Spending my almost 20 years selling solutions or consulting with businesses in the public safety market has given me a unique perspective. I am blessed to see the entire public safety market from multiple perspectives. My mission has been to understand and appreciate all aspects of the public safety market. From the business to the end-user side, the better I know the selling and buying solutions process, the more value I can offer the public safety market. One of the most misunderstood aspects of the public safety market is the purchasing process. It is not an understatement to say the purchasing process is long and challenging. The question is, why?
All sales opportunities start with a lead. Leads usually come from the following sources:
- Cold call
- Email marketing campaign
- Inbound call
- Previous client
- Media marketing campaign
An initial Conversation with the end-user is next to learn about their problems and how your solution will add value. Next, the business will provide product information for the end-user to review. If the information makes sense for the end-user, the next step is a solution demonstration, virtual or face-to-face. If the sales demonstration is a success, the business will provide a formal quote. All of this sounds simple enough. All the companies I speak with say they have no problems filling up their sales pipeline with opportunities. However, your business cannot survive providing a sub-standard solution. These solutions must keep the public safety agency and the community they serve safe. The problem with the public safety market lies in all of the approvals needed to make the purchase.
For a public safety agency to purchase a solution, the purchase may be made with asset forfeiture, budget, or grant funding, and elected officials must approve the project. On average, elected officials vote to approve public safety purchases anywhere from five to seven times! In addition, elected officials will vote on the following parts of a purchase:
- Approval to move forward with a project
- Approval to apply for a federal, private, or state grant
- Authorization to submit the grant application and justification paper
- Approve to accept or decline the awarded grant funding
- Approve to put the project up for a formal bid
- Approve the winning bid
- Approve the release of funds for the purchase
Only then, the purchase order is sent to the business from the government purchasing or finance department. All of these approvals take months. Elected officials meet once a month, so you are looking at one month for every approval as a solution provider. That is only part of the problem. The next problem is the structure of the grant funding.
In the early 2000s, grant funding was cut and dry. Spending grant funding happened immediately. Agencies did not wait for months or years to spend the grant funding. The delay in spending grant funding didn’t start until 10 to 15 years ago when elected officials saw an opportunity to fill gaps in their budget.
Cities, counties, and states are in debt. This sentence shouldn’t surprise anybody. Grant funding is a big business. At any given time, there are $100s of billions of dollars available. Elected officials figured out they can secure all awarded grant funding in their community, put it in an interest-bearing account, and make revenue for their community. Elected officials can use the interest earned off the grant funding on anything they desire. So the elected officials will sit on the grant funding and collect interest on the money until approximately 60 to 90 days before the grant expires. The strategy deployed by the elected officials is why your sales pipeline fills up quickly and closes slowly.
As a business in the public safety market, what can you do? My recommendations are as follows:
- Assist your client in getting approvals to pursue grant funding.
- Identify what specific Federal, Private, State Grants are available for your solutions – Be the expert on where the money is for your solution!
- Locate the point of contact who oversees the Federal, Private, and State Grants so your client can build rapport and learn how to be awarded grant funding successfully.
- Coach the client on how to build a successful grant justification paper for your solution.
- Provide strategies on how to secure and protect the awarded grant funding for your project.
I have consulted and taught 1000s of public safety agencies and businesses how to play the grant funding game. Please feel free to contact me or come to one of my FREE Grant Funding Assistance Strategy Classes to learn more.
My goal is simple: To solve the public safety funding problem!