Beyond the RFP

Selling to government agencies is all about the RFP. And winning an RFP is a battle that starts way before the RFP is ever written.

It is also a process that includes influencers and decision makers comingled from agency purchasers to political leaders, sometimes even the White House. The key is using the integrated approach to get the right message to the right people at the right time. Here’s how:

  1. Use thought leadership to create the market – Before you start selling something there has to be a market for it. Creating a market is mostly about education, informing influencers of the problem and how it can be solved. Thought leadership tactics – placing bylined articles, speaking at industry events and hosting events – can be used to create the market even before an RFP is conceived.
  2. Use public affairs to shape the market – Especially when it comes to technology, regulations and laws can have a significant impact on how, or even if, the market will react to your solution. Further, when it comes to selling to the government, you need appropriations to allocate the dollars that will allow your solution to be purchased. Working closely with government relations teams to craft public affairs campaigns to influence these decisions is crucial. Creating briefing materials, drafting congressional testimony and targeted media relations can support these efforts.
  3. Use media relations to influence the buying process – Once the market is open, the communication switches from “how to solve the problem” to “how to BEST solve the problem.” I don’t know if you’ve spent a lot of time perusing RFPs, but they can be very detailed and, in being so, lean towards or away from particular solutions. Media relations aimed directly at those creating the RFPs and communicating about the solution in a way that favors what you’re selling can help craft how that RFP is written.
  4. Use third-party validation to win RFPS – Once the RFP is written it is time to talk about why your solution, in particular, is best. Of course everyone believes and says their solution is best. So having third-party validation through awards, customer stories, product placements and other recognitions is what the decision makers will be looking for in selecting the winner.
  5. Use press releases to publicize your wins, benchmarks and results – Similar to third-party validation, if agencies see that others have chosen your solution, they are more likely to consider it in the future. Wins create credibility and momentum that will lead to other wins. The same applies to milestones achieved with your solutions, all of which can be communicated in simple press releases to target media.

Ultimately the integrated approach is about reaching all of your influencers and decision makers in a way that will resonate with them. This requires different tactics and messages not haphazardly deployed in the hopes of having an impact, but all working together to actually have an impact. And the process continues as you work to keep the business, get new contracts and enter new markets. Rinse, wash, repeat.


If you are selling to government agencies, how are you reaching the key influencers and decision makers? Leave a comment below, or tweet us at @RHStrategic with the hashtag #RHetoricBlog. 

RH Strategic is the PR firm for a hyper-connected world, delivering integrated media, social & digital strategies for technology, healthcare, and public sector markets.