Face-to-Face Interactions Between Government and Industry Remain Critical to Success

by Allan Rubin, Vice President, Marketing

Companies selling to the government, and government managers who need to know about the latest technologies available from industry, are caught in a maze. But none of the paths leads us to one another. I’m talking about the communications channels so commonly used to exchange ideas and learn from one another. Face-to-face channels of communication are important because they allow the government to gain insight into technology market trends, and learn about what colleagues at other agencies are doing.

It has become decidedly more difficult lately, and not necessarily because either side wants it that way. Fallout from revelations about alleged overspending at conferences staged by the government itself has caused a considerable degree of skittishness about face-to-face communications and the forums in which they occur. Plus, the fiscal situation has travel budgets in the crosshairs. Not-so-subtle pressure makes federal managers worry about trips even to widely offered industry events.

We’ve seen some federal experts become highly reluctant to speak at sponsored events even when most of the attendees are government and it’s offered for free. Ditto for would-be attendees. At events where everyone has paid their own way, complimentary beer and wine socials are verboten if they are sponsored by industry. This reluctance has spread even to training conferences at which attendees may receive continuing education credits.

I think it’s time to re-state the fact that person-to-person communications remain necessary and desirable to support the goal of ensuring that government obtains the right solutions to the challenges it faces. What can industry do?

  • Respect the issues facing government employees now, and make sure the events you sponsor or hold meet all of the ethical and regulatory requirements. If you don’t know the rules, outsource the event to someone who does.
  • Get in synch with your government customers. Attend their industry days and ask the people tasked with reaching out to industry for help to get to the right people with your solutions.
  • Encourage government prospects to attend above-board events reminding yourself these are places to exchange information, relate case histories, and avoid any hard sell.
  • Focus on problems and solutions. Educate your customer so they will know the art of the possible when it comes time for them to draft their requirements.

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