.com; just click on the book cover on the home page.

DISCLAIMER

The government market is different in many respects, and it is highly nuanced.

Please keep in mind that the government market changes—generally slowly, but it does change. The information in this book is somewhat granular, but it needs to be verified with the resources we reference throughout the book. The government Web sites change, but we will keep them current at www.GovernmentMarketMaster.com.

You need advice from experienced professionals (legal, accounting, contracting) on all aspects of doing business with the government in order to be successful in this B2G market, and you need it early in the process. Do not rely on your business-to-business (B2B) attorney or accountant when dealing with matters concerning doing business with the government. Some of those I recommend will be linked at the Web site as well.

Further, if you have a B2B advertising agency or public relations firm, they, too, will indicate that they can perform the B2G marketing and public relations. This is not accurate. Our list of recommended marketing firms and consultants will be available at the Web site, www.GovernmentMarketMaster.com.

Finally, my contact information will be there as well. Feel free to drop me a line.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

There are too many people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude to enumerate here, so a short list will have to suffice. No one makes it without help in this market.

To my mentor, Lynn Bateman, who taught a generation (or two) how to navigate the rules, regulations, and red tape so that we can make a living in this arcane market, and to my friend Tom Hewitt, who remains the most connected person I know in this market.

To my friends, advisors, business associates, and all those whose help I rely on: David Powell of the Federal Business Council; Richard Mackey of CapitalReps; Michael Balsam of Onvia; Peter Long of MCH; Michael Keating of Penton Media; Lisa Wolfe and all the show hosts and staff at Federal News Radio; Ralph Drybrough and Rob Sanchez of MeritDirect; Courtney Fairchild of Global Services; Jim Garlow, Lisa DeLuca, and Ann-Marie Clark of CDW; Mark Meudt and Ludmilla Parnell of GDIT; Guy Timberlake of the American Small Business Coalition; Phil Bond and Olga Grkavac of TechAmerica; Ken Allen of ACT/IAC; Alan Balutis of Cisco; Dendy Young of McLean Capitol; Bob Davis of MilVets; Jae Collins of Prime Solutions; Anne Armstrong and Nick Wakeman of 1105; Judy Bradt of Summit Insight; Tom Carroll and the crew at Carroll Publications; Jim Shanahan and Lee Kramer of FTS; Larry Allen of the Coalition for Government Procurement; Joan Daly of Daly Associates; Hope Lane and the team at Aronson & Company; Ardell Fleeson of CBRE and the doyen of D.C. networking; Eva Neumann and the crew at ENC; Evan Weisel of Welz & Weisel; Lisa Dezzutti of Market Connections; Fred Diamond of Diamond Marketing; and my buddy, Suzanne Kubota of WFED.

Finally, to my friends at John Wiley & Sons, Inc.—Shannon Vargo, Elana Schulman, and Lauren Freestone—who made my work look good, and to David Meerman Scott for introducing me to Shannon and Wiley.

Omissions are unintentional, and there will be another book. . . .

MARK AMTOWER LIVE AT YOUR EVENT!

When your event needs an authority on doing business with the government, look no further! Bring in the “Godfather of Government Marketing”!

Mark Amtower is a frequent speaker at government and industry conferences, trade shows, and company events throughout the United States. He is available for keynote and lunch speeches, half-day and full-day workshops, and seminars.

Amtower is known for his dry wit, candor, and realistic approach to doing business with the government and for his all-black attire. Using stories from his vast experience in the government market, Amtower keeps the attention of his audiences while he educates them on the various nuances of the government market.

Long recognized as one of the best in marketing to the government, Mark Amtower can be a valuable addition to your program.

Visit http://www.federaldirect.net/speaker.html for more information.

Mark Amtower is also available to consult with your company.