Ask Joe: What Do You Do Now That You’ve Lost That Government Contract?

Joe Morris, vice president of research for e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company, talks about what happens when a government buyer goes with somebody else.

by Joseph Morris / January 5, 2018

Editor's note: Ask Joe is a recurring series where Joseph Morris, vice president of research for e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company, answers commonly asked questions from those working in the government technology market. It has been edited for length and cohesion.

This is a follow-up to a previous post.

I’m in a unique position because I work for the 800-pound gorilla in public-sector media, research and marketing (check out e.Republic). This has allowed me to interview hundreds of public-sector CIOs and granted me access to a long bench of our fellows who are former chief information officers (CIOs) and IT leaders. I’m going to distill down all my discussions with CIOs into actionable details in hopes that it can help you succeed in the gov tech market.

Losing a government contract after spending months working the account and countless hours preparing the response is painful. However, they say you can learn more from losing than winning. Here are some tips that can help you turn that painful loss into a win.

Tactic #1: Follow the Rejection

Most state and local procurement departments allow bidding vendors to access the winning proposals and scoring matrices. Reviewing this information will help you understand where your response fell short and how you can correct it in the future to win business from your target department or agency. Did you miss a crucial step? Would your bid have scored higher if you had selected a different partner? Was it cost? These questions can be answered by taking the time to follow the rejection.

Tactic #2: Learn from Your Mistakes and Don’t Repeat Them

Formally protesting a procurement is a last resort. Recently, I had a former state CIO tell me about one of their more memorable meetings with a vendor who had lost a contract. Following the rejection, the vendor requested and was granted an in-person meeting with the CIO. At first, the CIO thought that the vendor was meeting to launch a protest. However, the vendor simply wanted to meet to learn how they could be a better partner going forward and learn from their mistakes. Through that meeting, they discovered what they could have done differently but, more important, forged a stronger relationship with the CIO. 

Tactic #3: Don’t Give Up, Keep Working

The sun will come out in the morning. States and localities spend roughly $100 billion on technology, and that department or agency will issue another contract for you to bid on. Long term, staying connected and understanding the CIO’s priorities, pain points and processes will benefit you. Additionally, you should identify the right mix of partners and pricing that will help you in the future. Your competitor’s contract doesn’t guarantee them smooth sailing, and you should continue to stay engaged to see if short-term opportunities present themselves.

Tactic #4: Widen Your Net

You may have lost that “big” contract, but other opportunities are present if you widen your net. The number one rule of government sales is that governments do business with companies they know and trust. Winning those “smaller” deals will strengthen your position when you step back up to the plate for that big contract. These accounts can act as a reference for you on that big contract and often can also create a “ripple effect,” generating additional business for you.