How to Market and Sell Your Products or Services to Meet the Buyer's Needs: Tips for Vendors to the Public Sector Space

Selling to the public sector

In the competitive world of selling products or services, it's not enough to simply be good at what you do. We explore how vendors can adjust their sales proposition to match the buyer's perspective and ensure that their products or services are positioned to deliver technical and commercial value.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance for vendors who excel in their field to also consider their sales strategy, particularly when selling to the public sector. Today’s challenge, however, is how does the buyer’s need influence the seller’s proposition – how do you market and sell your services or products in a way that the buyer would like and therefore purchase.

Often, good producers of products or deliverers of services will just be exactly that: good at what they do. They will sell it as “what we do!” and they are damned good at what they do. But how often do they sit down and write what it is they actually do, and how they do it? Also, how often do they review how their product/service is positioned to make a relevant difference to whoever may want to buy it.

There are two sides to this:

  • The sales proposition – language that articulates the services and products offered. This is better talked to by a sales professional, rather than me, a buyer.
  • The other side is the buying proposition – the way of understanding what your customers actually want, and changing your sales proposition to meet their understanding, not yours.

It is subtle, but it is important. Why? Because all buyers of externally sourced products or services fundamentally want to know what is in it for them. Not just cost, but value, and I mean technical and commercial value. And they will likely specify it in a way that represents what they see that product or service, not how the seller sees it. Finally, that product or service isn’t what they dedicate their business to, it is a secondary or even tertiary element of what they are delivering.

This last point is important in another two ways:

  • They will care little about nuance or brand loyalty as it is not theirs to have, it is a means to their end.
  • They will not necessarily specify it accurately enough so it may seem that your product or service doesn’t meet their criteria.

This warrants a different approach – especially for the public sector.

Public sector buyers are constrained by the Public Contracts Regulations – the process by which all procurement activity is governed, by law. They are further constrained by being specialists in what they do: health care professionals delivering healthcare; justice specialists delivering justice; housing specialists…. Etc. etc. They are not technologists, scientists, product specialists – that is not their business. They will retain some expertise in all these areas, of course, but not to the level an organisation whose sole focus in on that topic.

As such, the advice is this:

  • Read the specification in detail and challenge if your product or service largely meets it.
  • Clarify the customer’s requirements (they must allow this in the governed process) to ensure that what they actually need is what you can provide – their need and what they have written are not always the same.
  • Consider your proposition and see if, with some minor revision, it could actually meet this need.
  • Take time to write up your proposition in a language and tone that matches the customer’s, thereby allowing them to comprehend your offering on their terms and at their level of understanding.

Now you’re good to go.

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Fundamentally we do two things, we buy for the government, and we help others to sell to government. We have a strong blend of operational, commercial and sales experience within a team of experienced professionals, all of whom have proven success. We know what we are doing because we have done it many times before, having bought, sold and delivered £billions worth of services for and to government.

With an excellent track record, we are confident in our approach. See our services.

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