MULTI-PART SERIES: The Goldilocks approach to sharing information and cold calling – Up close and personal, Part 3

Just because COVID-19 is forcing us indoors doesn’t mean that we can’t get together and learn from one another. Recently, Lohfeld Principal Consultant and Capture expert Dr. Doug Himberger interviewed former GSA Contracts Director, Jacob Bertram. In this third installment, Doug and Jacob discuss the “Goldilocks approach” to sharing information and cold calling as part of developing a strategy for winning business at an agency. For the previous installment, click here.

[Doug] Jacob, when industry goes into one-on-one and small group meetings with the government, we would love to share our ideas, our innovations, and our thoughts about the way ahead. But there’s a bit of a fear there—how much should we share—because I believe there is the risk that some of the things that we share could end up being in a solicitation. That can work in both positive and negative ways, or at least the legend is that perhaps some of the things we share end up being adopted by other bidders. So, would you address that fear that industry might feel in sharing or oversharing in these meetings?

[Jacob] I definitely wouldn’t overshare because there’s not a need to get into the intrinsic details. That’s really the technical approach in your proposal. In the beginning, what is important is trying to clarify the problem to solve and a very small glimpse of how.

Let me share an example. It may be just a little bit old-school, but I think it’s very relevant. If an agency wants to mow the grass, there’s many different ways of doing it. You can get a manual push mower. You can use a riding lawnmower. Or you can get a goat, and have the goat go eat the grass, right? So, the main goal is to have the grass cut. And if they ask how are you going to do it, I’d say, “Okay, we’re going to mow this hill. And it’s really steep, but we can do it cheap using different ideas and be innovative.” There’s something that’s out there. You might not need to get into the specifics of it, but just point to in the past, “we’ve gone out and done things like that.” Actually, I’ve even seen that happen where there’s a hill with a bunch of weeds on it, and there’s a fence put up and goats there, right? So, if you have that really out-there approach that might work, you don’t necessarily need to give that away right away. Let that be in the technical proposal.

[Doug] Well, that’s very helpful. I think that’s a great way to explain the nature of the discussions in these meetings. And I think that would alleviate much of the fear out there.

There are times when it seems like our only opportunity to get a meeting is to cold call. To prospective clients, cold calls are not ideal. But again, there are times when it seems that for urgency purposes, or just logistics, cold calls happen. How would you suggest securing the meeting, getting introductions? How do you make a cold call in any way effective?

[Jacob] I would think outside the box. And a lot of times when I get cold calls in my email box, I just move on to the next one, because I have a thousand other emails. Send a message to someone you already know there—it’s a lot more personal. Or, look for some sort of open office hours or setting up a meeting or something with a small business rep or a finance rep. They are going to be the ones who are going to be on top of it even more because their job is out there to help people, especially when it comes to anything small business.

I think that’s going to be important. Making more personal connections, in person, is really hard to do right now because of COVID. But if you do think outside the box—using LinkedIn or sending an email saying, “Hey, can we have a time to talk on the phone?” instead of saying everything you need to say in the email—I think a phone call is going to be a lot more effective. Think about even setting up a face-to-face on Zoom. I recently had one with a prospective vendor who said, “Hey, can we see each other over Zoom? I’d like to get to know and learn more about you and your role.” And that was a lot more effective than an email with a bunch of text and stuff on there that I may not have read.

[Doug] Well yeah, again, that’s helpful because I think everyone is sort of a dreading a cold call, but in our hearts, we know sometimes it happens. I love your idea there about making a personal connection and having someone help you with that introduction. I think that could make a lot of difference.

Look for the next discussion on our Lohfeld Insights blog—Up close and personal, Part 4: How proposals are scored.

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